Red-zoners settle into new homes

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2013
Williams family
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ

OFF THE BEACH: The Williams family – Kowhi, 14, Karereatua, 7, Angela, Naomi, 17, Fred and Terongomaianiwaniwa, 5, front – didn’t go camping.

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It is a summer of settling into new neighbourhoods and unfamiliar homes for some Christchurch families.

Several red-zoned Cantabrians scrapped their annual Christmas camping holiday to ease into their new communities this year.

Rather than pitching a tent, children are biking around unfamiliar suburbs while their parents meet new neighbours.

Spencer Beach Holiday Park manager Andrea Cox said some long-time campers who had been red-zoned after the earthquakes decided to spend this year's holidays exploring their new neighbourhoods instead.

"We normally have a huge waiting list, but this year the red-zoners are spending Christmas in their new homes and they have given first-time campers a chance to camp," she said.

For the first time in 12 years, Anni Watkin celebrated Christmas in a house.

The 54-year-old is usually sunning herself at Spencer Beach Holiday Park at this time of year, while her eight children and 13 grandchildren come and go over their four-week stay.

But this summer is all about settling into a new neighbourhood in Woodend and making their five-bedroom house feel like a home.

Watkin, husband Ruru Hona, 58, and her elderly mother, who lived behind the couple, found out their joint Wainoni Rd section was red-zoned last February. The trio moved to Woodend two months later.

Last week was their first Christmas in the new house, and a sense of nostalgia dominated the family lunch in the backyard, Watkin said.

"This year was a bit different. We just wanted to settle into the house, and on Christmas Day we were all talking about how different it was," she said.

"We usually have such a big family event at the campsite, but this year we were all in different places."

Not wanting to completely miss out on the camping experience, Watkin and Hona put up their campground Christmas tree, erected a gazebo in the backyard and even visited some of the campers at Spencer Beach.

Watkin's daughter, Angela Williams, followed in her mother's footsteps after her Bexley home was red-zoned.

Williams, her husband and their four daughters shifted into a house in Woodend, just around the corner from her mother, and also decided to hang around home "to get to know the community" this summer.

"We normally go camping but decided to stay at home this year to be with family. We need to settle into the house and our neighbourhood," she said.

Although the family missed their annual camping holiday, they had bonded with the community and her daughters had made friends with other children in the area.

"We have felt no aftershocks, the kids feel safe and this is definitely the best Christmas we have had in a long time," she said.

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