The earthquake emigrants
We left behind the economic disaster in Ireland and entered the natural-disaster zone of Christchurch, New Zealand, writes ADRIENNE SLATTERYEVEN WHEN you move country, far from friends and family, life still has to go on. Myself and my partner are in earthquake-torn Christchurch with our two young kids and another on the way any day now. It is a challenge bringing up children away from their grandparents, but you can’t put your life on hold when you don’t know how long you will be away for.
Our decision to leave Ireland was a quick one. I was pregnant with our second child in 2010 when my partner Tim, who was working as a structural engineer in Dublin, lost his job over Christmas. We were faced with deciding whether to stay and have the baby in Dublin while relying on social welfare, or to emigrate and find work somewhere else.
We looked at the Middle East as a possibility and my parents were keen on us going to Canada, which would be a reasonably short flight from Ireland. But New Zealand made sense. Tim is from Christchurch, and we knew they were crying out for engineers to help to rebuild the city, which had been destroyed by a major earthquake just three months before.
We were due to leave on February 22nd, and woke up that morning to the news that there had been another devastating earthquake in Christchurch overnight. We panicked and had serious second thoughts, but our flights were booked and we were packed up ready to go, so we got on that plane.
We were leaving the economic disaster in Ireland behind and heading into a natural disaster in Christchurch.
We spent a week in Sydney before taking the flight to New Zealand. As we flew in over Christchurch airport, we saw the city lights and took that as a good sign. There was life there after all.
The rental market was really stretched here, so we took a massive risk and bought a house. The first weekend after we moved in, there was another earthquake. We hadn’t bought in Ireland because we couldn’t afford it in the boom and it was too risky when prices began to drop, but we were now thinking we had taken an even bigger risk buying here when our investment could literally crumble to the ground.
As it turns out, house prices have increased by 10 per cent in the area we live in since we bought in April 2011. There’s an accommodation shortage, because more than 100,000 houses are in need of repair and 10,000 need to be rebuilt.
We have experienced 3,000 aftershocks and four large earthquakes since we arrived. Every time the ground shakes it sends shivers up me. Our whole lives have adapted though, and we have learned to be earthquake aware. You constantly think about what is over your head.
The house is made from timber so we know we are reasonably safe in it.
It will sway and shake in an earthquake, but it won’t fall down. It had a few cracks in the ceiling and some broken glass when we bought it, but the damage was cosmetic and will be paid for by the government’s Earthquake Commission, which provides funding for properties with damage under $100,000 (€62,529).