Massive boulder's narrow miss

A 3-metre high boulder landed at the front gate of Tim and Lesley Murdoch’s home.
David Hallett
A 3-metre high boulder landed at the front gate of Tim and Lesley Murdoch’s home.

Sumner residents are standing firm in the face of yesterday's earthquakes that brought the worst rock falls yet to hit the beach side suburb.

Engineering geologist Mark Yetton said the damage on the Port Hills was not as bad overall as in February, but its force was focused in Sumner.

"This time Sumner and the cliffs are worse. Redcliffs was hit again but it wasn't as severe because the epicentre was at Sumner."

Rock falls on Heberden Ave, at the base of Scarborough Hill, deposited a 3-metre high boulder at the front gate of Tim and Lesley Murdoch's home.

Mercifully, no one was home and the building was spared any structural damage.

"It's probably liveable if we didn't have a dirty great rock outside our house," Tim Murdoch said. "What a bastard eh?"

He shrugged off suggestions the latest quake would drive them out of Sumner. "Nah, we're fine."

The rock only came down in the second shake. Family members had been home to check the house and left again.

"I got hold of Lesley and she said the house was ok," he said. "It didn't look to be anything too much. Then the second one hit."

He points to a spot just in front of where the rock now sits. "[Lesley's] car would have been parked just there."

Locals stopped to take in the sight.

Joggers and cyclists paused as they negotiated their newly hazardous exercise route.

Couples stared perplexed at the buttons on their digital cameras then in awe and they pointed and shot.

Debbie Armstrong of nearby Head St was left stunned.

"I can't believe it's happened again," she said.

"It was just absolute shock horror. I knew it was bad yesterday when the dust was just covering the whole of Sumner. You could taste it."

But it would take more aftershocks before she would consider leaving, she said.

"I want to stay here. I love Sumner. It's a great community but if it continues on I might have to start thinking about other areas."

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker, who visited Sumner today with his wife Jo Nicholls-Parker, said he refused to give up on the city.

As he spoke to journalists a large group of children on bicycles stopped to tell the mayor they had seen him on television. Some shouted "you're the man" as they pedalled away.

Couples and dog-walkers stopped to give Parker praise for the effort he had put in since the quakes.

Parker told them he was born and bred in Christchurch and believed the city would bounce back because of the people who lived there.

Workers had been "poured out" across the city to help restore essential services and assess damage after the quakes, he said.

"I don't think we'll be declaring an emergency with this one. Our resources and emergency services are coping."

One woman, who was due to go to hospital next week because of a brain tumour, wanted to know why the Earthquake Commission had suddenly halted its emergency repair programme yesterday.

Debris had fallen into her toilet during the quakes, smashing the toilet bowl and making it unusable.

Despite acknowledging it was an EQC problem, Parker gave her his contact details and said he would make sure the issue was followed up.

In the meantime, a chemical toilet could be delivered to her home, he said.

The Press