Grateful to be alive, Bruce Oliver, with wife Corrinne (centre), and their daughter Chance, pictured with close friends Yvette Grace (left), and Dianne Sutherland (right). PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
By Hayley Gastmeier
For Corrinne Oliver, the past 48 hours have been surreal.
“That was my home, where I brought up all my children, and it’s just gone,” she said yesterday.
“All last night I was going, ‘It’s a really bad dream, it’s a really bad dream, and soon I’ll wake up’.
“Then I would get up, and all I could see was this shell of my home.”
Mrs Oliver, her husband Bruce, and their 20-year-old daughter Chance, narrowly escaped when their Mauriceville property was set alight in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Just hours before the blaze, another home on their street, Opaki Kaiparoro Rd, had burned to the ground.
The Olivers had taken in the sole female occupant of the house, offering her food and a bed in their sleep-out.
The 50-year-old woman has since been charged with arson, and appeared in court yesterday.
Mrs Oliver, a well-known community figure, said that the sequence of events were still sinking in, but the sense of loss was very real.
“I feel like there’s a funeral and I’m going to pick out a coffin because this is just so surreal.”
Having fled their home with barely more than the clothes on their backs, the family have lost almost everything they own.
Through tears, Mrs Oliver said that a lifetime of family treasures had been lost forever.
These included the Oliver family Bible, which dates back to the 1700s, original artworks and pictures from her children, as well as their school reports and mementoes she was saving to pass on to their children.
“Even though I have lost my home, I don’t care about my home,” she said.
“I care about my dad’s photos, I care about my wedding rings . . . I care about my daughter’s trophy – all those things you can’t replace.”
Fortunately, the family managed to save their cat, passports, and a racing suit of Chance’s, who is a champion motorcyclist.
The couple, who have lived in the house for more than 26 years, had also just finished renovating.
Now, they have no access to water, and are in the process of arranging a portable toilet.
They have been sleeping in an old bus out the back of their property.
Since news of the fires had spread, the Olivers have been flooded with community support.
“People have just been amazing, and I feel really humbled,” Mrs Oliver said.
The family have been brought food rations, fresh baking, toiletries, clothing and vouchers.
Jesse McPhee, the son of the late Gary McPhee, has lent them his new caravan, and a givealittle page has been set up to help them get back on their feet.
“People have just been incredible,” Mrs Oliver said.
The firefighters and police officers dealing with the fire and subsequent investigation had been “just amazing”.
She said that she, her husband, and her daughter would have died had it not been for the working smoke alarms in their house.
“The smoke detectors saved our lives.
“I can’t emphasise that enough to people, how important it is to have working alarms.”
Mrs Oliver is heavily involved in the Wairarapa community.
She is the president of the National Council of Women of New Zealand Wairarapa branch, and for years worked with Women’s Refuge.
She was the coordinator for Toi Wairarapa, and played an integral part in the opening of the group’s Carterton gallery Heart of Arts.
Following her husband Bruce’s motorcycle crash in which he broke his back, she has been working full-time as an administrator at Compass Health.
Those wanting to support the Olivers can do so by visiting: givealittle.co.nz/cause/chancestevensonoliver.