28 May 2018

Rakautara land owners in "limbo" after Kaikoura quake

From Checkpoint, 5:45 pm on 28 May 2018

Several home owners near Kaikōura have been stuck in limbo for 18 months, since 2016's earthquake devastated the area.

While much of the damage in Rakautara is being repaired, five homeowners have been barred from repairing and occupying their properties due to a nearby cliff that is unstable.

They had no idea what to do and said the council and government had abandoned them.

Noeline and John O'Carrell said the cliff caused nightmares for them since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the area in November 2016.

"We thought the house was going to go down the hill... Horrific shaking," Mrs O'Carrell said.

"We just rolled ourselves up in our blankets in our bed and we thought, 'If we are going to die, we might as well be warm.'"

After surviving a barrage of large boulders that came down the cliff and pummelled their house during the quake, the O'Carrells had hoped to fix their home.

They were paid $21,000 by EQC for the land damage and received $70,000 from their private insurer.

But plans to fix the house ground to a halt as the council slapped their home with a section 124 notice, preventing them from accessing the property.

"We are in a spot, we can't move forward," Mrs O'Carrell said.

Mr O'Carrell has had to watch the house he built himself decay over the 18 months since the quake. 

Mown lawns bordered by pristine gardens are now a jungle. Plants have grown through their deck and outdoor furniture, and cobwebs engulfed the veranda.

The couple have moved to Christchurch, and Mrs O'Carrell said she had enough and wanted the house red-zoned. 

"This stress, we don't need it," she said.

Rakautara is a small village north of Kaikoura, cut off between two large land slides.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Two doors down, Olivia Jarvis and Beau Broadhurst were in the same boat with their beach-side bach.

They could not occupy the property but still had a $350,000 mortgage to pay.

"Since the earthquake, the council has said that we are not allowed back. So we can't use the property and we can't rent it out," said Mr Broadhurst.

"We are sort of in limbo."

An engineer's report highlighted multiple natural hazards from the cliff looming behind the house. The couple also wanted the land red-zoned.

A Kaikōura District Council spokesperson said it did not have the financial resources to help all affected property owners, and the council had no intention to create a red zone.

Both couples said they had little help from the council, EQC or Civil Defence.

A government spokesperson said it provided $5.3 million in this year's budget to help Kaikoura's recovery, and part of that would go towards solving issues with natural hazards. 

The council spokesperson said more work was required regarding allocation of extra central government funding.

In its draft three-year plan, the council had also set aside $155,000 to "seek advice" and "develop options for affected property owners".

"While we empathise with the frustrations of financially challenged residents, we are working as quickly as we can," the spokesperson said.