Cera neglects people's plight - psychologist

02:38, Sep 10 2012
Scott Percy
STRESSED: Scott Percy and son Wren at their rented Lyttelton home. They are one of the last 31 Christchurch residents in the white zone.

A Christchurch man used to helping others deal with trauma is struggling with his own post-earthquake battle.

Clinical psychologist Scott Percy lost his home and marriage after the quakes and says the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) is refusing to let him move on.

Percy, who owns a damaged Heathcote Valley house with his former wife, is one of 31 white-zone property owners awaiting their fate.

Cera is considering installing bunds and rockfall fences to protect the affected properties, he said, meaning the house may be zoned green.

Homeowners would then be allowed back on their properties to rebuild or repair - a solution Percy sees as "completely ridiculous".

"In our little area we have major land damage, including fissures running the length of multiple properties and fissures under our house,'' he said.


''What's become obvious to me is that Cera is only concerned with mitigating earthquake risk and they think that's OK."

More concerning to Percy are the psychological effects the quakes and the prolonged decision-making process are having on white-zoned residents.

As a consultant to police and Fire Service personnel after the quakes, Percy knows how post-traumatic stress can affect people.

"There's a wealth of international post-disaster psychology research looking at increases in depression, increases in anxiety disorders, increases in [suicide], increases in drug and alcohol abuse," he said.

"A lot of these effects are mediated by people under chronic stress ... which will certainly apply to some of us.

"I am starting to think that the bureaucratic decisions that don't take these well-established factors into play will actually be worsening the human impact of the disaster."

At the time of the February 2011 quake, Percy was in hospital caring for his 6-year-old son, who had a life-threatening auto-immune disease.

He said quake-related stress later led to the breakdown of his marriage. He now shares custody of his son with his ex-wife.

He is forced to pay rent on his Lyttelton house and the mortgage on his broken home without any financial support, as his wife receives the $330 accommodation benefit available through the Canterbury Temporary Accommodation Service.

Percy had to cut his working hours to adjust to the change and to care for his son, and said he now faced bankruptcy.

"They're not even considering these factors. They're not even assessing where we're at before they make their zoning decisions,'' he said.

"We're the last 31 houses in the city left waiting for a zoning decision and they're asking us to wait longer."

Cera spokesman John Scott said bunds and rockfall fences were being considered for the Heathcote Valley because of the properties' "cost-benefit ratio".

While the time to install protection would vary, it was likely to take about two years for the process to be completed because of the complex nature of work, Scott said.

A final zoning decision is due to be released on Friday.

The Press