June quakes prompted exodus

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2012

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When Mary Jo Gagan found herself shouting in the street, she knew it was time to leave Christchurch.

The June 2011 earthquakes convinced her she had to leave the quake-stricken city.

''The earthquakes in June - that was when I thought, 'I can't stand this any more','' she said.

''I was standing in the street shouting, 'We are leaving and we are going back to the US'. I was standing in the road and I think I had lost my mind.''

Gagan moved into the riverside home with her partner in August 2010 and loved her new neighbourhood. The suburb recovered quickly after the September 2010 quake but was written off in February 2011.

''After the September quake, things went back to normal for a while and it was beautiful. Things went to hell in a handbag after February,'' she said.

''Our house was more broken. We couldn't use the garage because we couldn't get the door open.

''After February, we slept under the kitchen table because we were so afraid.''

She said living in the red zone was unpleasant.

''We stuck it out, using the portaloo and taking a shower at the gym. Rental people moved out first and then the homeowners started to drift away.

''It was kind of scary because my partner travels a lot and many evenings I was there by myself.

''One night the phone was out, so I felt pretty isolated. There were reports of burglaries and arson on our block, so you wanted people to know you were home.

''It was kind of scary for a woman on her own.''

Gagan chose option 2, taking the Government's offer for the land and negotiating with her insurance company for a payout on the house.

''Fighting with the insurance company was no picnic,'' she said.

''I didn't feel they were very supportive. They made the process very difficult. Everything we asked for there had to be a fight about.

''The whole place had been refurbished and refitted in 2006, so it was essentially a new home. They wanted to depreciate it back to the 1950s when it was built.''

She moved to Auckland with her partner in March.

''It was hard leaving there because it was so beautiful by the river. It was a great neighbourhood,'' she said.

''We had good times there. We didn't live there that long, but we had a good time there.''

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- The Press

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