7 Jun 2017

Christchurch quake stress splits city in two

8:23 am on 7 June 2017

Six years after the devastating Christchurch earthquake, residents in the city's eastern suburbs feel they are part of a different recovery from the rest of the city.

Liquefaction on Bower Avenue In North New Brighton/ Parklands.

Liquefaction which returned to Bower Avenue in North New Brighton after a quake last year. Photo: RNZ/ Sally Murphy

For New Brighton resident Esther Perriam, her city has an invisible line running through it, where people are getting on with their lives on one side, while the area she lives in is still waiting for that to happen.

The latest well-being survey from the Canterbury District Health Board shows that one in five people say they experience stress most or all of the time.

It also revealed a geographical split to the problem.

Distress or anxiety associated with ongoing aftershocks, being in a damaged environment and surrounded by construction, additional financial burdens and loss of recreational and cultural facilities were the survey's top four stresses for people in the city.

It found that in general, a higher number of people living in North-East and East Christchurch reported being impacted by these negative issues.

Esther Perriam said she tried to live within her suburb but there was not a day she did not see a road cone or pot hole.

Esther Perriam said she tried to live within her suburb but there was not a day she did not see a road cone or pot hole. Photo: Supplied

Ms Perriam describes herself as fourth generation New Brighton, and raising a fifth generation.

She said she tried to live within her suburb, but there was not a day she did not see a road cone or pot hole.

"Sometimes when I'm living in my local world I just feel a sense of sort of greyness ... it's just a reality and it's broken."

Ms Perriam said that this was emphasised when she went outside of New Brighton. "The experience of driving on roads where there are no bumps at all it's overwhelming, it's frustrating, it's depressing, and it makes you feel almost a sense of resentment and a feeling of why us?"

She could reel off with ease the state of most of the houses on her street, saying everyone had a story.

The feeling of anxiety and stress was not unfamiliar to Ms Perriam and her family and she believed her experience would be similar to others, because homes were most peoples' biggest asset, and many would have a sizeable mortgage on them.

"It feels a bit tenuous, the hold you have on your asset anyway, to then be held in limbo by organisations, it's just really demoralising when you're talking years and years and years after earthquakes."

Work still being done - minister

Christchurch East MP, Labour's Poto Williams, said the survey's finding validated what people lived with in the eastern suburbs every day.

Poto Williams.

Poto Williams said the eastern suburbs had been left behind. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

She said there was a sense of neglect and the eastern suburbs had been left behind, she described it as a recovery of two halves.

"Some of the city is looking beautiful and being restored and you come to the eastern suburbs and even though we're getting work done, it just seems to have taken so jolly long to get anywhere."

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said the city overall had a good quality of life compared to the rest of the country, but there was stilll work to be done for the east side of the city.

"Obviously the problem we have on the east side of the city is that it's very low lying.

"It's where we had the most damage, the most liquefaction and the most work to do."

People having to wait for help - psychologist

Clinical psychologist Catherine Gallagher - who runs a private practice in the city - said the health system was straining to deal with the residents' anxiety, and getting help was not as straightforward as it was in the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake.

"Funding streams were much more clearly defined and people could get funnelled into the support that was available, I think that the impacts now are a lot more diffuse and the ripple effects are ongoing ... it's harder to pin things back to the earthquakes."

Ms Gallagher said there were reasonably good resources in Christchurch, but the demand outweighed the provision and people were having to wait for help.

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