Seabreeze Close going back to nature
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
No-one seems to be cleaning up the silt in Seabreeze Close any more.
The grey slop that burst through roads, lawns and people's home has redefined the landscape of the Bexley cul-de-sac, obscuring driveways in dusty mounds and piling up in the corners of abandoned living rooms.
Nature is already reclaiming this street, where all but four homes have been abandoned.
It is part of the residential red zone, and all homeowners will eventually accept one of the Government's buyout offers.
In less than two years, the street will be entirely abandoned and most of the houses demolished.
Diane Eden and son Jesse Macilquham are among the few remaining residents of Seabreeze Close, and Eden said it was hard not to feel forgotten.
Since the December 23 earthquakes, New Zealand Post has refused to deliver mail to much of the street, and when her sewerage failed yet again, the Christchurch City Council would not provide a portaloo, pointing out that she still had a chemical toilet.
"Nobody realises that I'm here still," she aid.
With few people left, Eden said she sometimes felt unsafe. When she heard banging outside one night, she called the police, only to find it was just a door swinging in the wind.
Just after Christmas, she called the police about a person rummaging around in the vacant house next door. Moments later, she realised it was her former neighbour returning home to pick up the drapes.
Eden's house has been hit with liquefaction five times since the September 2010 quake. On one occasion, her small dog nearly drowned in the silty water that flooded her garage.
Now she takes the dog everywhere.
So why does Eden stay when almost everyone else has left?
After the September 2010 quake, she did leave, moving into a rental house, but the economic reality of renting and paying a mortgage soon hit home and she returned to Seabreeze Close.
After the December 23 quakes, which liquefied the street again, she is ready to go, signing a six-month lease on an Avonside house and scouting around for a new home.
"I can't stay here for another winter. It is going to be freezing," she said.
For Wayne Bradley, it was last winter that forced him out of his home.
After last February's quake, his family remained in Seabreeze Close, although they were forced to live in only half of the house.
But during the second big snow dump in August, Bradley's battered house finally gave way, the roof collapsing under the weight of snow.
Bradley also lost his Ferrymead automotive business in last February's quake, resurrecting it on June 10, only for it to be closed again by the quakes three days later.
The family has now moved into a two-bedroom Redcliffs apartment, and he is still negotiating a price for his Bexley home with insurers.
"I think we've worked out that everyone is in the same boat and you don't have many choices," he said. "It doesn't matter what decisions you make, it's never going to be a good one."
Keith Lush is still living in Seabreeze Close and believes he will be the last to leave.
After the December 23 quakes, the prospect of "digging out" yet again was overwhelming, but after a camping break on the banks of the Waimakariri River, he returned, determined to remain.
Despite the sea of liquefaction, the repeated flooding and lack of neighbours, the home is only a few years old and Lush figured it remained a better option than anything he would be able to afford elsewhere.
"Every week I live here I'm knocking more off my mortgage principal. I've living in a three-year-old house with all the mod cons, and when I move out it will be into a old dunger."
However, a few of the mod cons are already gone, with two people breaking into the house in December and stealing a flat-screen television set, laptops and money from his daughter's money box.
The burglary was the last straw for his children, with his 17-year-old son now living with his mother, and his 20-year-old daughter moving out of Christchurch.
"But I think I'm going to be the last person that leaves the street and they are probably going to have to drag me out," he said.
Kim and Steven Archbold have started a new life in Woolston.
After the February 22 quake last year their house was trashed and they bunked with relatives, rented and bought a new home in Woolston in December.
Kim Archbold said buying the new house had been a stressful juggling act between the Earthquake Commission, insurers and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), but she appreciated the new location when the December 23 quakes struck.
"We had no liquefaction. It was such a relief."
The family have handed their property over to Cera, and their home is likely to be among the first to be demolished.
"It must be pretty close now, but I'm not sure I'd want to watch."
The family occasionally returned to their Seabreeze Close home for a "reminder", but Archbold said she was happy to leave the dust and liquefaction behind her.
"It all just seems like some horrific nightmare that we couldn't wake up from."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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