North Canterbury farmers make the best of life after earthquake

3:28 pm on 11 April 2017

North Canterbury farmers Bob and Vicki Todhunter lost their 1902 villa in November's 7.8 magnitude earthquake when a fault ruptured beneath it.

It was the centrepiece of the 1100-hectare farm Ngaio Downs, near Clarence, which is also now part of an altered landscape.

They are among the hundreds waiting on insurance assessments and pay-outs, but they have moved ahead under their own steam. They are now living in their shearing quarters, converted into a stylish home, landscaped with the boulders that smashed down the hills behind them.

North Canterbury farmers Bob and Vicki Todhunter lost their 1902 villa in the November 2016 earthquake, when a fault ruptured beneath it.

Bob and Vicki Todhunter said they left their bedroom moments before a large antique wardrobe was picked up and thrown onto the bed in the November 2016 earthquake. The old villa's utility rooms were completely destroyed. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Mrs Todhunter said they were sad to have lost their home but there was no point rebuilding it for them to live in, as they were heading towards retirement. They planned to pass that baton to the next generation.

"[Our son's family has] got their whole farming life ahead so they'll have the new house and we'll have their cottage which is lovely... but it needs lots doing to it because it's badly damaged too," she said.

In the meantime, they had revamped the farm's shearing shed. It has a large farmhouse kitchen and a modern blue bathroom befitting of any ocean-side home.

"We've actually created a home out of something that probably wasn't liveable and we've turned it into something I'm happy to live in - Bob's perhaps not quite so happy about his new house.

"We've left the old doors and we've left a few of the old features, so yeah, it's cool."

Vicki and Bob Todhunter outside the shearing shed they've made into a new home after the November 2016 earthquake.

Bob and Vicki Todhunter outside the shearing shed they've made into a new home. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Mrs Todhunter said they had trouble getting builders and supplies, and had rented a nearby cottage until they were able to move into the reworked shed early this month.

The daily demands of farming had not stopped, and they were lucky to have the support of family, they said. Their son, who now ran the farm, was handling the burden of insurance, repairs and paperwork.

Mr Todhunter said volunteers had pitched in and the government had made funds available to fix things that could not be insured, like fences.

But there was one problem they could do without - a debt collector was chasing them for $70 on a newspaper subscription they cancelled when the highway closed and delivery stopped.

"Vicki cancelled the [Christchurch] Press at the end of January because it wasn't getting delivered. I tried to ring them to explain we'd had an earthquake but it's very hard to get through to them."

The Todhunters hoped to be able to salvage some of the wood from the villa to be used in the rebuild on the property.

North Canterbury farmers Bob and Vicki Todhunter lost their 1902 villa in the November 2016 earthquake, when a fault ruptured beneath it.

The old villa was severely damaged in the November earthquake. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Boulders used to landscape the exterior of the Todhunters' new home, which was once the shearing quarters.

Boulders dislodged in the earthquake have been used for landscaping around the converted shearing shed. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

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