– Brooklands, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Brooklands was hit hard by the first earthquake on 4th September 2010. It seemed bad, though damage elsewhere in the city was to be much worse during following earthquakes.

We were on holiday in Morocco for that first quake, and got the news by text message via London. We spent the rest of the holiday trying whenever possible to contact family and friends, and find information online. Neighbours reported that our house seemed to have stood up well, and we had very little liquefaction on our land. “If your house is damaged,” said our Moroccan guide, touching his heart, “you can have mine.”

We returned to find doors jammed shut and some books and small items on the floor. The house had settled on one side, but was otherwise remarkably intact. In due course the land report showed us to be zone B, able to rebuild without remediation, and we began to plan for what was looking like a rebuild due to the difficulties of relevelling the house.

Then February came. The city was a horror, but in Brooklands our land was barely affected. The house sagged a little further. The June quakes did not even cause liquefaction. CERA zoned us orange, while some of Brooklands went red. We stayed orange while other parts of the city and Kaiapoi were rezoned. Another round of rezoning a few months later left us again in limbo.

Then in November, without any warning, we all receive letters telling us we are zoned red. The whole community, wiped off the map. I have lived here for 34 years. Others have even more emotional investment, but this is irrelevant. We have no say in the decision, no access to information, and no right of appeal. Some say the force of the earth makes them feel powerless, but CERA has been far worse for me.

For days after the announcement I can hardly speak. I have dreams that my family is being overwhelmed by huge waves and buried in sand, that we are being herded into trains to go to some grim destination, that someone has come while I was at work and cut down the huge gum tree my father gave me in a yogurt pot.

Now it is December. At home the quakes on the 23rd made more things fall than any quake so far, but still we have no liquefaction on our land. Small mounds are piled at the gates of a few houses. Green zones elsewhere are meanwhile inundated.

Here’s what I wish for all of us for 2012:
May the earthquake upheavals be behind us
May those in power find wisdom and compassion
May those displaced find strength and renewal
And may we keep the community connection we have gained

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