– St Albans, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch land

A land assessor gives us a call to arrange a time for us to be home. A very large man and a very skinny man knock on the door. I can’t help but think of Laurel and Hardy, but that is showing my age.
“We would like to look for liquefaction under your house” says Hardy, the large one.
I imagine him lowering himself down through our not so large manhole under the house. I try not to smile.
“We have polythene over our soil” I say as I clear out wardrobe, lift the carpet and open the man hole. Laurel, the skinny one, gets his phone out to use as a torch and pokes his head down the hole.
“I can’t see anything” he says. “The light is not strong enough”.
I offer to get him a bigger torch. He is not interested.
“I can’t see any soil” he says. “It’s covered with some black stuff”.
I try not to laugh.
“Polythene” I say. “Our plumber said there was liquefaction in that corner, but there is no direct line of sight to it from here”.
His is not interested. He hasn’t seen any liquefaction, so he makes a note on his note pad, and they both go outside.
They get out a measuring tape, pace things out, take photographs, and record information on graph paper. They point to a hollow.
“Is that earthquake damage?” they ask. They are concerned that a slight hollow in the ground is an infill sink hole. The earth is compacted soil, not silt. It looked very obviously a root bole to me, and nothing like a sink hole.
“No”. I say. “We dug out a large camellia, and that’s its root bole”.
“There was quite a bit of liquefaction under the garage which has since been demolished by our insurance company for safety reasons” I say helpfully, pointing to where the garage used to be.
“Oh, no we are just looking for visible land damage” they said.
The liquefaction that was under the garage is very visible.
The purpose of their visit and the way they are doing it seems disconnected.
“It will probably take about 2 years for a report to come to you” they said.
“Thanks for being so realistic with the time frames” I said as they left.
Four years later we got the report.
The garage part of our property with liquefaction was excluded from our land claim as the garage had been demolished so was not a visible structure at the time of inspection. If our garage had remained, our Claim would be 47m2 more. Other people are complaining that over half of their property is excluded from a land damage pay-out by the Earthquake Commission because structures have been removed for safety reasons post-quake. It doesn’t matter that you have photographic proof. Our land damage was tiny, and most of it was repaired by our new foundations, so any Claim for the 47m2 would be tiny.
Money from our land claim was probably going to end up being paid to our insurance company anyway, although that wasn’t exactly clear. We just let it go.

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