Christchurch: Should we stay or should we go?

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 14:50 14/06/2011
Hamish Coleman-Ross

Residents of Christchurch suburb Sumner surveyed the cliffs that were worst affected in the June 13th earthquake. By Hamish Coleman-Ross.

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It's the question on everyone's minds - is it finally time to leave Christchurch?

After two strong aftershocks yesterday and dozens more shakes overnight, residents are today subdued and fragile, questioning whether they can put up with the stress of living in the devastated city any longer.

Some have lost family, others homes and jobs, and many more are steadily losing sight of the reason they came to the Garden City in the first place.

"Living here was the best, it was the best place, but it's just not the same any more," said Sumner resident Louise.

"All the reasons we liked living here are gone."

Louise, a mother and a nurse, said after the first quakes, even the big one in February, she felt the need to stay with her community and to stay in Christchurch, but her resilience was wearing off.

"The thing I feel now, is that as a parent I don't want to risk my kids any more. It's a motherly instinct. I just don't think it's worth it," she said.

"But we have a mortgage, so we can't leave."

Sumner couple Rod and Jewel Lewis said they were "absolutely fed up."

"You can tell others are the same because everyone has their dogs with them - no one wants to leave them at home, they're scared," Jewel said.

"We could leave. Rod wants to leave but I don't. Community and friends are important to me."

Others were in a similar predicament, she said.

"Friends of ours, who lived on top of a cliff, are on their 11th house since the quake. They've been trying to hold on but... the strain is starting to show now, after this last one."

Following the first aftershock, rock falls on Heberden Ave, at the base of Scarborough Hill, deposited a 3 metre high boulder at the front gate of Tim and Lesley Murdoch's home.

Mercifully, no one was home and the building was spared any structural damage.

"It's probably liveable if we didn't have a dirty great rock outside our house," Tim Murdoch said.

"What a bastard eh?"

He shrugged off suggestions the latest quake would drive them out of Sumner.

"Nah, we're fine."

The rock only came down in the second shake. Family members had been home to check the house and left again.

"I got hold of Lesley and she said the house was ok," he said.

"It didn't look to be anything too much. Then the second one hit."

He points to a spot just in front of where the rock now sits.

"[Lesley's] car would have been parked just there."

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said today he was not worried about an exodus from city following yesterday's earthquakes.

Parker told reporters that if people needed to leave, that would be the right decision for them and "we should support them in that."

"The vast majority of people in this city love it," he said.

"We know we will get through this stage. We will rebuild our communities, some may not be in the same places though."

Many agreed with Parker's optimism.

Christchurch resident Richard Sinke said every time he went for a walk on the beach he asked himself why he hadn't left.

"But it's our homes and lives and businesses and our children go to school here," he said.

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"We can't just leave. We can't walk away."

Another Sumner mother, Lee Ann, summed her feelings up by saying "this is home."

"It's changed and we're broken but there's something special about our community.

We'll come back."

President of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, Johnathan Loan, today warned Cantabrians about making hasty decisions over leaving, as they may regret them later.

"It's one thing to immediately just want to walk away, but there's some ongoing impacts with that," he said.

"Sometimes actually staying and working that through first as part of that decision making process can be helpful," he advised.

-with Michael Wright

- Stuff

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