Family's third Christmas in garage

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013
Jeremy and Tania Tomkins are getting ready for their third Christmas in a garage
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
MERRY CHRISTMAS: Jeremy and Tania Tomkins are getting ready for their third Christmas in a garage.

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The Christmas tree is lit and the tinsel is up at the Tomkins residence.

But the decorations are not hung around their house. They line the walls of their garage, where they are preparing to spend their third Christmas.

Jeremy, Tania and two of their children have been living in their "decked-out garage" for 2 years, after their New Brighton home was damaged in the February 2011 quake and their home riddled with asbestos.

However, the family remain "comfortable", insisting life in a garage is not as bad as it seems.

The dwelling is fully insulated, a fireplace has been installed to keep the room warm, a provisional kitchen has been erected in the corner, and a room partitioned off from the main garage houses their 9-year-old daughter, Shayla, and 3-year-old son, Shayde.

It is the psychological effects that have left them "frustrated" and wanting to move on, Tania Tomkins said.

"Our son can't remember living in a house.

"He just thinks this is how you live."

A post-earthquake battle with Fletchers and The Earthquake Commission has failed to reach a resolution. The family were initially enrolled in the Fletchers home repair scheme, and their home was considered an under-cap repair job.

Unhappy with this outcome, they attempted to opt out, but were told too much money had already been spent on the property and repair work had been started.

The family then enlisted the help of insurance advocacy group Earthquake Services and were finally given the green light to opt out in June this year.

The family has also expanded.

Jeremy Tomkins' 18-year-old son from a former partner now lives in a caravan in the yard, and they were planning on building him a sleepout.

A family friend sleeps in "the only safe room" in the house.

"It's frustrating not to have our own space.

"But we're not the worst off, we just suck it up," Tomkins said.

"It's not that our house is precious, we're over that now. We just want a house to live in."

They could not afford to move out or relocate as they were still paying their mortgage.

Refitting the garage - though completed "quite cheaply" - had still cost them more than they would have liked.

The family were now hoping Earthquake Services would help in their quest for a rebuild.

Tomkins remained hopeful this would be their last Christmas in the garage.

"I think the reason we're all still here is the Government and agencies that are supposed to help us aren't.

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