Couple still haunted by shattered dream

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:00 16/12/2013

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One day, they were counting their lucky stars in their dream home. The next day, they were gone, never to live there again.

That's what the December 2011 flood did to retired Nelson couple Alan and Mary Pullar.

Not long out of The Linen Press, the business they began in 1990, the Pullars were loving their home and garden perched on the edge of the cliffs above Rocks Rd.

Theirs was one of the "dress circle" of sought-after luxury properties in one of the city's most prestigious suburbs, the Cliffs, with what are often said to be among the best sea views anywhere.

But incessant rain destabilised their land and caused a slip that blocked Rocks Rd. Their house cracked from side to side, making it unsafe and uninhabitable.

The couple didn't lose any possessions. Instead, they lost the home that had been "everything we wanted" - and two years on, the house is still empty, and the garden they were so proud of is now a tangled mass of tall weeds.

The Pullars have not stood still, however. While they continue to wrangle with the Earthquake Commission and the NZ Transport Agency over the land, they've settled with their insurers on the house.

They've just moved into a place in the Wood, after doing what Mr Pullar, 73, describes as "a complete reno".

Their situation - mirrored by that of Princes Drive homeowner Caroline Wheeler - would have been an enormous trial for anyone. The fact that Mr Pullar is on his fifth heart pacemaker and has kidney dialysis for nine hours each night, with no possibility of a transplant, has made it more of an ordeal.

He talks of the stress on his wife, and Mrs Pullar says the time since the flood is "house-wise and health-wise, the two most diabolical years I've had to endure".

Yet they are remaining positive. Mr Pullar pays tribute to their insurance company adjuster, Richmond's Paul Kinghorn, who "considered from day one that the house was unliveable".

He says support and offers of help from friends and former customers have buoyed them.

"That surprises you, the number of people who really do care."

The couple would have eventually moved to a smaller home - it just came sooner than expected, he says.

"If you want to get all dismayed and unhappy and pull yourself back into your shell, you're just going to shrivel up and die, and nobody wants to know you. So you've just got to take it one day at a time and be bright and breezy."

NZTA wants to install rock nails in the cliff below the house as part of its Rocks Rd work, but the Pullars are standing firm on denying access to their property until they get adequate compensation for the land.

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Even so, they didn't think they'd still be embroiled in an argument two years on from the storm.

Mr Pullar says they had friends affected by the Christchurch earthquakes, so they knew that "nothing was going to happen overnight". However, they felt that their situation, like Dr Wheeler's, was "so clean-cut", with a written off-house on a section that can't be used, that it should have been more straightforward.

"The best outcome for us, as with Dr Wheeler up on Princes Drive, would be for EQC to give us the QV value of the land and allow the NZTA and Opus to get the work done that they've got to do."

Their land on the Cliffs is still moving, he says.

"My opinion is that another house will never be built on that section - the only people who have an alternative opinion are those whose chequebooks would have to be used."

EQC declined to comment on the Pullars' case. NZTA said it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on negotiations that were continuing.

"Ensuring the stability of the cliffside and the safety of motorists is a high priority for the NZ Transport Agency, and we are currently exploring our options," said Nelson acting highways manager Mark Owen.

- Nelson

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