– Quail Island, Charteris Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand

This is a transcript of an interview with Pete Hayward conducted shortly after the 22 February 2011 earthquake.

Hi, I am Pete Hayward , I am 54 years old.

I live at the top of Brenchley Road in Lyttelton. My little earthquake story is not that dramatic. I was on Quail Island where I work and I was sitting in the little cottage over lunch with my work mate when the earthquake struck. We obviously knew that it was major and the first priority was to get off the island and make sure everyone was all right, and that’s what we did. By chance the ferry had come to pick up some tourists, so we got a lift on that boat to Lyttelton. Just to see the extent of the devastation here – because on the island there isn’t a lot to be damaged – it was shocking to see what was down, cars crushed, people in shock. One of my biggest memories is driving up with my vehicle and seeing people in the streets, just standing stunned or standing in small groups, in disbelief what was going on around them, car alarms going off – it was surreal, just like out of a movie.

My daughter was with her mother, she was sick, out of school that day, I knew she was safe and all right. The bizarre thing of being rung by my brother in Queensland before I had even arrived back on the ferry to Lyttelton. He was telling me what was going on!

Then I wanted to get up the hill and make sure my house was still here, because we are surrounded by quite a lot of bluffs and rock outcrops like most places in Lyttelton. The house was still standing , it was still in one piece, that was a great reassurance. My neighbour was OK, I had seen her on the way up, but the horrible feeling of seeing those huge pieces of rock lying around, the massive boulder just lying next to the gate of Hyllton Heights, 10 or 15 tonnes monster that had come down. Being in shock and walking around in a stunned state for the first hour or two, like most people. Once I knew everyone was OK, that was the first huge relief.

One of my biggest concerns were the big rock outcrops and we’re right up in the valley behind Lyttelton, but the people that built the little cottage over a 100 years ago had the foresight to build a stone wall in a triangular shape behind our house to deflect rocks coming off the hill. And it’s also closed to the ridgetop, so any materials coming off there will naturally divert and go down into the gullies, which is what happens. Lucky or unlucky I didn’t loose my vehicle with a large rock that came down in the gully where we usually park. But there has been the frightening aspect of the aftershocks, and we had several now, and they either occur when its dark or when we had cloud cover up here and in a substantial aftershock all you can hear is this… rumble.

Like most people I have probably evaluated a lot of things, as far as priorities go, just realising that it’s people that are important, things can be fixed or repaired, as long as everyone is OK – a lot of people of course weren’t OK, but we were lucky and our loved ones were lucky. Reassurance that the good part of the human spirit is alive and well, people helping each other out, doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, I think that’s one of the biggest things that has come out of this, the selflessness that people have shown. Maybe in the city where they were digging people out of the rubble or…

My Mum has been a bit jumpy since the earthquake in September, she lives over in Brighton and of course that was one of the worst hit areas, she is fortunately OK, her house is OK, but she was left with a whole lot of mess, she isn’t injured. Her section was covered in liquefaction. She came and stayed with us for a couple of weeks and we went back to check on the cat a couple of days after the earthquake. When we arrived there were piles of muck and silt on her pavement and a handwritten note on her door “Regards from the Oxford Rugby Club”. That was quite amazing really.

I have just lost my job, not necessarily because of the earthquake, I lost my job with DOC because it was a short term contract, and of course all the tracks are closed so there is no maintenance to be done. Fortunately we can still go ahead with the project on Quail island because it’s just a natural landscape, I don’t think there will be any danger for volunteers coming over there and helping. There is a little bit of concern about what is going to happen in the near future over the coming winter of course a lot more of the rocks will move. But again in some ways the aftershocks are possibly a good thing in terms that anything that is loose is gonna come down, and if we are gonna get rain over the winter that will sort a lot out too.

I went for a walk along the gully behind here, the tracks are closed, but people still go there, I went up to have a look at the damage and its quite surreal, a tree that’s been smashed by huge boulders up there, but the part of the tree that’s left standing has probably a 100kg rock wedged in the branches several metres off the ground and it will probably stay there as long as the tree is alive, quite bizarre things like that, and rocks that are precariously perched in different places that will obviously move at some point in the future.

This transcript is from one of a series of interviews carried out by Bettina Evans of Project Lyttelton. We are very grateful to Bettina and the interviewees for allowing their interview transcripts to be posted on QuakeStories.

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