Marlborough residents left with badly damaged homes after November's earthquake are worried about a cold winter ahead with no heating.
Others left homeless face having to remain living in caravans and makeshift accommodation.
Latest council figures show 233 homes in the district were damaged in the 7.8 quake. Fifteen are beyond repair and the future of another 38 is uncertain.
And insurance assessments are going slowly.
Candi Callaghan, a part-time administrator at Ward School, said about 90 percent of homes in Ward were without heating, and many were still waiting on insurance decisions.
She said many homes used woodburners to heat their homes, and chimney repairs were a priority.
"I do think it's just the approach of winter and the worry that, yeah, 'how long is the process going to take'?"
The closure of State Highway 1 had "a huge impact", she said. It now took about nine hours to get to the town from Christchurch, when it was once a three-hour car trip, making it harder for staff and tradespeople to get there.
There was also uncertainty about how the new arrangement between the Earthquake Commission and private insurers would play out.
Ms Callaghan has been told people would be paid out in cash and left to arrange their own repairs. She said she would love to be able to go ahead and book a builder, even though she was not yet sure what needed to be done in their home that had windows nailed back in to their frames.
"I'd like to be able to think ahead, and we're all trying to do that because once we're settled we'd love the work done as soon as possible."
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said the insurance arrangement was a good idea, but proof it worked was yet to be seen, and the problem was compounded by a shortage of tradespeople around the country.
The council was doing what it could, he said. "We've still got a recovery team working down our east coast. Our role is really more in connecting the agencies, the insurance representatives and the EQC reps with people affected."
Town looks toward a post-quake future
Diane MacKinnon helps to run the Flaxbourne cafe/bar and post office in the Ward township. It is now the main watering hole for workers fixing the highway and the tourists who come to look at Ward's new coastline. It is also the only fuel for miles, except for 91 octane fuel. The lines were crushed in the quake.
Next door, the Flaxbourne museum appeared to be held together by cordon tape and bracing.
Volunteer Sally Peter from Cape Campbell Farm said the quake had revived debate over whether to go back to the town's original name of Flaxbourne. It takes its current name from a former New Zealand premier, Sir Joseph Ward.
Mrs Peter said the end of the museum building had triggered an idea for a whole new centre.
"I have got a vision for a heritage centre which I'm hoping will put Flaxbourne back on the map. I want it to be an iSite, a modern interactive museum with a retail arm."
She said there appeared to be early support for the idea.
"The community's been fantastic but as you can imagine at the moment everybody's broken and trying to do their own thing - including myself.
"I'm finding it very hard to pull away from my own problems to try and look at what I have to do here."
She had met with the council and will now prepare a grants application.