Quake refugees value solid ground of a Hamilton home

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013
Quake refugee
Bruce Mercer/Fairfax NZ

Resettled: Hamilton is now home for Camille, 8, mum Shelley and Chauntay, 4.

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Shelley Owen and her family were among the lucky ones.

In 2011, when much of Christchurch was levelled by the earthquake, Mrs Owen and her family were spared.

"We lived in the right part of the city," she told the Waikato Times, with a smile.

"We were very, very lucky. Nothing fell down, nothing broke. Some fish died but that was about it."

When the quake struck, Mrs Owen, 32, was readying her dad's house for an open home.

Any other day, she would have been just five minutes' drive from her two eldest kids, Ashley and Camille, who were at school.

But after the quake, that same drive stretched out to more than an hour, leaving Mrs Owen crying, sick with worry about their safety.

The stress never eased amid the frequent aftershocks, and the Owen family decided to leave, arriving in Hamilton in May 2011.

Mrs Owen said settling in was initially hard, as they knew no one.

"At first I thought: ‘Have we made a mistake?' But things started to come right slowly."

Now, two years on, the family are happily established in Nawton.

Mrs Owen said her partner, John, has a good job and her three kids have all settled well at school.

For eight-year-old Camille, the shift to Hamilton has put her at ease. "We can go to a lot of different places now, and I can have fun and not be scared."

Her 10-year-old brother, Ashley, swears the fish and chips are better.

Today, when much of the nation stops to think of the 185 people who died in the February earthquake, the Owen household will stop too.

"You think about it quite often," said Mrs Owen. "It's very hard, especially as we have family and friends still in Christchurch."

Although leaving them behind had been hard, she was adamant she would not return.

"The aftershocks are still worrying, but more than anything else, Hamilton is home now."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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