Wa­iau’s slow road to re­cov­ery

Kaikoura Star - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

The un­der­dog town of Wa­iau, clos­est to the epi­cen­tre of the Novem­ber 14 earth­quake, is forg­ing ahead, re­ports

hap­pily lived in. Why so quick off the mark with the ‘‘sad’’ Wa­iau di­ag­no­sis?

‘‘You go in there and you can feel the de­pres­sion,’’ Wal­lace says, ‘‘It’s not as bad as it was but it’s still there.’’

‘‘It’s a sad place. It’s taken a long time for the re­cov­ery. Just get­ting in­sur­ance sorted, get­ting the in­fra­struc­ture back up, it’s just tak­ing time and that’s hold­ing peo­ple back.’’

Herein lies the enigma of an earth­quake re­cov­ery, a jour­ney New Zealand is sadly fa­mil­iar with. The process is work­ing well, un­less it isn’t. And if it isn’t go­ing well, is that some­one’s fault, or just a fact of life? There is no easy an­swer. Wal­lace is happy with his per­sonal cir­cum­stances, not so says.

‘‘It’s a mas­sive geo­graphic area and a very sparsely spread pop­u­la­tion . . . The per­cent­age of peo­ple [af­fected] here is prob­a­bly larger than it was in the Can­ter­bury quake. While the num­bers may be small the ef­fect on the com­mu­nity is pretty mas­sive.’’

In­sur­ance claims are wellad­vanced. The In­sur­ance Coun­cil re­ported that 91 per cent of res­i­den­tial claims had been as­sessed by the end of Oc­to­ber. Sixty-five per cent of build­ing claims and 92 per cent of home con­tents claims were fully set­tled.

Paul New­berry-John­son isn’t wait­ing on his in­sur­ance, but his re­cov­ery is far from over. Cin­der blocks lie strewn on the drive­way; in the bed­room two flimsy sup­ports hold up a piece of jib board – all that’s left of the wall with the bricks on the ground.

The first en­gi­neer to in­spect the house de­clared it a write-off, New­berry-John­son says. He didn’t even want to go in­side. A sum in­sured pay­out was forth­com­ing. New­berry-John­son be­lieved it cov­ered the cost of de­mo­li­tion, about $30,000. It didn’t.

‘‘I had a phone con­fer­ence with this woman in Kaik­oura,’’ he says, ‘‘The very last thing she said to me on the phone was, ‘By the way Paul, we’re not go­ing to knock down your house’.’’

An­nette Purvis, gen­eral man­ager of IAG’s dis­as­ter re­cov­ery unit, says New­ber­ryJohn­son’s pol­icy in­cluded cover de­mo­li­tion costs, but be­cause the dam­age to the house was es­ti­mated at more than the sum he was in­sured for, de­mo­li­tion could not be cov­ered in the set­tle­ment. ‘‘We spoke with him a week be­fore set­tle­ment about this.’’

Now, New­berry-John­son is do­ing the job him­self – ‘‘I’ve got some mates with a few toys’’. He and part­ner Frances O’Con­nell lived in a car­a­van on their prop­erty af­ter the earth­quake. They moved into a friend’s cot­tage just out of town over win­ter to es­cape the cold, but are re­turn­ing to the car­a­van for the de­mo­li­tion.

‘‘It was so nice hav­ing a shower, toi­let, kitchen,’’ O’Con­nell says.

On the main street, Brenda Smith, of Brenda’s on Lyn­don cafe and dairy, says busi­ness is good. Un­pre­dictable, with swarms of road work­ers com­ing and go­ing and change­able con­di­tions on State High­way 1 do­ing to same to through-traf­fic, but good. She set­tled the last of the in­sur­ance claims for her busi­ness a cou­ple of months ago. The ex­pe­ri­ence was a lit­tle un­set­tling, she says.

Since the 2011 earth­quakes, in­sur­ers have moved to sum in­sured cov­er­age for prop­er­ties, where cus­tomers are in­sured for a fi­nite dol­lar amount. There are no full re­place­ments poli­cies, cov­er­ing what­ever costs are nec­es­sary to re­build what you had, no build­ing com­pany project man­ag­ing con­struc­tion.

‘‘It’s hard,’’ Smith says, ‘‘We get of­fered money and you ac­cept that money and then you have to do every­thing your­self. Christchurch didn’t do that. Which makes it hard be­cause you need to trust what you’re get­ting and trust what you’re do­ing.’’

Nowhere was un­der­in­sur­ance felt more keenly in Wa­iau than the pub. The build­ing was in­sured, but the pol­icy had no nat­u­ral dis­as­ter cov­er­age. The stricken, cen­tury-old build­ing still sits, red-stick­ered, be­hind pro­tec­tive fenc­ing.

There are 12 sep­a­rate types of dam­age keep­ing the red sticker in place, pub­li­can Michelle Beri says.

‘‘There’s so much work to do,’’ Beri says.

‘‘If we can lift this no­tice, we may be able to move back in there, we may be able to trade with ac­com­mo­da­tion.’’

Maybe. In the mean­time, their new pop-up bar is do­ing a healthy trade. More of the turnover comes from food than drinks, an un­heard of ra­tio in the old pub and even more im­pres­sive when you con­sider the en­tire bar is about the size of the old kitchen. Beri and Collins live in a por­ta­com and a shed re­spec­tively.

‘‘We’re go­ing to do it,’’ Beri says, ‘‘We have to do it. We have to do it for the com­mu­nity.’’

A town with a pop­u­la­tion of un­der 300 that lost its pub, his­toric cot­tage, bowl­ing green, church, swim­ming pool and nearly half of its school roll (the num­bers are re­cov­er­ing now) forg­ing ahead in spite of it all.

It col­lec­tively bris­tles at ev­ery ref­er­ence to the ‘‘Kaik­oura’’ earth­quake. The epi­cen­tre was just 5km from Wa­iau. As the of­fi­cial T-shirts in the pub say: ‘‘It’s Wa­iau’s Fault.’’

PHOTO: JOSEPH JOHN­SON/ STUFF

Wa­iau’s Angli­can church was one of the com­mu­nity build­ings to be­come an earth­quake ca­su­alty.

PHOTO: JOSEPH JOHN­SON/STUFF

Paul New­berry-John­son says the in­sur­ance process was try­ing. ‘‘We’ve had to put our life on hold.’’

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