Editorial: Heaps of disrespect

There was a collective gasp of disgust when cameras ventured into a red-zoned Christchurch house last week.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) went public with the situation that had been discovered in the Southshore home.

A group of German tourists had set up camp in the house. There they were, sitting at a table, on which could be seen tomatoes, salt, margarine and spaghetti, plates and spoons.

It couldn't have looked more normal.

But the tent they had erected in the lounge was an indicator that all wasn't quite as it seemed, as was the barbecue next to it.

And when Cera staff ventured further into the house, they discovered that the campers had been using one of the bedrooms as a toilet.

For most people reading the story, or watching it on television, that marked the crossing of a line.

It moved the story out of the realms of "well, they weren't really doing any harm" to something too distasteful for most.

Cera chief executive Roger Sutton pointed out that settled properties in the red zone were not abandoned, but rather now owned by the Crown.

Most people, though, would be more inclined to think of the property as having been someone's home, a place where, perhaps, a family went about their ordinary day-to-day life, a house in which bedrooms were for sleeping in.

And that the room being used as a toilet was once someone's ordinary bedroom, until earthquakes meant nothing was ordinary any more.

Most people would have looked at the carpet on the floor, and wondered why anyone would choose that as the most suitable location for an impromptu toilet. They would think of the hard-floor areas in most houses - bathrooms, laundries, kitchens.

Christchurch people, in particular, would have remembered the temporary toilets they had to use after the February 2011 earthquake destroyed sewerage systems - the buckets they lined with plastic bags, the holes they dug in their gardens, the screening they provided for those holes in the ground.

Christchurch people would also be all too aware of the stress that many of those red-zone homeowners have faced.

And when you consider all of that, you can really only feel that using a bedroom as a toilet shows a total disrespect.

There were other options far more appropriate than that.

The Timaru Herald