Nathanael Boehm living in New Zealand

My experiences moving to Christchurch, NZ

Archive for the ‘Living in NZ’ Category


with 2 comments

In a 30 litre black duffel bag I take everywhere.

  • One bottle of water, 750ml
  • Medium first aid kit
  • First aid manual
  • Wind up / solar torch
  • Battery torch (510 lumen UltraFire)
  • CB 2-way walky talkies
  • Microfibre towel
  • Fleece blanket
  • Muesli bars
  • Lollies
  • Hi-viz vest
  • Basic tool kit
  • Wrecking/pry bar
  • Small axe
  • Utility knife
  • Glow sticks
  • Plastic bags
  • Paper towel
  • Gloves & beanie
  • Survival blanket
  • Water purification tablets
  • Twine
  • Duct tape

Some of this stuff is just part of my outdoor/tramping gear but no point leaving it in a cupboard at home when it could be useful in an emergency!


Written by Nathanael Coyne

24 May, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Living in NZ

TEDx conference in Christchurch on the earthquake recovery

leave a comment »

I attended the TEDxEQChCh conference at Burnside High School yesterday, held on 21 May three months after the devestating February earthquake. It was an awesome day with some fantastic inspiring and knowledgeable speakers from New Zealand and abroad.

You can read a full review of the conference on my blog.

Written by Nathanael Coyne

22 May, 2011 at 6:49 am

Posted in Living in NZ

After the quake: Setting up new home

with 4 comments

We found out a couple of days ago from our landlord that our beautifully-situated apartment in Merivale by the Avon River had been red-carded and deemed unsafe to live in. Thankfully we’ve been able to stay with friends out in Kainga with power, Internet, water and a flushing toilet so we haven’t had to resort sharing Port-a-loos on the street with a hundred people or showering at the Pioneer Stadium.

We walked into our real estate agent’s office today and explained our situation. She just handed us the keys to a rental property and let us go and inspect it. It’s not ideal and doesn’t have the nice vista of Little Hagley Park our old apartment did but it means no more sleeping in a campervan and given the situation we can’t afford to be fussy.

The problem is it’s not furnished like our old apartment and we have no furniture. The new place doesn’t even have whitegoods except an oven so we need to quickly acquire all the neccessary items to make the place liveable, including:

  • Fridge
  • Queen-size bed base
  • Queen-size mattress
  • Microwave
  • Washing machine
  • Couch or two
  • Pots and pans
  • Crockery
  • Coffee table
  • TV
  • Something to put the TV on
  • Bedroom drawers
  • Bedside tables
  • Clothes dryer
  • Side table / console

If you can help us out please email me

We are happy to pay for items but simply can’t afford to fit out an entire house with new furniture and items from shops. We’ll keep on looking through TradeMe but as we’re moving in on Monday we’d appreciate any help we can get given the special circumstances so we can get back on our own feet again as soon as possible. We have limited transport capabilities – an Impreza wagon – but can call in help from friends with 4WDs and trailers.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has helped with giving up things for our house – we really appreciate it!

Written by Nathanael Coyne

3 March, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Living in NZ

Tagged with ,

Christchurch quake: Could I have done more?

with 5 comments

I wandered around Richmond Mall this morning as people sat at tables drinking their coffee, laughing and carefree. I felt out of place; the normalcy of things up here in Nelson in contrast with the chaos of Christchurch is disturbing.

It’s been five days since the quake and for those who only experienced it by TV it’s fast becoming history yet for those who were caught up in the midst of it such as myself the quake still dominates our lives both physically and psychologically.

I am grateful that I wasn’t killed or injured by the 6.3 quake that hit Canterbury on 22 February and I’m certainly faring better than many others who have lost family and friends, limbs, their homes and jobs. There will be people who are haunted for the rest of their lives by the quake, who will jump every time a truck rolls by or who see bricks hurtling towards them whenever they close their eyes or whose lives are now empty having lost loved ones.

I reflect on my actions following the quake and think about how I could have done more to help those trapped under the rubble. I wonder if there might be people who would have lived if I had stayed behind in the city to help.

I don’t feel ashamed about what I did or didn’t do. Yes people needed help but there were specific people who needed my help and it was to their aid that I ran. After first checking that my partner Jenny was alive and safe by SMS I then ran down Cashel and Madras streets to the LeftClick office building to check that my colleagues were safe. I have no doubt that had they not all managed to evacuate the building that I would have gone in to help get them out. Luckily the building whilst seriously damaged had stayed standing and everyone was huddled on the sidewalk across the street.

Whilst running to be with my partner across town in Merivale I passed the unrecognisable pile of rubble that was the CTV building. A few people were crawling over the wreckage trying to find survivors. I paused for a moment, considering helping out but once again I knew that while any survivors needed people my partner Jenny needed me personally and so I continued to run until my shaking legs ached and my throat was parched by concrete dust and then walked the rest of the 4km in a wide circle around the CBD to our apartment on Carlton Mill Road.

I also am not ashamed to admit that I wanted to save my own life. I am not ready to die and even once the initial quake had finished the city was far from safe. Buildings became death traps and skyscrapers became weapons, threatening to wipe out entire city blocks. I did not feel at all safe until I was on Bealey Avenue away from all buildings.

But in my many moments of pondering the events of Tuesday I still think about what I could have done differently and whether my actions were cowardly, especially in light of the TV footage and stories of those who selflessly dove into the rubble within seconds of the quake to haul people out.

I don’t expect anyone to condemn or reassure me although I am confident you will want to and for those whom will respond with the latter I certainly appreciate it. You weren’t there, you can’t put yourselves in my shoes. You can’t emulate the overwhelming sense of terror and the undeniable knowledge of impending death as buildings topple and shatter. This is just something I have to deal with and to come to terms with. If I went through it again would I do things differently now that I’ve had a chance to reflect?

Read my full account of the quake in my previous blog post. Also, we found out a week after the quake that our apartment building has been given a red sticker, meaning it has been deemed unsafe to enter.

Written by Nathanael Coyne

27 February, 2011 at 10:34 am

Posted in Living in NZ

Tagged with ,

Christchurch earthquake, 22 February

with 34 comments

It’s been just over 24 hours since the massive quake here in Canterbury New Zealand and we’ve now moved out to rural Kainga where we’re staying with a friend of a work colleague. We have power and Internet here so I can finally sit down and debrief and share my experience of yesterday’s terrible quake.

We had felt a minor tremor during the morning and I joked to my partner who had arrived in-country just a couple of days before that if she had come into work with me she would have experienced her first quake in NZ.

I left our office on the corner of Lichfield and Madras streets around half-past 12 to take my lunch break. After going to Hanafins Pharmacy on High Street I made my way down Cashel Street towards The Crossing food court when it hit.

Everything I thought I knew about our planet, tectonic plates and physics just went out the window as what I experienced can only be described as a giant, grabbing the city with two hands and shaking it violently. I’ve had a few minor tremors since moving to Christchurch a month ago but I had no idea an earthquake was capable of this.

I was walking down the tram lines in Cashel Street when a rumbling sound started up and within a second the entire street was flexing and heaving. The overhangs on all the shops along Cashel Street immediately snapped off and dropped to the ground and as the facades started to crumble and collapse bricks, glass and chunks of concrete were hurled into the street.

I couldn’t run, there was nowhere to run and just trying to stay upright was like trying to stand on the back of a rodeo bull. I kept an eye on both sides of the street trying to duck and avoid the shower of debris.

I was convinced I was going to die. The city was collapsing around me, people were being buried in rubble and others being struck in the head by debris. Absolute pandemonium. It was surreal … both horrific yet somehow impossible and unbelievable like a nightmare.

I watched the Westpac building move back and forth in a massive 20-metre arc threatening to collapse into the street which thankfully it didn’t. A huge cloud of concrete dust from collapsed buildings billowed out from everywhere.

Cashel Street after the 22 Feb quake

Cashel Street near where I was standing on the tram lines you can see in foreground (

As soon as the initial quake stopped my first thought was for my partner and my team at work. I tried to call Jenny but the lines were already overloaded so I shot off a text and started running back to work, keeping an eye on the still wobbling Westpac building and a few remaining walls threatening to fall down into the street.

I checked in with my team who had evacuated the office. There were all shaken but mostly ok except for Ken who had been hit in the head by a cable tray that fell from the roof. He was clutching a bandage over his wound but was positive and still standing.

My next priority was to check in on my partner who was in our apartment across town in Merivale. I had no car so I set off on foot and half-ran, half-walked the 4km back home. My throat was parched from the concrete dust. Aftershocks came quick and fast but traffic was barely crawling so I was able to walk down the middle of the streets. I started heading off diagonally towards Merivale back down Cashel past the collapsed CTV building but as I walked I started to get a grip and realise the stupidity of taking the quickest route so doubled back and headed around the east edge of the CBD.

Many routes were blocked by sewerage flooding across the road and grey sand pouring out through cracks in the ground. Gas could be heard coming out of ruptured lines in buildings. Buildings that were still being repaired from the September quakes were now completely demolished: several old stone churches and temples. Entire walls had fallen away from buildings, a one-tonne block of concrete had fallen and split a tree in half. Nowhere felt safe. I stayed away from tall buildings fearing collapse (I could see a massive vertical crack through the Hotel Grand Chancellor where I had stayed when I first moved here) and weaved through the muck leaking out of the ground.

I finally made it back to Carlton Mill Road and embraced Jenny, and we sat at the bus stop just agast completely at a loss of what to do. Hundreds of cars were slowly moving down our street away from the CBD – we didn’t know if we should be going somewhere, we didn’t know if there were any evacuation centres or shelters, we didn’t know where was safe. A few residents in our building told us our place was supposedly earthquake-safe and should be ok, but I didn’t trust it. After the carnage I had seen I knew every building has its breaking point and I knew this quake was severe.

We ducked back inside and grabbed some supplies including a bottle of Jameson (I badly needed a drink to take the edge off the trauma) and headed across the Avon River into Little Hagley Park where we sat and talked and planned what we should do. We decided to see if anything was happening on the golf course across Harper Avenue so headed over and joined a large group of people who had evacuated a nearby hotel and sat around, having no better idea of what to do.

Eventually someone got word from Civil Defence that a shelter was being set up down near the Botanic Gardens so we all moved down there past several large trees that had been uprooted and the Flower Festival that was completely under water. Plywood boards were made available to sit and lie on and we hung around for an hour but they had no idea when food and water would come so we decided to head back to our apartment. We didn’t know it was safe but it looked reasonably ok and we had nowhere else to stay.

I did an interview with 2CC radio which you can listen to. There was no power, no clean water; we had heard via SMS contact with relatives in Australia that we should boil water but all we had was candles so all we could drink was bottled softdrink. We slept in our clothes on the couch, bags packed and by the door in case we needed to evacuate in a hurry but as our sleepless night wore on we eventually crawled into bed, waking every hour or so when stronger aftershocks hit.

In the morning after barely eating or drinking the last 24 hours a Twitter contact Dave Richards came over and dropped us off a case of spring water. We made ourselves useful by clearing a collapsed wall from the entrance to our apartment building and shortly after my colleague Daniel and his friend came over, helped us pack food, clothes and some supplies and drove us out here to Kainga where we are now.

What next? Our office is ruined, and for a small business that’s already been through several quakes in the last few months I don’t know if I still have a job. I won’t know for days. We’re staying in a campervan out here, but eventually we’ll need to move all our stuff out of our apartment. We can’t wait six months for an EQC inspection. Perhaps we will need to pack up and move back to Australia?

I know my account here doesn’t do this horrific event justice. I didn’t take photos in the CBD as self-preservation was paramount but even photos and the video footage I’ve now seen don’t reflect the magnitude of this quake. So many lives lost, so much damage, people in shock, wailing, injuries, cars crushed, ground shaking (we can still feel it out here every half hour or so), a city in ruins.

I’m thankful I wasn’t injured in the quake. It’s amazing, considering buildings were raining down on me. If the quake had hit a minute earlier or later, or if I had failed to dodge the meteor shower of debris I might not be alive today.

I have my health and now somewhere safe to stay for a couple of days, clean water and food. I am very fortunate but all I can see when I close my eyes is that scene on Cashel Street and thinking of the people in that CTV building that collapsed on itself to just a few metres high. And in my dreams last night? Quakes, of course. This terrible event is going to be with me forever.

Now I just need to deal with what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced and process it and figure out what to do next.

My thoughts are with those who have been impacted far worse that I, those who have lost their lives or suffered injury and the heroic emergency services crews who have been working non-stop throughout the night amongst the constant threat of aftershocks and collapses to free people from the rubble.

I have since written another blog post reflecting on my actions immediately after the quake hit. Also, we found out a week after the quake that our apartment building has been given a red sticker, meaning it has been deemed unsafe to enter.

Written by Nathanael Coyne

23 February, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Living in NZ

Tagged with ,

Shopping, work, shopping, Sumner

leave a comment »

Been busy with work and haven’t achieved much on the weekends (though sleeping in till after 11am on Saturday probably didn’t help) so my life is pretty much just work, work and work. It’s 11pm and I’ve just been doing more work. Love it though!

I did get down to Sumner yesterday (Sunday) but it was overcast so I got rubbish photos and didn’t really do much. Not that’s much to do there except lunch and lie on the beach so I was only there for about an hour. Didn’t cost me anything – the Metro bus service only charges a maximum 10 fares per week when you use a prepaid card and as I bus to and from work during the week my weekend bus travel is free. Nice eh?

Apart from that, just been shopping and stocking the pantry and buying a few bits and pieces to make this place more livable. Trying not to buy too much kitchen stuff, just the bare essentials like a pizza stone, rice cooker etc. If our trial in Christchurch goes well then I can ship the rest of my kitchen over from Australia or ask Jenny to pack it all in her luggage instead of clothes. I’m sure she can lug 100kg of pots, utensils and my pasta machine through the airport! Although our kitchen in our Merivale apartment is tiny so I’ll have to limit my culinary endevours anyway. Maybe we could consider upgrading once our lease is up in a year. I think I might start feeling a little claustrophobic having to work with four squared feet of bench space!

Local Grant Ovenden sent me off to a gourmet food store Mercato and wow it is an amazing shop! I’ve never heard of most of the brands, nearly all of them imported from Europe. Very high end. $57 bottle of lime oil pressed from 400 limes. Boggles the mind! As I said on their Facebook page it’s like an art gallery, I feel like I should have got dressed up or something. Don’t think I’ll be buying much from there, but I’d love to just wander through there every couple of weeks just to window shop as long as they don’t throw me out. I don’t think they’ll offer me a coffee next time if I walk out again without making a purchase!

Next on my list is The Cook Shop which is a bit closer to home. I’m quite fond of Briscoes though – it’s a bit like Harris Scarfe back in Australia but way bigger and better.

Cove Rock, Sumner

Written by Nathanael Coyne

31 January, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Living in NZ

Tagged with ,

Down to Lyttelton

leave a comment »

I took a little trip down to Lyttelton on the weekend after feeling a little sad that I’m in New Zealand yet hadn’t strayed more than a few kilometres from the CBD. Luckily the metro city bus goes to Lyttelton – convenient as I don’t have a car yet.

LytteltonLyttelton harbour

LytteltonLyttelton harbour

Quaint little town with some good shops and cafes, but damn the streets are steep! I was really feeling it with the 30+ degree temperatures down at the coast on the weekend.

Written by Nathanael Coyne

19 January, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Living in NZ

Tagged with ,