Kaikoura's Lyell Creek residents vow to stay, rebuild

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff.co.nz

Lyell Creek residents Lindy & Mac Ford have had to evacuate their home of 30 years.

Lindy Ford walks past her ruined family home and extends a hand before apologising for the smell - she's been feeding the pigs. In the face of losing her house, possibly even her property, she and her husband Mick are unfalteringly polite.

The Fords live in one of Kaikoura's worst-affected areas - Lyell Creek. Their house is riddled with cracks, parts of their backyard have opened up into small canyons and the land down the back of their lifestyle block is sinking into the river.

Across the creek lies a collection of homes with red stickers plastered to their doors.

Lindy & Mick Ford have had to evacuate the home they have lived in for over 30 years.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Lindy & Mick Ford have had to evacuate the home they have lived in for over 30 years.

Some of the cracks in previously pristine lawns are big enough to stand in, and one home has sunken so far that the backyard and creek have merged into one.

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Most of these homes now lie abandoned - smashed glasses, food and memories still lying on the floors where the quake left them early Monday morning.

But Lindy and Mick have to return to their lifestyle block twice a day to feed the animals. They use the time to check in on how the land's shifted since their last visit and pick up any belongings they don't want to lose if the house crumbles.

The Fords have had almost a week to process the news that their home is unsalvageable - news that would have many in tears of distress, and rightfully so.

But the middle-aged couple, like so many Kaikourans, remain philosophical about the massive quake that ripped their lives apart.

The Fords hope to rebuild on their property but it depends on whether the land is stable.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The Fords hope to rebuild on their property but it depends on whether the land is stable.

No matter who you speak to, they're certain the town will rebuild.

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"You've got two options: You're either a grisly guts or you get on with it," Lindy says.

The Fords know things are going to be difficult in the coming weeks and months. As Mick puts it: "It's not a five-minute fix."

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But they've already lodged an initial claim with EQC and they're thinking of the future.

There's no way the couple is leaving Kaikoura or Lyell Creek. This has been their home for more than 30 years and it's going to stay that way.

'I'LL FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL'

The Fords are more worried about the fates of others - young families and an elderly widow who lives down the street - ...
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The Fords are more worried about the fates of others - young families and an elderly widow who lives down the street - not their own uncertain future.

Across the road from the Fords, the reality of what's happened is beginning to sink in for Diane Edkins.

On Friday, a group of Australian military personnel came down Gillings Lane by Lyell Creek to check on residents in the hard-hit area.

Diane says she was feeling alright for the first few days but when the young officer asked if she was OK, she broke down in tears.

The houses situated next to Lyell Creek are riddled with cracks.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The houses situated next to Lyell Creek are riddled with cracks.

"I started crying and I couldn't stop…

"I was crying not so much for me but for those poor people up there," she says as she points towards her neighbours' sinking and cracked houses.

The Aussie officer gave Diane a hug, which helped stem the flow of tears.

Darrel and Diane Edkins came off relatively unscathed but they feel for their neighbours, whose homes face an uncertain ...
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Darrel and Diane Edkins came off relatively unscathed but they feel for their neighbours, whose homes face an uncertain future.

Diane and Darrel Edkins' home has come away relatively unscathed and that's not lost on them. They're a couple of houses back from the creek and the extent of the damage was some broken jars filled with jams and preserves, and a new 3D TV.

The couple retired to Kaikoura from Christchurch almost two years ago. This is home now.

We're invited inside and offered a cup of tea before Diane tells us about her famous scones that she's been baking and delivering to those less fortunate - if only the raspberry jam hadn't smashed across the kitchen floor.

Another red-stickered house down Gillings Lane.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Another red-stickered house down Gillings Lane.

Diane says she's having a bad day but over the course of the next 20 minutes her fighting spirit has returned.

"I'll fight tooth and nail to make sure Kaikoura gets the tourists back," she says.

"You can't let it rule your life," Darrel says.

The chaos left in the wake of the earthquake is visible inside and outside homes in the Lyell Creek area.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The chaos left in the wake of the earthquake is visible inside and outside homes in the Lyell Creek area.

'IT'S DRAWN US CLOSER TOGETHER'

Down the road, past the lopsided power poles and broken roads, Tuhiku Solomon's family's home has been deemed uninhabitable.

The 23-year-old, who crashed his car into a sunken bridge while trying to get to his family on Monday morning, says he thinks the house is done.

Most of the worst-affected homes have been abandoned.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Most of the worst-affected homes have been abandoned.

A small car parked in the driveway has become a permanent fixture thanks to the broken ground. Inside the quake has left a hell of a mess, which was no doubt made worse by the mad scramble to find essential belongings after Monday's shaking.

Solomon is worried about the future of his family's home, as well as his job, and now his means of transport.

"Emotions are high, as they are in these situations," he says.

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff.co.nz

The government has announced a business assistance package for the town of Kaikoura and other areas severely affected by Monday's earthquake.

"But we're a strong family, so we're sticking together pretty good, so we're just trying to do what's best for us.

"It's drawn us closer together," he said.

A GOVERNMENT PROMISE

One of the homes on Gillings Lane, backing on to Lyell Creek.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

One of the homes on Gillings Lane, backing on to Lyell Creek.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee visited Kaikoura during the weekend and reassured locals during a five-minute talk at the daily town hall meeting "the will of the government is genuine".

He told Kaikoura the government wouldn't forget them - something that would surely be a comfort for those of Lyell Creek. He said the more ministers who witnessed the extent of the damage, the more likely it was they would push for action to be taken at a central government level.

When asked if he would be visiting Lyell Creek, Brownlee said no.

Officials won't confirm whether the area will be red-zoned
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Officials won't confirm whether the area will be red-zoned

He said he didn't have much time so had to rely on expert advice when it came to shere he should visit. 

Lyell Creek is a five-minute drive from the Kaikoura Memorial Hall. Earlier in the day Brownlee, who is also Defence Minister, spent more than half an hour on-board the US warship stationed in Kaikoura harbour.

Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee visited quake-stricken Kaikoura this weekend.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee visited quake-stricken Kaikoura this weekend.

 - Stuff

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