The Southland Times
November 24, 1999

Residents Express Anger and Despair
Meaghan Miller

Terror crossed the face of a Frankton Road resident yesterday as an enormous rumble drowned out a briefing at the Frankton Presbyterian Church hall.

The aeroplane passed over, but just for an instant the jangled nerves of slip evacuees had some fearing the worse.

Representatives from 63 households on Frankton Road and Towne Place gathered for an update on the fate of their homes.

Ten homes on the Frankton Road slip were considered critical - of those, up to five were expected to be written off.

On Saturday morning those worst affected were allowed five to 15 minutes to grab their most treasured personal items.

Some were not allowed in at all because police believed it was just too dangerous.

Polly and Ross Buchanan, who were told they would never return to their home, felt they were lucky to be granted a few mad minutes.

They grabbed photographs and kids' toys including an Action Man doll.

"Actually Action Man looked like he was enjoying himself," Mr Buchanan quipped with a weary smile.

The Buchanans were not able to get into many rooms because the house had buckled, jamming doors shut.

Other families donned hard hats to rush from room to room in their houses, armed with shortlists of treasured possessions.

"It's surreal," Fiona McDonald said.

While the Frankton Road slip residents were evacuated on Thursday morning, Ms McDonald returned to Frankton after dinner on Friday night to be told she could not go home. The Towne Place slip evacuation area, to the east of the main Frankton Road slip, had been extended.

Tears welled as she said yesterday the only thing she really wanted from her house was Larry, her cat, who had vanished.

The Towne Place slip residents gathered at 4pm on Saturday for their half hour opportunity to grab what they could.

They were under strict instructions that if a siren sounded they were to run for it.

A pregnant Paula Ellis numbly packed what she could, while total strangers gave a hand, including one man who was not able to get into his own home and two volunteer Lord of the Rings film crew members.

One elderly woman found the heart- wrenching exercise too distressing. Concerned St John Ambulance staff took her for a medical check-up.

As officials addressed the exhausted and stunned residents yesterday, the tone turned briefly to one of anger and frustration.

Doug Kee said his $300,000 home was next to the critical area.

His neighbours would be compensated, while he got nothing.

Kerry Harper asked if the Queenstown Lakes District Council would consider swapping the condemned lakefront land her family had owned for generations for reserve land.

Deputy Mayor Simon Hayes said it was too early to answer that question.

Gary Reynolds queried whether the council was liable for allowing people to build on an historic slip.