Cantabrians are being stressed by bureaucratic battles rather than aftershocks, counsellors say.
New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) Canterbury branch committee member Bob Manthei said counsellors in the region were helping people stuck in a ''bureaucratic nightmare with no end in sight''.
''They feel powerless as official decisions about their homes keep getting put back,'' he said. ''The effect is quite stressful.''
Manthei said the fear of another big earthquake was taking a back seat to the fights and arguments people were facing when dealing with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and insurance companies.
''People are getting very stressed dealing with EQC and the insurance companies and the exorbitant rents they are having to pay if they're forced from their homes. It's a day-to-day agony for many just trying to organise their lives.''
Manthei said people were coming to the end of their tether as they tried to find out whether their homes could be fixed.
Canterbury District Health Board member Andrew Dickerson agreed the growing stress in the eastern suburbs had little do with quakes but related to people trying to deal with bureaucracy.
The Parklands resident expected to see a flow-on effect to mental health and public health service providers in coming months.
Dickerson, whose house is habitable, said insurance companies and the EQC giving priority to repairing homes in the least affected areas while people in the east were expected to wait several years was the ''single worst thing'' that had happened since the quakes began.
People were feeling powerless and demoralised, and wondered how bureaucracy had managed to get control of their lives, he said.
''This stress has nothing to do with an act of God. It is about the organisational culture of the agencies that are supposed to be helping people to recover,'' he said.