Canterbury quake 5 questions: Life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland

Last updated 05:00 01/09/2015

The remains of our home and garden on Peterborough Street

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September Canterbury earthquake 'saved lives' The 'terror began' on September 4, 2010

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As Canterbury approaches the fifth anniversary of the September earthquake, we put five questions to our readers. Here are Richard Sutton's responses. 

1. Is your life better or worse than it was five years ago?

Five years ago we were planning to leave Christchurch and move to the Hunter Valley in Australia. I had good job that paid well and made use of my qualifications. I was good at it and my career was moving ahead. Life in Christchurch was good too, we enjoyed living in the inner city and our income from mining meant we could dine out regularly and enjoy what an inner-city lifestyle had to offer.

The earthquakes destroyed many of the places we loved and turned our neighbourhood into a sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Still, the quakes also strengthen our ties to the city and we never made the move to Australia but remained living in the inner city until the town-house that had been our home for almost 20 years was demolished a few weeks ago.

The downturn in mining made me redundant almost a year ago and since then I have been unable to find a decent job, but have made ends meet with near minimum wage jobs in the service/retail industry. On the plus side, we are debt free, own our own home, only have to work four days a week and I get to come home every night. So some things are better and some things are worse.

2. What has been the most significant change?

The loss of the inner city, the loss of our home, the loss of my job and its associated income have all had their effect but the personal insight into who I am and what I can do has been a greater gain.

* Sum up the September 4 quake anniversary in one word 
* The terror began on September 4, 2010

3. Describe the best moment of the last five years.

Visiting Korea to meet my wife's family for reunion that we thought almost impossible.

4. Describe the worst.

The worst part was the February 22, 2011 quake: watching the news, seeing the destruction and carnage, trying to contact friends and family to make sure they were OK and wishing we were home but feeling glad we were safe in New South Wales.

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We returned about 10 days later to no power, water or sewerage, a freezer full of rotting food, a driveway covered in liquefaction silt, checkpoints manned by foreign soldiers, cordons and curfews. Luckily our home was largely intact.

The second worst part has been the ongoing search for a decent job since being made redundant. The disappointment at the knowledge that the mining industry is unlikely to pick up any time soon. The constant knock backs, having to remove degrees and experience from CVs in effort to get an interview, lowering expectations of pay and what would be a suitable job, finally taking any job, even one paying just above minimum wage in order to stay off a benefit.

5. Can you name a person (high profile or little-known) who has made a real difference over those five years?

Coralie Winn and the Gap Filler team made a big difference as they brought life back to the new empty spaces that made up the inner city, making it more an interesting new wonderland and less a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

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