Family provides a sanctuary for friends

Posted 18 Jan 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
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Almost a year after fleeing Christchurch for stable ground, the Fitzgerald family have been providing a sanctuary for friends still living in the shaky city.

Vivienne and Mike Fitzgerald left Christchurch with daughters Sophia, 9, and Isabelle, 6, after the February 22 earthquake and ended up in Wanaka, where an extended family member had a crib.

They intended to stay in the Central Otago lakeside town for just a week, but after three weeks they had rented a house and have now bought a home and plan to be there for the rest of this year.

Their Queenspark home was written off after the September 2010 quake, and they were hoping to sell the land. But it has been classified technical category 3, which requires more investigation to be done before a house can be built on it.

The Fitzgeralds have been providing family and friends still living in Christchurch with somewhere to have a break from the city, and have had a steady stream of people staying with them during the holiday period.

Vivienne Fitzgerald said she was not sure where the family would go after this year, but they would not be returning to Christchurch.

"With all the infrastructure damaged and all that sort of stuff, why would we come back?"

Their daughters were two of 100 former Christchurch pupils still enrolled at schools in the Queenstown Lakes area at the end of last year.

Education Ministry figures show 508 Christchurch pupils were at one time enrolled in the region, and 408 have since returned to the city.

After the February quake, Wanaka was packed with up to 3000 quake-hit people, and a week after the quake about 400 Christchurch children were enrolled across five schools in the Wanaka area.

Wanaka Primary School had 130 additional pupils and set up five classrooms to cater for them.

Principal Wendy Bamford said she expected to start this year with between 20 and 25 former Christchurch pupils.

Mt Aspiring College deputy principal Greg Thornton said that at its peak the school had about 120 pupils from Christchurch, and 10 would remain this year.

Fitzgerald said the family had been criticised for leaving but she was convinced they had made the right move because they were living a much healthier lifestyle in Wanaka now.

"We are hardcore Cantabrians. We always have been, but we made the move to get out of Christchurch for our family and that was, for us, the right decision to make," she said.

"We can't go backwards. Life is never the same when you go back."Her husband was still working as a software engineer for a Christchurch company and spent up to two weeks a month working in Christchurch. The rest of the time he worked from home.


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