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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Neighbours forced to farewell Kia Ora St

Neighbours forced to farewell Kia Ora St

By Derek Cheng
5:30 AM Friday Jun 24, 2011
Four Bexley women huddled together on the couch, watching the screen on the laptop to see if their homes were in the red zone.

For a moment, a silence hung in the room as the terrible truth sunk in, and then Tracy Carlyle, who has lived at 14 Kia Ora St for 20 years, lost her composure.

"S**t," she said, sobbing quietly, covering her face in her hand and sinking into the shoulder of her neighbour, Roseann Gardner.

Mrs Gardner wrapped her friend in a warm hug before tearing up herself.

"S**t," she echoed, as her 80-year-old mother, Betty Sweeney, stared stone-faced at the computer.

For Kari Barr, who has called Kia Ora St her home for 24 years, the morning had been full of nerves as she awaited the Government's announcement on which houses would be salvageable.

They had gathered at Mrs Gardner's house to learn the fate of their homes. Kia Ora St is a different side of Bexley, not the new homes in the once-plush subdivision of Pacific Park, where the value of the homes alone could reach half a million dollars.

Such security is lacking for families like the Gardners, who are likely to take the Government's offer of cash for their land and insurance coverage for their homes, which they say are older and undervalued.

Mrs Carlyle's house is valued at $130,000.

Down the street, Steve Bell was hoping he could stay where he had lived for the past nine years.

His wife, Alison, phoned soon after the news was announced.

"We'll have to have a good think," he said into the phone. "See you when you get home. Love you."

He put the phone down and stared at the fireplace with a glass of red wine, processing the fact that he'll have to abandon his home.

Back at Mrs Gardner's house, the bottles of chardonnay were already open to help ease the numbness.

Such gatherings in the Gardner family's lounge are now on borrowed time, so they brought out the salmon and camembert and sat by the fire.

Phone calls and text messages of support arrived frequently.

One text said: "We are all thinking of you and sending hugs."

They talked of how one earthquake after the other had drawn them all closer together.

They used to be good friends. Now they are family.

Some of them have spent decades - most of their lives - living in these homes. And they will all have to leave.

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