Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Open Letter to Chris Hipkins, NZ Minister of Education. Reference: The Press article, 05.02.22

Dear Chris,

The Press article: "Teachers wanted: must take pay cut" refers:

Lee Kenny, Education reporter quoted a letter of your's: "Seabrook [School] did not 'offer an education that differs from the education students would get at an ordinary state school.'"

You are wrong Chris! Ordinary state schools have ordinary teachers with little or no knowledge of children with SLD, Specific Learning Difficulties / Disabilities (both terms acceptable), nor do ordinary teachers know how to teach SLD students in crowded classrooms. (Dyslexic, dyspraxic, ADHD students, as mentioned in The Press article). Few NZ organizations remediate dyslexia regarding psychology assessments, one-on-one tuition & teacher training. One such organization is SPELD, another is Seabrook McKenzie Centre, London St, Christchurch, where my wife Leah worked on low pay. Chris, for many years those private organizations were doing dyslexic remediation teaching which your Ministry of Education should have been doing.

The making of an SLD Teacher / Resource Teacher Literacy:

My wife Leah is our family breadwinner due to my profound deafness. Leah has been associated with Seabrook McKenzie Centre for 25 years as a self-employed tutor, full-time teacher & a teacher trainer.

2005. Leah was an inaugural teacher of children with Specific Learning Difficulties / Disabilities (SLD) at Jean Seabrook Memorial School, London St, Christchurch. The school is a private school, insufficiently trust funded, especially teacher salaries. Leah & teacher colleagues & support staff (teacher aides, psychologists, speech & language & occupational therapy staff) continued specialist remediation through Christchurch's 2010-2011 quake times (parents & staff dug away tons of liquefaction mud from school grounds after 2 big quakes) & beyond during demolition & rebuild times, enduring years of London St excavations by SCIRT & demolition ructions for years across the road at Richmond Working Mens Club, now rebuilt Richmond Club.

During the 9 years that Leah taught full-time at Jean Seabrook Memorial School it had small classes with a favourable teacher / student, 1:6 ratio, allowing close individual attention for SLD students from 2 teachers per class (2 classes) & 1 teacher aide per class. That low teacher / student ratio does not happen for SLD students in crowded state school classrooms, so SLD students lose out in state schools. Apart from Seabrook Memorial School, at Seabrook McKenzie Centre, in the same building, self-employed teachers, trained in SLD teaching, give private tuition to SLD students in separate offices, (or elsewhere e.g. state schools, like Leah did) specialist tuition paid for by parents. Overseen by Seabrook McKenzie Centre, prior to any SLD teaching, (Seabrook Memorial School or private individual tuition) all students are assessed by a battery of tests done by psychology staff. Confidential psychology reports are then supplied to paying parents & specialist teaching staff for teacher interpretation & student SLD remediation during specialist teaching.

Leah worked with & mentored at least 3 teachers on-the-job. Once those low paid teachers had gained full-time, SLD teaching experience & professional guidance from Leah they left for higher salaries elsewhere. Leah was a gifted teacher, interpreting assessments & developing teaching methods to remediate dyslexic difficulties not found in text books. She willingly passed on her remediation knowledge to other teachers, parents & interested persons. At Jean Seabrook Memorial School, Leah's salary was never enough to support our family & for years we had to apply to WINZ for state financial support (dole) for our Burnside, 3 bedroom house rental. Whenever anyone asked me why Leah continued to teach at Seabrook I replied, "She's a dedicated, experienced teacher, but is not paid what she's worth."

For years Leah was / is part of the teacher training team at Seabrook & regularly ran / runs teacher training sessions during weekends & school holidays for teachers & others (parents, teacher aides...) wanting to know more about SLD teaching. She also mentors / mentored teachers studying for Seabrook diplomas. (NZQA approved diplomas). That teacher mentoring & teacher training may cease due to lack of funds. To my knowledge, no other NZ school provides those services & NZQA approved diplomas for the public & teachers interested in helping SLD children. Over the years, Leah had spent many days preparing SLD lectures / seminars & lecturing SLD interested teachers & public.

1997-2004. Leah was a self-employed tutor, teaching SLD students referred to her by Seabrook McKenzie Centre. She taught in our home office, state schools' offices & in Seabrook McKenzie centre hired offices. Her tutoring was one-on-one to remediate SLD, her hourly wage paid by parents. She was also volunteer librarian at Seabrook McKenzie Centre.

2005-2013: Leah taught primary school, SLD children, full-time, at Jean Seabrook Memorial School. For 17 years, While Leah worked for Seabrook McKenzie Centre / Jean Seabrook Memorial School, we were on wage / salary assisted dole. We had no savings & it would be impossible to ever buy a NZ house, unless we won the lotto. Our adult sons were in the same boat.

Only when Leah & I left Christchurch for S Canterbury did our finances improve, enabling us to get off the Working Poor dole.

From 2014, Leah taught for 3 years at Lake Tekapo School, an ordinary state school, after a Mt Gerald Station farmer / parent had head-hunted Leah & arranged for her to teach his dyslexic son & other children at Lake Tekapo School. The farmer / parent privately paid Leah's salary, more than what Leah had earned at Jean Seabrook Memorial School. 2016. During 1 winter school term, we lived at Mt Gerald Station, as the farmer wanted Leah to give home-schooling to his 3 children before they left for Christchurch schooling in 2017.

2017 to the present: For the last 5 years, using her hard won SLD training & expertise, Leah has been Resource Teacher Literacy, South Canterbury, based at a Timaru state school. We live at Pleasant Point near Timaru. Leah travels daily to various South Canterbury, state schools to teach primary school SLD children on a one-on-one basis, mentor teachers & advise parents, teachers & other staff about SLD challenges. Some S Canterbury towns / villages she visits (or could visit) as part of her itinerant, SLD teaching work at state schools: Timaru, Pleasant Point, Albury, Fairlie, Lake Tekapo, Twizel, Mt Cook, Geraldine, Mt Peel, Winchester, Temuka, St Andrews, Makikihi, Waituna, Waimate, Waihao Downs... involving a lot of driving in S Canterbury.

While itinerant teaching in S Canterbury state schools, Leah did not lose contact with Seabrook McKenzie Centre, London St, Christchurch. Part-time, during weekends & holidays, Leah continued as part of the SLD teacher training team, for teachers reading NZQA approved, SLD teaching diplomas. She also continued her lectures / seminars / mentoring / advising for SLD interested teachers & public. She also trained SLD teachers at Ashburton: at a state school, a church hall, a Community Centre. Busy travel years involving great driving mileage in Canterbury.

Leah's Work Background & experience which enabled her NZ Resource Teacher Literacy expertise:

SA & UK.

1975-77. Edgewood College of Education, Pinetown, SA: 3 year, pre-primary teacher diploma. (NZQA equivalent).
1978-84. Durban, SA: Several years' teaching at pre-primary, state schools, incl a Northdene acting principal position & beginning an experimental class where pre-primary children were accommodated in a Montclair primary school, Durban. Other Durban districts where Leah taught pre-primary children: Woodlands, Durban CBD.
1981. Our OE: Relief primary school teacher, various Haringey, London schools.
1984-85. Year 1 teacher at Kleinzee, Cape: A De Beers mine, private school.
Thereafter Leah was stay-at-home mother for our 2 sons.

1995. Our family emigrated to Christchurch, NZ.
1996-2004. Christchurch. Teacher aide (1996). Self-employed, SLD teacher while reading 2 NZQA approved, SLD diplomas at Seabrook McKenzie Centre. Private, one-on-one tuition for SLD students at our home office, state school offices & at Seabrook McKenzie Centre hired offices. Private, one-on-one tuition for SLD students at ordinary Christchurch schools, like Oaklands Primary, Halswell Primary, Elmwood Primary... The hourly pay rate was always low, pay rate set by Seabrook McKenzie Centre, enbling poor families to get SLD tuition. I did Leah's book-keeping & tax returns. For one year after our arrival in NZ we had to survive financially on our SA settling-in funds. Thereafter we could apply for NZ dole. In a low wage economy, as "Working Poor" we often applied for the dole to make ends meet! We had to inform dole personnel Leah's weekly earnings, so dole payments could be adjusted weekly.

The 17 years Leah taught at Seabrook McKenzie Centre, as a self-employed tutor, on the dole, then as a full-time, classroom teacher at Jean Seabrook Memorial School, on the dole, honed her expertise as a respected & sought after teacher for SLD children. BUT, for years, Seabrook McKenzie Centre was doing Ministry of Education work for free, by training dedicated SLD teachers & paying them peanuts while the Ministry of Education sat on its hands doing nothing for SLD students!

During the last 5 years as Resource Teacher Literacy, S Canterbury, Leah read a 3 year, correspondence, post-grad, Literacy Diploma, (with distinction) at University of Canterbury. Leah was the pioneering student for that post-grad diploma (NZQA, Hons degree equivalence). Now several other teachers have done that post-grad diploma at UC. Leah was expected to read the post-grad diploma at Victoria University, Wellington, N Island, a crazy idea as we lived at Pleasant Point, S Island. (During one semester, Leah had to attend weekly lectures at UC, lots of Pleasant Point - Christchurch travel involved). Leah had liaised with UC Education Faculty to start that post-grad diploma at UC.

Chris, there you have it, the making of a Resource Teacher Literacy, a vague designation, hiding the failure of SLD remediation by the Ministry of Education for many years. I doubt NZ state primary schools have speech & language therapists & occupational therapists doing SLD remediation & psychologists doing intricate tests for SLD students & confidential reports for parents & SLD teachers, which Seabrook McKenzie Centre did. Neither would ordinary state schools have a low 1:6 teacher / student ratio as extraordinary Jean Seabrook Memorial School had for SLD students.

Just pay Jean Seabrook Memorial School teachers a decent salary Chris!

Yours faithfully,

Mark JS Esslemont.

PS. I had a 20+ year, primary & high school teaching career in SA, while going deaf, general science & biology specialist, teaching in Durban, Kleinzee, QwaQwa, East London, before our arrival in NZ.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Mueller Glacier, Hooker Glacier Walk, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

A 4 day, circular jaunt, NZ Alpine country:

16.12.20. Day 1.

Drove from Pleasant Point along SH 8 to Lake Tekapo. Attended the opening of rebuilt Lake Tekapo School & school pool. Having taught at the school recently, Leah enjoyed catching up with friends, staff & parents. In the school foyer we admired George Emson's mural photo of stormy Lake Tekapo & surrounding Alps. We often saw George Emson's Alpine pics on TV1 weather reports. We overnighted at Lake Tekapo Campsite in one of the posh new cabins. Sunset over Lake Tekapo & Alps reminded us of all the Alpine walks we'd done by Lake Tekapo over the years, especially at Mt Hay Station & Mt Gerald Station. As it was Covid pandemic time the only tourists were locals. In S Canterbury we hadn't seen a tourist bus for many Covid months.

Day 2.

Drove from Lake Tekapo to Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. En route, we stopped at the Lake Pukaki lookout to admire distant Aoraki / Mt Cook & Alpine ranges. Coffee bought at the Salmon Farm kiosk was expensive crap! Next door, old hydro-electric historical info boards had been revamped into new Ngai Tahu historical info boards with a window view over Lake Pukaki & Alps.

En route to Mt Cook village, beside Lake Pukaki, we stopped at the biggest lavender farm in the S hemisphere. We sat on wooden chairs among rows of lavender bushes for happy snaps. By the farm carpark, a food caravan & a shipping container shop touted food & lavender wares. Mt Cook village: We booked into Alpine Lodge for 2 nights. The reception man said the hotel was about half full with Kiwi guests during Covid times, better than no guests at all. We wandered Governors Bush Track, about 1 hour walk through native bush. Descriptive signs along the way gave us an idea of Alpine flora we could see in the park, like parsley trees, snowberry bushes... Had fish & chips supper at The Hermitage cafe. Due to Covid, the cafe & restaurant was about quarter full. The cafe & our hotel bedroom had grand window views of Mt Cook & Mt Wakefield below.

Day 3.

Checked out the DOC info centre: Lots of displays & details about Mt Cook wildlife & historical & current climbing in the Mt Cook region. Tourist shop too. The DOC foyer gave daily updates about avalanche dangers & current weather conditions. Wind forecast: 40km/h for our Hooker Valley walk.

Drove to Mt Cook campsite carpark for our Hooker Valley walk. Starting from the campsite saved us an hour or so walking to / from our hotel. Although Mt Sefton peak was cloudy, we had good views of its icefalls. We passed the dead mountaineers' memorial. After crossing the rocky, bushy terminal moraine, from the DOC path near the first suspension bridge (swingbridge) we had a grand view of Mueller Glacier Lake, but no sign of receding Mueller Glacier round a moraine corner, just steep, lateral moraine walls & waterfalls from icy peaks above. The wind whipped up dust devils above Mueller Glacier Lake moraine walls.

Mountain walls both valley sides, the well maintained DOC path continued up windy Hooker Valley, over numerous wooden steps, 2 more swingbridges, a long, winding boardwalk & a small, wooden footbridge near 2 longdrop toilets. Smarter, durable concrete, longdrop toilets were being built nearby. Along the way many Alpine flowers bloomed: Wahlengbergias, celmisias, Mt Cook lilies, bush snowberries.

Snowy Mt Cook loomed over receding Hooker Glacier at the end of its glacier Lake. At the other end of Hooker Glacier Lake, a DOC sign, red & white print, warned:


Glacier Lake - Mutiple Hazards Exist.

Unstable Icebergs. - Icebergs can move & spin violently at any moment. Keep a safe distance.

Glacier Terminal Face is very unstable. - Ice can break off from above or rise violently from below. Keep a safe distance.

Extreme Cold. - The water is only 3 degrees Celcius.

Surge Wave. - Ice can calve off the glacier & create a large wave.

Thin Ice. - When the lake is frozen, ice is not safe to walk on.

Your safety is your responsibility.

Lunch at the DOC wooden table beside Hooker Glacier Lake: The wind was so strong we held onto our daypacks to stop them blowing away. Using my binoculars, I checked out Hooker Glacier's terminal face, a high striated ice wall, grey moraine stones on top. No snow on top of the glacier, as it was high summer. A small iceberg was grounded near us in shallow awater near a lateral moraine where the path continued deeper into the Alps below Mt Cook. Despite Covid, we'd encountered many trampers on the Hooker Valley walk, 10 km return, approx 4 hours return including lunch. The walk rose gently from the campsite, only 124 vertical m, 800m - 924m.

Day 4.

Completed our circular trek: Mackenzie Basin, Twizel: Bought honey at the honey farm. Near Lake Ruataniwha: Bought fresh salmon at the Salmon Farm, had sushi lunch there. Past Benmore, down Waitaki River Valley, via Omarama & Otematata, past hydro-electric lakes Benmore, Avimore, Waitaki to Kurow for cafe tea. Over Elephant Hill. Down Waimati Gorge to Waimati. N1 to Timaru, SH8 back to Pleasant Point.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Mt Barossa, Hakatere Conservation Park

Mon 14.12.20. I drove from Pleasant Point to Mt Somers village & Hakatere Conservation Park.

From Ashburton Gorge Rd, I climbed Mt Barossa, 1364 m, Topo50 map ref, BX19 573687, a 7 hour return climb, approx 4 hours up, 3 hours down, incl many catch-breath, pic & lunch stops. Distance: 7 km return, 820 vertical m. A sunny day with grand Alpine views & views of Ashburton lake district, most lakes seen from the top, incl lakes Emma, Roundabout, Camp, Clearwater, Heron...

Many distant peaks were seen, too numerous to list: Some summits seen: Clent Hills incl Mt Barossa; Peters Range, branching off Moorhouse Range; Mt Tripp, slightly higher than Mt Barossa; Trinity Hill, Hakatere Station below; Tara Haoa Range, incl Coal Hill & Mt Peel; High Claytons; Sherwood Range, incl Mt Fox; Two Thumbs Range; Harper Range; Mt Guy; Dogs Range; Brother Range; Black Hill Range; Taylor Range; Winterslow Range; Mt Somers Range, Mt Somers coming into view on the right, about half an hour's tramp to the top of Mt Barossa. Canterbury Plains were hazy due to a high pressure system & brown smog over Timaru & Ashburton districts. As Mt Barossa summit ridge was above smog level, Alpine peaks were easily seen, like The Thumbs & D'Archiac.

The DOC track started at the DOC carpark as an easement off Ashburton Gorge Rd. The track went up a middle ridge, gullies & ridges both sides, was well marked with DOC marker poles & occasional cairns near the top. About a third of the way up there were several tors to negotiate, some the track sidled by, some a rocky scramble with scree underfoot. My aluminium walker poles were handy as a kind of zimmer-frame. High summer, many alpine plants bloomed: Bulbinellas, Hebes, Snowberries, Celmisias, Pentachondra pumila, Wahlenbergias, Coral Broom, Spear Grass...

The summit ridge had many big rocks for wind protection & many geode chips, bluish / grey agate, scattered amongst tussock grasses & Dracophyllum shrubs. Where someone had left hammered geode chips lying about, I took one as a paperweight souvenir. More weight in my backpack for my down-climb. My backpack had my usual safety kit, all weather clothes, food, water, maps. There was no cell phone coverage on top of Mt Barossa. I texted Leah on my return to Mt Somers village.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Rangitata Gorge Walk

Thurs 05.03.20. I did the Rangitata Gorge walk, halfway along to the highest point on Rangitata Gorge track (aka Tenahaun Track), map ref BX 557545, on the 500m contour, about 6 km return - 2h to my 3km turning point, 1,5h return. A sunny, windless day.

I drove 70 km from Pleasant Point, via Geraldine, crossed Rangitata River, upper bridge, and on the Mayfield Rd turned left along Ealing Montalto Rd, driving beside Mt Peel / Tara Haoa Range for about 20 kms, Mt Pukanui / Moorhouse Range straight ahead. I turned left at Klondyke Station turnoff & followed the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR) canal along the canal dirt road for about 7 kms until the road ended at a DOC carpark, several signs at the entrance gate fence: RDR history info, DOC easement, Fish & Game Angler Access, Protect Our Waterways - Didymo... Outdoor Access video surveillance signs...

A Public Works Department, bronze, memorial plaque said:

          Rangitata to Rakaia Diversion Race

IPENZ recognises this engineering work as an
important part of NZ's engineering heritage.
Approved in 1936 to provide employment relief &
a vision for Canterbury's future, this 67 km race was
the first major river diversion for development of
water resources. It supplies 66,000 hectares as well
         as 27 MW of hydro power in winter...
                                                             Opened 1945.

Besides Rangitata River & the RDR canal I wandered past 2 bucket cranes, one under a green canopy & surrounded by a fence, NO ENTRY signs on the fence. The RDR inlet had several DANGER signs on a fence above the inlet: KEEP OUT AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY...

From the river terrace above the RDR inlet, I watched 5 rubber rafts, filled with thrill seekers, shoot the rocky weir across Rangitata River, flowing partly into the RDR inlet & mostly along its river course to the Pacific. Also from the terrace, I watched a farmer across the river in his blue ute & his 3 huntaways herd red deer down 3 river terraces through a farm gate on a lower Rangitata River terrace. The huntaways ran like wolves.

The DOC easement track followed a farm fence along the E lip of Rangitata Gorge & sidled W side of Mt Pukanui & Moorhouse Range with grand views of Rangitata River running several rapids between Waikari Hills W & Moorhouse Range E. Waikari Hills' vertical strata showed tortured seismic activity over geological time.

After the the second farm gate, above a Flying Fox over Rangitata Gorge, the DOC easement track became bogged by Hereford herd pugs, so I climbed through the farm fence & walked through matagouri scrub on farmland, a safer stretch, avoiding cattle pollution & the potential for being trampled by the Hereford herd gathered on a gorge ridge at another farm gate on the DOC easement.

I climbed through another farm fence to a sheep paddock below Moorhouse Range & wandered the sheep-muddy, 500m contour track, across steep ridges to my 3km turning point, the track eventually leaving Rangitata Gorge. Grand views of Harper Range at the head of Rangitata Gorge.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Mt Pukanui, Moorhouse Range, Summit Ridge

Mon 24.02.20. Near Mayfield, from Hinds River Gorge, I climbed Mt Pukanui, 1153m, Moorhouse Range, Map ref: BX19 562563. Moorhouse Range has Rangitata Gorge W side & Hinds Gorge E side.

Stats: From Chapmans Rd, DOC carpark easement, 10 km return hike / climb, 4 h up, 3.5 h down, 670 vertical metres climb. Beautiful cloudless day, gentle zephyrs, grand Alpine & Rangitata River views.

See Tramper NZ link for terrain pics. The Tramper time of 3 h 30 mins return for a 10 km hike / climb, 670 vertical m, was nuts!

From Chapman Rd, DOC easement carpark, for 2.5 km my hike undulated along a DOC marked farm track, sidling E around the bottom of a Mt Pukanui ridge & passing through paddocks & 6 farm gates to Hinds River Gorge, between Moorhouse Range E & Peter Range W.

2.5 km E Ridge climb: Beyond the 6th farm gate, I crossed a creek at the bottom of a tuatara-back ridge, E side of Moorhouse Range. The E ridge climb was between two more E ridges, creeks below each ridge, the S ridge, 815m, overgrazed farmland, the N ridge, 906m, bushy DOC conservation land. The "track" up the climbed ridge was not marker poled by DOC. By a creek the "track" began at the N side of the ridge before topping the ridge along a disused, overgrown, farm track, through snow tussock & matagouri, over a series of shoulders, then when the farm track petered out, the "track" followed a fence through snow tussock & Dracophyllum to Moorhouse Range summit ridge.

More alpine plants seen: Coprosmas, Porcupine Plants, Cyathodes, Wahlenbergias, Celmisias, Snowberries, Spear Grass, Geraniums, Gentians...

Moorhouse Range summit ridge was a series of knobs: Mt Pukanui S, 1145m... Mt Tripp N, 1378m... The E ridge I summited, 1153m  was closer to Mt Pukanui.

The clear day enabled 360 degree Alpine views: E: about 150 kms across Canterbury Plains, hazy Banks Peninsula. SW: Mt Peel. W: Waikari Hills, Coal Hill on Tara Haoa Range. Further W: High Claytons, Sherwood Range & Mt Fox. Beyond: Two Thumbs Range with tops of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Mt Dobson about 150 km away... NW: Ben McCleod Range & Main Divide...

Curving far NE: Mt Grey, Mt Thomas, Mt Oxford. Mt Hutt obscured by Mt Somers. Fresh snow on Old Man Range... Just some of the Alpine ranges seen forming headwaters for Ashburton River & Rangitata River, the latter flowing through Rangitata Gorge between W side of Moorhouse Range & E side of Waikari Hills.

Caution: Hill walking fitness, backpack, all weather gear, food, water, map, walking stick(s), boots, hat needed. There was cell phone coverage on top of Moorhouse Range.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Greeting Friendship, Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

An email exchange about Christchurch quakes:


Hi Mark,

My name is NM. I am a freelance writer and live in Palau City, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. I am very happy to find your blog and read your writings there, especially about the 2010 and 2011 Chch earthquakes. Unfortunately, I only discovered your blog when I returned from Chch last December 2019. For a week I was there to see Chch city immediately after the  earthquake, including several locations such as the CBD, the red zone around the Avon River, Bexley, and as far as New Brighton.

 I want to ask you a few things which I want to know about, and hopefully you will be pleased to give me information related to my questions.

1. Where were the residents moved / relocated in Chch after the government determined the red zone could no longer be inhabited?

2. What is the condition of the people who were moved from the red zone now? Do they have new, better life and better housing?

3. The city where I live in Palu experienced an earthquake which was followed by the tsunami and liquefaction on September 28, 2018. Some areas were decided as red zones and prohibited from being occupied. Residents in the red zone were moved to a new location with the construction of temporary shelters for them and waiting to be moved to a permanent location along with their dwellings. Does Chch also apply the same as this scheme?

4. There is an EQC in Chch, NZ. Before the earthquake, residents who have a house must pay insurance to the EQC? How much insurance costs do residents / homes have to pay EQC? Are payments monthly? or every year?

Thank you, Mark.


Hi NM,

Glad you found my blog useful. Your questions:

1. Red zone residents moved elsewhere to houses or rentals of their own choice, in Christchurch or elsewhere. Some rented government built, small houses in 2 Christchurch parks. Government temporary rentals were expensive. And there were few govt rentals, some built many months after the quakes. Many people whose houses were damaged or destroyed moved elsewhere to live with family or friends [or lived in temp rentals] while dealing with payout settlements from EQC and / or insurance companies.

2. Condition: Those who got good payouts from EQC and / or insurance companies were OK. Many people had to fight slow EQC and slow insurance companies to get fair payouts. Some court cases are still ongoing today. Slow payouts caused psychological damage to claimants. Please Google the EQC Commission of Inquiry for more details about slow EQC payouts & poor house repairs done by EQC.

3. NZ govt did not provide free housing for house damage claimants. NZ govt did supply temporary wage cover to businesses / workers who lost wages. My eldest son got 6 weeks wages paid by NZ govt for his job loss / wages lost in the hospitality industry during quakes. Thereafter he had to find another job. His house rental was smashed up in the Feb 2011 Killer Quake and he was out of work for 6 months. He overwintered in a garage with a chemical toilet during 2011, after February & June quakes. As parents we helped him with rent, cash, food, clothes, etc, till he found another hospitality job. Many families lived / survived like that during quake years 2010-13 incl - 16 000 quakes...

4. All NZ homeowners had to pay EQC premiums to NZ govt to cover some land, building, possession damages. [House contents no longer applies for EQC claimants]. Homeowners also had to pay premiums to their private insurance companies to cover more damages to housing & personal possessions, like clothes, furniture, carpets, cars, etc... I don't know the cost of EQC premiums. If you Google the EQC website you should be able to find details of EQC premiums & more information about EQC.

Hope you have recovered from the 2018 quake.

Kind regards,


Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Coal Hill, Alpine Wind Storm

Sunday 01.01.19. Via Mesopotamia Station road, after parking my car near Coal Hill Station gate & a DOC roadside sign: Coal Hill Summit 3 km 3 h, I wandered past an Oregon Pine shelter belt, through 3 undulating paddocks, & 4 gates. One terraced paddock was desertified beige by herbicides, the other 2 paddocks grassed. Another grassy paddock behind the shelter belt had a herd of inquisitive red deer. With my backpack containing my usual tramping gear, I weighed over 80 kg.

A DOC sign at the fourth gate said:

Department of Conservation
Te Papa Arawhai

Public access through
private land

Keep to marked easement
Please close gates
Do not disturb stock

No dogs. No shooting.

Further on, attached to the red deer fence a sign said:

                                                         STEW POINT STATION

                                                             NO TRESPASSING
                                                  POLICE. NO HUNTING. POLICE.

                                          TRESPASSERS WILL BE  PROSECUTED.
                                         SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS OPERATING.


I climbed Coal Hill, exposed snow-tussock ridge, Coal Creek & another steep ridge NW side & steep ridges the other, several steep shoulders, incl celmisia daisies & spear grass all the way up Tara Haoa Range to DOC Conservation Area, 600 m - 1600 m+, 6 km return. I followed a DOC goat track easement by the red deer fence, (1 shy tahr seen) 4 h up several shoulders, 5 h down. Some matagouri, coral broom, & dracophyllum scrub en route...

The hike began calm & windless with high cloud. Grand views of Canterbury Plains, hazy Banks Peninsula, Pacific, braided Rangitata River & Alpine Ranges: Waikari Hills, Moorhouse Range, Harper Range, Ben Macleod Range, Two Thumbs Range... Winterslow Range, Mt Somers Range, Old Man Range...

On the way up Coal Hill, a norwester started rippling snow tussock, soon becoming gale force. Near the top, a strong gust raked off my blue polaroids, flying them over the ridge, never to be seen again. The norwester whacked me down twice on stony ground. I ended up twice briefly dazed, after loose stones arrested my falls. I had a grazed knee, black eye, scabby nose, egged, grazed forehead. The norwester gale tried to topple me for at least 6 hours during the wind storm. I didn't make the summit, 1617 m, as it would've been fatal to continue following the red deer fence through exposed snow-tussock from the DOC Conservation Area sign to the top. Tomorrow's another day...

I returned to my car down Coal Hill, mostly crabbing alongside the red deer fance, arresting my descent, stopping me being blown off the mountain. I grabbed fence wires, full of fluttering tussock strands & grabbed fence poles thrumming in the gale. When my hands were sore, I slid on my bum on snow-tussocks, safest descent, using my booted legs to guide, like on a snow sled, watching out for castrating spear grass & prostrate matagouri. My aluminium walking sticks were useless in the gale, as the wind blew them sideways when I tried to walk. Trying to walk was too dangerous in the gale, bum-sliding & fence-grabbing was the safest way down the exposed ridge.

On the way down, when seated in snow-tussock for rests, I watched the gale making instant clouds by blowing clouds straight off the Rangitata River, the clouds hitting the NW end of Waikari Hills then veering eastwards down Rangitata Gorge. The gale blew topsoil off a tilled field near my car, the plume of dust disappearing over Waikari Hills towards Canterbury Plains. Way to go Farmer Brown, your poisoned, eroded land will soon be a desert inheritance.

On passing the shelter belt again, many wind-blown twigs were on the paddocks. On my 72 km return drive to Pleasant Point, via Peel Forest & Geraldine, many twigs, branches, leaves, cones & overturned, plastic, rubbish bins were on the roads.

Google Rangitata Gorge Images to show Alpine terrain & braided Rangitata River in the Coal Hill vicinity.


Heavy norwesters would continue to blow the next week & on Friday night, 06.12.19, a heavy rain / thunder storm in the Rangitata catchment caused the Rangitata to flood, 3 Rangitata bridges at Arundel & SH1 closed on Saturday, 07.12.19, for Civil Defence to deal with flooding.

On Friday, we'd driven to a literacy teacher meeting at Christchurch: Arundel bridge was OK Fri morning, the Rangitata flowing strongly. Late that afternoon return drive, a heavy norwester battered Canterbury Plains, rain already shrouding the Alps, so we drove back to Pleasant Point on SH1 via the lower 2 Rangitata bridges, still quite safe. Only the following day, Saturday, after heavy night rains did Civil Defence wake up & close the 3 Rangitata bridges, a State of Emergency declared in Timaru.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.