'Wishful thinking' becomes reality for couple

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2012
Nolene Latimer
DEAN KOZNIAC/Fairfax NZ
CHUFFED: Nolene Latimer surveys the garden of the Kaiapoi home she built 37 years ago and has lived in ever since. The house has been rezoned green, allowing her and partner Alan Winter to stay.

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More than 100 Canterbury properties have been rezoned by the Government, including 35 whose owners had not asked for a change. Families whose zoning went from green to red, and from red to green, react to yesterday's announcement.

Nolene Latimer and Alan Winter always held out hope that their red-zoned Kaiapoi home would go green.

Just three Canterbury properties were rezoned green by the Government yesterday, including Latimer and Winter's house.

Latimer, who owns the house, built it with her late husband Bob in 1975 and has lived there ever since, sharing it with partner Winter for the last five years.

It was red-zoned last year but the couple always thought that could change.

"It was wishful thinking a bit, but we were sure if anyone had a chance, we had it," Winter said.

"The three [green zone] houses next to us are on similar land and . . . were probably more damaged, and you think ‘why should we get thrown out?' "

On Thursday night, he took the call they thought they would get, but never dared expect - a "nice young woman" from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority told him their red zoning had been reviewed, and changed to green.

"We were definitely surprised," he said.

"You hear rumours that they're not going to alter the zoning of many, but someone's got to be lucky."

An "ex-country boy", Winter was happy to move, but knew his needs had to come second.

"Nolene's lived here for 37 years. Her late husband and her established everything from scratch and she just didn't want to part. I can understand that.

"I said ‘we'll do our utmost to stay because it's your house'."

The first phone call they made was to Latimer's three sons, who were "all very chuffed". The next was to the insurance company.

"They were a bit speechless," Winter said.

"I don't think they were expecting this."

The Crown offer of compensation had been withdrawn and repairs, expected to cost about $240,000, were now a reality.

"Internally, there's only a few minor cracks in the plaster that are visible," Winter said.

"It's the slumping of the foundation that's well and truly the biggest problem."

The Gray Cr house had sat on the northern edge of the red zone, north of the Kaiapoi River.

"The only major problem we've got is there's going to be no houses between us and the river. It's going to be all open spaces.

"It's going to look a wee bit strange. We won't be in the town any longer, we'll be on the edge of town."

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Last night though, less than 24 hours after their good news, Winter's thoughts were celebratory and immediate.

"I might open the wine."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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