Sunday, June 9, 2013

Home Sweet Whare

Winter came a little early this year...
May 29th, still officially Autumn. Yeah right. Tell that to the polar blast that ripped through, chilling us all to the bone and dusting us with snow/hail/sleet. Mmmmmm, tasty. NOT!!

Hope it's not a sign of things to come this winter... I'm kinda over snow dumps to be honest. Although I must admit to a slight feeling of smugness when I read articles about how to keep your home warm this winter. There are many advantages to a new house - insulation, double glazing and a complete lack of cracks should make this winter a good one to stay at home with me on the inside and the weather on the outside.

I've spent most of my life in Christchurch and this winter will be the very first one I've ever spent in a new house. Our previous home - a gorgeous, character-filled, dark wood-interior bungalow could equally have been described as draughty, poorly-designed, amateurishly built, and well past its prime. Often colder inside than out, it was similar to many homes built in the first 50-100 years of Christchurch settlement. I loved it to bits but now that I'm here on the other side of that physically & mentally exhausting process, I'm no longer sad that the earthquake/s munted my cute but dodgy old home.

If only everyone was in a similar happy place.

The day after the early cold snap, we collectively passed another milestone - 1000 days since the first quake - one of those significant round numbers that tend to provide a natural point at which to measure progress (or lack thereof).

In the thousand-odd days since most of us were rudely awoken on September 4, 2010, life has changed significantly for many residents in this city and surrounding towns. In our part of town, there were very few houses so badly damaged that they needed to be demolished, although there are many homes still obviously waiting for repairs.

In a nearby street there is a rebuild I've been watching with interest... it's on my walking route to the supermarket, so I pass by quite often! This corner used to hold a type of house quite common in the early 'workers' suburbs on this side of town (like Somerfield, Sydenham, Waltham, and Addington), a single house that was split neatly down the middle to make two separate dwellings on two separate titles.

Old building styles, new building regulations, and individual ownership rights do not always meet neatly in the middle. Something that is quite evident with this particular project... or rather, these two adjoining projects:

As with the original dwelling, the first part of the replacement house has been rebuilt right to the edge of the section boundary. This first half has been complete and inhabited for a little while now, and a few weeks ago, work started on the other half...

Except that - due to the wishes & desires of these owner/builders - this 'half' is going to be much bigger and quite different to the one recently completed. With no mandate to work together, these property owners have done absolutely nothing wrong by approaching their part of the rebuild in their own manner... but with a philosophy of 'each to their own', the dwelling-pair is no longer a harmonious whole.

We'll be seeing a lot more of this stylistic mish-mash in both residential and commercial developments for years to come. Welcome to the new Christchurch - a hotch-potch of rebuilds, repairs and despair.

1000+ days later, there is still plenty of despair around housing issues. So many people are caught in strangling loops of red-tape or stymied by a lack of accountability and their stories can be harrowing. It is a sad sign of the times that, for some, the only way to get progress on their housing claim/situation is to go to the media. For some people, the rebuilding action in the photos above would be a dream come true. Take the case of a couple who have been left living in their uninsulated garage for 18 months after a dispute over EQC-managed repairs left their home uninhabitable.

If you have the time (14mins), watch the entire story from this recent Campbell Live show - including some sad tales from the 'Caravan of Complaint'. This mobile studio (in its various guises) has provided a much-needed outlet for the disaffected/neglected/furious people of Christchurch to vent their frustrations. This is not the first collection of harrowing stories, merely the latest batch, but the very real and sometimes drastic situations that people find themselves caught in, nearly 3 years on, are both distressing and embarrassing for a country that's supposedly well-prepared and well-insured.

And then there's the flipside of this equation - those who have been forced to work at/from home, and who would rather be somewhere else. Many displaced businesses in C-city are still working from temporary premises or domestic suburban locations, trying to maintain some semblance of cashflow and trading action. One such business is Whare, run by my good friend Adele, and featured previously on this blog in April 2011 when 'the garage shop' opened up.

Finally, after more than a year of trading online and from a converted garage, Whare has a new home in the Beckenham shops on Colombo St, just across the road from the original store.
A new home for Whare: Forking brilliant!

After months of searching for suitable premises, and several weeks of consent-related delays, the long-anticipated call came... "You can move in tomorrow". Yep, that's how it rolls in Shakeytown these days - you wait for weeks or months with little or no indication of progress, then it's all rush-rush-rush-go!

When the call went out for helping hands to pack the shop up lock, stock and designer-barrel, the sisterhood swung into action.

Various female friends turned up with energy & smiles, and sometimes muffins & coffee, and dammit if we didn't get the job done.... eventually!

The new shop is a wonderful riot of colour and form, filled with so many fabulous things that are potentially perfect for the home but equally dangerous to a girl's credit card...

 Must. Resist. Urge. To. Shop!! (it's hard tho!)

Foot traffic in a single morning is already easily surpassing the number of people who visited the humble garage shop during an average week which, after months of reduced trading action and weeks of frustrating delays, must be a huge boost to the morale. Here's hoping this new, more visible, location will be the start of better days for a hardworking friend who's valiantly traded through some tough times.

Resilient or stubborn? Who knows :) But it just goes to show, you can't keep a good girl (/city/town) down.

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