Neighbours sticking it out

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2011
Hamish Coleman-Ross

The Cook family say ongoing aftershocks are no match for the strength of community and family. By Hamish Coleman-Ross.

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A group of stoic neighbours in a near-abandoned Christchurch suburb have decided to battle liquefaction in their own way - with a couple of rums and a good Thai curry.

The families, some of only a handful left in the silt-soaked street of Locksley Ave in Dallington, spent yesterday shovelling mud from their inundated properties for the third time since the September earthquake.

"Quite a few have disappeared from further up the street - overseas, to stay with family - but we're not going anywhere," said resident Gareth Cook.

"A bunch of us families decided to stay and help each other out."

The Cook family - Gareth, wife Annette and daughters Cambelle, 8, and Tasman, 6 - have no water following Monday's aftershocks and haven't had wastewater for "months".

Part of their front living room tilts alarmingly towards the ground. They use a portaloo or chemical toilet. They have to walk on planks and bricks to get to the front door, and their home is constantly at risk from the swollen Avon river.

Their street also has a constant flow of traffic.

"They come at all times of the day and night taking photos," said Annette.

"People come and look at us like we're animals in a zoo."

To make matters even worse, none of their problems will be over until the government decides whether the land they live on will be abandoned - a decision that could still be far away.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday engineers still needed to be consult further about how to decide which land is too unstable to rebuild on.

Gareth said the waiting and not knowing was one of the hardest things to deal with.

"There's so many questions we don't even talk about it as a family," he said.

"We had all had our hopes hinged on the end of May. But now it might be the end of June or July."

But the family says staying is still better than the alternative - renting at a higher cost or moving away from Christchurch.

"It's all very well for other people to say 'move' but it's not that easy," Annette said.

"We live here, the girls go to school here."

Gareth agrees: "Our family doesn't want to be anywhere but home."

The Cook family say the one thing that has kept them going is their neighbours - a stoic group of six families who have become tight-knit since the earthquakes.

"That's what we did on Monday after the aftershocks - went and had a couple of rums with the neighbours and a Thai curry," Annette said.

"It was already a great community but now it's even better. We can rely on each other."

Especially when it comes to dealing with the dreaded liquefaction.

"Nothing makes you get out and get the shovel quicker than seeing one of your neighbours out there first," Gareth said.

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