Residents gather to see home levelled

NAOMI ARNOLD
Last updated 12:00 15/12/2012

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The Udells' house came down on Monday. The family, friends, and neighbours watched from across Pohara Valley Rd, or perched on the roof of their garage as the digger bit into the remains of their silt-stuffed wooden home, shattering the joists like matchsticks.

"It's closure, which is good," Chris Udell said.

"In some ways, it's a relief," Lynne Udell said. "You can start to think about moving on."

"It's quite fun," said daughter Gina, 16. "We've kind of gotten used to it by now."

Television news wanted to come and film the demolition, but Mr Udell and his family, including daughter Emma, 14, preferred to get on with things.

A year ago, the normally sedate creek behind their house broke its banks and surged into their home. It carried such an enormous load of gravel, logs and silt into the house that they got out with not much more than the clothes they had on.

"I never knew it had a name," Mr Udell said. He knows it now: Winter Creek. "It's amazing what water can do."

They suffered total inundation. The water streamed around their property and flowed down the street, mostly missing the other homes on Pohara Valley Rd.

"It was surreal in a sense," Gina said. "We knew it was happening but we didn't really click. We were in the lounge - and then we were up and sent up to the marae."

The family sheltered at the marae that night, and then began the long process of sorting out what was left. They received a payout from Earthquake Commission, but didn't have contents insurance, so they have had no rent relief. "That was a wee bit of a bummer," Mr Udell said.

Residents blame the flooding on logs and broken branches damming the creek and giving way, sending floods washing out homes, roads and infrastructure. But because the amount of rain received was so unexpected, no council or forestry management forecasting could deal with the effects.

Pohara Beach Top 10 Holiday Park manager Brent Clarke said that although things have been mostly cleaned up, there are still reminders at the edges.

"It's funny when you start doing stuff like lifting the deck on a unit and seeing all the silt under there. Brings back memories," he says. "Any damage was cleaned up pretty quickly, but there's still a lot happening and lots to be done. It's just going to go on for some time."

Grass hasn't yet covered the slip scars on the hillsides, and creek beds are still full of debris. "We need the sun to shine, no wind, and a bit of rain at night just to freshen things up in the morning. That's all we're after."

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Meanwhile, Mr Udell and family are still waiting for their insurance payout from IAG. They've been paying rates on their ruined house as well as rent, and the Tasman District Council have told them they cannot rebuild on their property.

Still, he's philosophical. "We lost our home, we lost our contents, but we didn't lose our lives."

- The Nelson Mail

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