Feels like home again

We could see the house dancing and trees swaying

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 14:43 05/03/2014
Lemaire
Derek Flynn
Moving forward: Awatere Community Centre co-ordinator Marie Flowerday, left, and Seddon residents Richard and Shirley Lemaire outside their repaired home in Seymour St. ‘‘We can still laugh,’’ says Shirley
Myles Smart
Derek Flynn
Making progress: Myles Smart’s 40-year-old home on Fell St, Seddon, suffered damage in the aftermath of last year’s July and August earthquakes. ‘‘The blockwork shifted like a piece of Lego and the aftershocks made it a lot worse,’’ he said.
Kurt Flowerday
Derek Flynn
Problem solved: Seddon homeowner Kurt Flowerday with a house he owns in Seymour St, Seddon. The entire back wall of the house fell during the July earthquake. Mr Flowerday had seven vineyard workers from the islands of Kiribati living in the property at the time, and they were able to stay there while the repairs were done.
Nick Beltman
Derek Flynn
On the job: Builders Nick Beltman, measuring the eaves, and Mike Newport work on recladding a property in Clifford Street, Seddon, which was damaged in last year’s quakes

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A retired Seddon couple would still be waiting for earthquake repair work to be carried out on their house if the Awatere Community Centre had not prioritised their case, its co-ordinator says.

The centre swiftly prioritised elderly and vulnerable cases and gave that information to the Earthquake Commission, creating a model which is being considered as best practice for future earthquake responses.

In the aftermath of earthquakes in Seddon in July and August, the centre became the hub of the community as people scrambled to find builders and get compensation advice.

Two days after the August earthquake, 600 people visited the hub in two days.

Awatere Community Centre co-ordinator Marie Flowerday said the case of pensioners Richard and Shirley Lemaire had been prioritised because of their age and vulnerability.

"When people put in claims, they are just a number in the eyes of the commission," she said. "We have local knowledge of the community and know where the vulnerable people are."

The community centre was authorised to assess claimant files then report the cases requiring most attention back to the commission, she said.

"The Lemaires approached us because they hadn't heard anything about their claim. We were blown away. Dick was in hospital at the time and Shirley was very stressed. They took our offer of assistance with both hands."

The priority system worked well in a small community such as Seddon, Ms Flowerday said.

"The commission have done a good job," she said. "The majority of houses have had work done and people have received payments in a short time."

The Lemaire's situation contrasts that of Dot Boyd, 85, from Christchurch, who featured in The Press on Saturday because she is still waiting to receive money from the Earthquake Commission three years after her house was badly damaged in Christchurch's 2011 earthquake.

Yesterday, the commission was taken on a tour of Seddon to view the repair work carried out on houses in the town.

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Richard and Shirley Lemaire said their Seymour St house felt like a home again.

August's 6.6 earthquake caused blocks to collapse from the perimeter walls, and their hot-water cylinder to burst, which flooded the kitchen.

Cupboards of food, crockery and jam preserves the couple had made were crashed to the ground. Eight months after the first earthquake and the house is back to normal.

"We are happy with the house, it looks beautiful," Mrs Lemaire said. "It feels like a home again."

Mrs Lemaire, 74, still remembers the brute force of the earthquake in in August that violently shook their home of 10 years.

"When we felt the earthquake, we went and sat in the car. We could see the house dancing and our fruit trees were swaying."

It cost $30,000 to repair the house and took workmen just one week to complete the repairs.

"It was a cold house before, now it is lovely and warm," she said.

The commission has received 726 claims in Seddon, and resolved 519 of them. Its chief executive Ian Simpson said priority had been placed on claims close to the epicentre and ensuring the most vulnerable were cared for.

"Many customers with houses nearest the epicentre in Seddon have already been able to complete their repairs." More than $11.2 million has been paid out in Seddon and Awatere, he said.

- The Marlborough Express

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