Man of action dedicated to uninsured

JOHN MCCRONE
Last updated 16:34 03/02/2013
The property of Addington resident, Ofelia Suarez Mendez Chambers was the first to benefit from the volunteers with Addington Action who set about repairing fences and tidying up. Organiser, Mike Peters, firms up a fence post with volunterr, Alex Briden

The property of Addington resident, Ofelia Suarez Mendez Chambers was the first to benefit from the volunteers with Addington Action who set about repairing fences and tidying up. Organiser, Mike Peters, firms up a fence post with volunterr, Alex Briden

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Collaboration or confrontation? At first blush, Mike Peters, of Addington Action, certainly sounds hostile to the powers that be.

Words like useless and callous drop from his lips.

"The Government isn't standing up for the people against the insurance companies. They should be reading the riot act to them.

"I've got sick of them, lost respect for them. I don't want anything to do with them."

Peters is the driving force of an unofficial recovery agency looking to fix earthquake- damaged homes for people who are uninsured.

The public does not realise how many retirees in Christchurch's poorer suburbs, have been caught out, Peters says.

"A very common scenario is we find a grandmother who has stepped in to look after her grandchildren and spent all her money looking after them, rather than pay her insurance. Or women whose husbands have died and the husbands handled all the finances and insurance stuff. The authorities aren't helping these people, so we are."

Working out of Peters' spare bedroom and a variety of garages, Addington Action has repaired 30 uninsured homes in south Christchurch and has plans for another 200. It has also organised a food-parcel delivery service, with the intention of reaching 400 families each week.

Addington Action sprang out of the chaos of the February, 22, 2011 earthquake. Peters, a fitter welder with experience managing a film crew, simply got his neighbourhood moving.

"I was wandering the streets with a megaphone telling everybody what to do.

"I'm really bossy," he laughs.

The expectation was that after the first few weeks of self- help, the authorities would then take over. However, when his phone continued to ring, it became clear a long-term recovery group was needed.

"I picked the 20 best people out of our volunteers, the natural leaders, and we formed Addington Action."

Despite its name, Addington Action now covers anywhere south of the railway tracks from Hoon Hay to Opawa.

International disaster agency Habitat for Humanity does a similar job for the uninsured north of the tracks.

Others are looking to start up versions of Addington Action in St Albans and east Christchurch, he says.

Peters has promised to continue working full time with Addington Action for the next two years while his wife earns the family income.

It is tough, he says. For a while, the collective had 10 repair projects on the go, which proved too ambitious. Now it undertakes only four at a time.

Addington Action works with other charity groups such as Age Concern and the Salvation Army. It also receives great support from Christchurch businesses, which not only donate money and supplies, but give staff a day off to work as volunteers, Peters says.

"Holcim got us $11,500 of concreting equipment. Some people from Dulux in Hornby rang the other day and said, 'We've got a pallet-load of No More Gaps that's fallen off shelves. We can't sell them. Would you like them?' So there's our supply of No More Gaps for the rest of the year."

With small grants coming from Rotary clubs and other sources, Addington Action has a working budget of $150,000, Peters says, and the Christchurch City Council has a site in Opawa where Addington Action can start building its own workshop and offices.

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