It's that damn cliff/bank. It is so crazy. I've decided the least boring way is to do it as briefly as possible. [postscript - I really really tried to do it briefly, but it didn't pan out that way...apologies for the length, the ranty-ness, the numbers, the lack of humour...] Here's a summary of the History of our Bank.
August 2010 - record breaking rainfall, and a landslide occurs behind the house. A Large Engineering Firm designs a remediation strategy - estimated to cost about $140,000. The recommendation for this work is being processed when....
February 2011 - record breaking earthquake occurs, loess (that's not a typo - google it) detaches and tumbles down, large tension cracks appear at the top of the cliff. We move out, as logic tells us that sitting beneath this monster of a cliff, with hundreds of aftershocks occurring daily, is probably a bad idea.
April 2011 - one of Christchurch's most respected geotechnical engineers (let's call him David) visits our property and advises us not to occupy the house until several urgent remedial steps are taken to prevent further 'subsidence' of the cliff.
April 2011 - December 2012 - I phone the EQC weekly for updates on the situation. I am variously told that:
- the cliff will be repaired (using the strategy previously outlined by the Large Engineering Firm)
- there is imminent risk that the cliff will suffer significant collapse in the near future
- there is not imminent risk that the cliff will suffer significant collapse
- that we will get paid $140,000 to fix the cliff ourselves
- a full information pack is to be sent out this month (early 2012) to all landowners with claims
- that we will get paid the value of the land which was inundated by soil
- a full information pack is to be sent out by the end of August 2012 to all landowners with claims
- that we will get paid nothing
- a full information pack is to be sent out before Christmas 2012 to all landowners with claims
20 December 2012 - our 'information pack' arrives. Read all about it here.
January 2013 - getting fed up (I'm a pretty patient little lady), I request all the documentation relating to our land claim, under the Official Information Act (which is the only way the poor peeps of Christchurch were able to see any kind of paperwork relating to our claims). I am told it will take 21 working days to be processed.
23 May 2013 - I don't need a maths degree to tell me that this is significantly longer than 21 working days later..... our paperwork arrives. Included are a large number of outdated photographs (from more than two years previously) of damage that has subsequently worsened. Also included are a series of reports relating to possible remediation strategies (including the aforementioned $140,00 option proposed by the Large Engineering Firm), estimates of costs of said strategies, and a recommendation for payment.
One of the pages, dated 7 January 2013, states that 'imminent risk no longer exists as there has been more than 4 seasons of normal weather conditions since the event that gave rise to the claim'. WTF? It also recommends that we are paid $2,860.85 in total - the estimated cost for contractors to come and take away the land that has fallen down around our house. I repeat - W.T.F! So, somewhere along the way, they reckon that we're clear, that the cliff isn't going to fall on us, despite the large tension cracks (which basically represent huge chunks of land just awaiting collapse) that sit at the top. And, meanwhile, the poor people who own the house at the top of the cliff, certainly aren't allowed to consider rebuilding up there - it's not safe enough for them, but it's ok for us to sit down the bottom??
Understandably, I was a bit dismayed/freaked out/perturbed/confused/angry about this information. This wasn't helped by a subsequent phone call to the EQC, where the woman at the other end of the phone cheerfully told me that I was going to get a cheque for over $2000! I politely asked her where I was supposed to find the other $138,000 required to actually stop the cliff falling on us.
And then shit just starts to get random (I know - and this is the short version of events).
20 October 2013 A letter entitled "Your land claim settlement" arrives. I am nervous. The first thing I notice is a cheque. The second thing I notice is that it is for $8,550. Confused, I read on. There are more copies of the old photos of our cliff, and there is an excel spreadsheet with a series of numbers, and some kind of calculations, the bottom line of which is $8,550.
I take the cheque and immediately deposit it into our bank account. I am furious at myself for thinking that getting less than $10,000 for a $140,000 problem might be adequate.
I get really mad.
I briefly consider going back to the EQC and appealing the payment - I have fantasies of taking them to court, and being triumphant.
I realise that would be expensive. And probably futile. I worry that if I appeal they might say that they only meant to pay me $2000 and I need to give $6000 back. I think of all the people worse of than us. I get depressed.
I get resigned. I give up.
Someone recommends an engineer (lets call him Endel), and I ask him to come and look, and help us to design and build our own wall - a compromise. We can't afford to stop the bank falling down, but we can hopefully build something that stops it annihilating our house, or killing our child, when it eventually does.
Last week - the engineer came. He sat at our dining table and waded through the one hundred pages of EQC crap. He understood more than I did. He was as confused as I was as to why they suddenly decided there was 'no imminent risk'. He agreed that the entire reason the EQC exists is to help people like us repair land issues like that. He agreed that an appeal would probably be futile. He understood that we cannot financially afford to stop the cliff falling. He drew some pictures of some structures that might help protect us when it does. He was a Helpful Engineer. He didn't laugh when I told him our budget. He was relieved that I realised that the cheque we got from EQC wasn't going to come close to building anything. He seemed sensitive to the fact that we will have to increase our mortgage significantly to pay for it. He has gone away to have a think about it, and to come up with a solution to our problem.
For the first time since August 2010, I am actually feeling slightly optimistic about our land. Slightly.