Family life - a year after quake

23:56, Aug 12 2014
Marlborough Research Centre
REBUILDING: Kieran Hickman and fiance Michelle Cassidy, with their three children, including Harriet, 18 months, are still living in a rented house in Ward after their farmhouse was red-stickered following the July earthquake.

The Hickman family of Ward are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel after a year of dealing with the aftermath of two earthquakes. Express reporter Kat Duggan talks to them about how the earthquakes have changed their lives.

Taimate House in Ward was a special place for Mary and Ossie Hickman.

Ossie had spent most of his 70 years there, their children were raised just down the road, memories were made there. And there was little reason to think anything might change.

Marlborough Research Centre
TOGETHER: Mary and Ossie Hickman outside Taimate House. The couple were forced to move out of their family homestead following the August 16 quake last year.

But on the afternoon of August 16 last year things did change, forever.

Ossie had gone off for a lie down when at 2.31pm a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck, sending items flying off walls and pieces of furniture hurling to the ground. Ossie was left pinned on the bed. "I went to get up and I was thinking of ‘drop, cover, hold', the earthquake thing, and then I thought ‘yeah right'. It kept throwing me back so I just stayed there," he said.

"It was like being on a boat in a violent storm at sea."


Bed turned out to be the best place he could have been, after getting up to find glass, furniture, preserves and food thrown around the house. At a depth of 8 kilometres, the force of the quake was such that a panel heater had been torn in half yet remained on the wall, and wall-mounted lamps had been spun upside-down.

Ossie's son John Hickman had been working on the farm and was at the house within minutes. They left the house soon after - for good.

After spending the weekend in Picton with friends, Ossie and Mary moved into the Ward Motels, then to a Blenheim motel and on to a rental house in Blenheim.

"During that time we made the decision it would be wise for us to build a house in town," Mary said.

She had grown up in Blenheim so this was not as big a step for her as it had been for Ossie.

"For Ossie it's a totally different ball game. You can tell at times if you haven't been out [to the farm] for a couple of weeks - you can tell he needs to come out here."

After growing up at Taimate House, Ossie moved to another property on Taimate Rd when he married Mary. They moved back down the road after his parents died.

"We never ever dreamt that an earthquake would end [our time here] . . . we had had a few and I kept saying the big one is still coming and it did," he said.

Although the couple were adjusting to town life, both say the move would have been easier if they'd had time to mentally prepare and make the move voluntarily.

"We never in our wildest dreams ever imagined that we would experience an earthquake that would totally change our lives," said Mary.

"I look back and think ‘gosh what have we been through in the last 12 months' . . . [but] the best thing is that no-one was hurt, there was no injury for anyone in the whole Awatere and Flaxbourne district."

A further silver lining for the pair comes in the form of the next generation of Hickmans, their grandchildren, who spend much of their time learning the ropes on the family farm.

Taimate House is still structurally sound and their son John has decided to refurbish the family home and move into it with his own family.

"All the brickworks got to come off and it's got to be gutted inside, all the wall linings and stuff have cracked, but it's still a good house . . . and it's a family house so we want to carry on the legacy," John said.

After a busy year dealing with damage from the earthquakes and the windstorm which came before them, the refurbishment has not been first on the list of priorities, said John. "I want someone to walk in here and do up the house how I want it but that's not going to happen."

Ossie's uncle Tom Hickman, who remembers working on Taimate House, is getting ready to repair his own house.

"I remember the days we were carting the bricks out to build this place - that was in the war years."

The bricks for the original wooden house were transported from Blenheim, he said.

Tom and his wife Aileen have just had their EQC claim approved and last week began the process of selecting a builder to make repairs to their home on Taimate Rd.

They have been living without their main source of heating after losing their chimney, and with drafts coming through doors that no longer shut properly, it had been challenging.

"It's been a big change but the coldness has been the biggest challenge."

But they are philosophical.

"We're a lot better off than a lot of people in Christchurch and this is only 12 months, whereas down there it's three years and they've still got nothing. You've got to have a positive outlook on life," said Tom.

The couple will have to move out of their home and have organised two containers for storage while it is repaired, but do not have plans to leave permanently.

"I don't want to live in town, but you don't know what's around the corner - I could have a turn or something and have to go to town," Tom said.

His son Kieran Hickman and daughter-in-law Michelle Cassidy were possibly the worst hit when their family home on Springdale Farm was deemed unsafe to enter after the first Seddon earthquake on July 21.

During the days following the shake, Keiran took shelter in his "man cave" beside the double-brick house while his sheep were lambing, while Michelle and their three children, now aged 18 months to 5 years, stayed with her parents in town.

Since getting confirmation that they would not be allowed back into the house, the family have been living in a rental house in Ward, making plans to demolish the house and build a new home on a different part of the farm.

Kieran says light is beginning to form at the end of the tunnel for the Hickman clan.

"We had the wind storm, then the earthquake the month after that, then the next earthquake the month after that and it sort of upset the whole apple cart.

"But it is what it is and you've just got to carry on.

"We just take the positives out of it - we're going to get a new house and no one was hurt. We've still got our little tribe."

Ossie said it was important to acknowledge the work of EQC, who "couldn't have been more helpful".

The commission had worked without issue with their insurance company to make sure their claim was settled quickly, he said.

The Marlborough Express