When Deanna and Dave Hartley lost their home to fire, Benchmark Homes came to the rescue with an offer to rebuild. Two years on Kiri Penfold offers an insight into the process so far.
IT IS SO EXCITING FOR US TO BE ABLE TO START BUILDING this home for Deanna Hartley, and her family. It is even more exciting for Deanna, who has moved from here, there and everywhere in the meantime, a little homeless.

The land she and husband Dave bought many, many years ago is beautiful, and the view from the home is going to be stunning. Not content to wallow in self-pity or give up, Deanna has worked away at her garden in the last couple of years, creating a green oasis in the middle of burnt machinery and a barren landscape. She has magical green fingers, so much so that her garden in late May is still producing strawberries.
We stand together in this oasis, and look over at the foundation that has been scraped out, and think of the future and what this will look like in a couple of months.

None of us start out thinking this kind of thing will happen to us. None of us picture this when we picture our future, or when we picture our home. None of us, except those who have gone through it, can conceive the loss of a lifetime of memories, photos, trinkets, even jewellery. Perhaps even our mother’s wedding dress? The little everyday things that don’t get replaced because they are part of our everyday routine, we don’t even count as lost until we realise they are gone.
The enormity of rebuilding your life after a total home fire is sometimes more than people can bear, but not only has Deanna had to wait for consent and drawn out subdivision issues to solve themselves, in the meantime, she lost her life partner.

Dave sadly passed away in January 2015 from a long battle with lung disease. While we all know we only have a certain number of years on this little globe, we did not expect Dave to be gone just yet. And here is this amazing lady, Deanna, still standing strong. And even more amazing is the goodness of the people and companies who have thrown their hat in the ring with us to support this family that they do not know. For no reward other than a warm fuzzy feeling inside and perhaps a bit of an opening night to show them all through the home they have helped build. Deanna is still so blown away that people would want to help her, that all she ever says is “I am so grateful” and “please thank them, make sure you thank them for me”.

We cannot wait to get her into the finished home, through the front door and up to the table for a pot of tea to soak up the view. Giving her space, and a new home in which to reflect back on her years of patience and gratitude and how they have all lead here.
If you wish to donate to the Deanna Hartley build fund, you can email for account details. Every cent goes to helping Deanna with the finishing touches, such as curtains and landscaping, that a standard build doesn’t cover.

In 2005 When Brendan Hart and Tony Laplanche joined forces with Richard Evans, they had no idea of the impact their partnership would have on our local cycling environment.
As well known cycling personalities Brendan and Tony turned to fellow cycling enthusiast Richard of Benchmark Homes, and together formed the Benchmark Homes Cycling Team. “The intention was to provide a culture of support, and cultivate the talent of young riders,” states Richard.
Fast forward nearly ten years later and there is little doubt that the Benchmark Homes Cycling Team has changed the face of cycling in New Zealand. As the first team in the country, the Benchmark Homes Cycling Team set the standard for professionalism, expectation and development, and they are continuing to raise the bar with their ongoing success.
The development and growth of the Team has seen the emergence of complementary teams, such as the Benchmark Homes Women’s Team, and the Tango Masters. Not to mention the emergence and growth of their competitive counterparts. “Where once there was none, there are now a growing number of elite, masters and women’s cycling teams in New Zealand,” describes Richard. Growth, which saw the development of the Benchmark Elite Cycling Series; the first team-based racing series in New Zealand. For the Tango Masters it isn’t all about cycling however, and annually they dedicate time and energy into raising money for young cyclists in New Zealand. Last year alone they raised over ten thousand dollars, which was then awarded to three young riders who had been selected to represent New Zealand.

One of the main reasons for the team is to further encourage and nurture young cycling talent. The purpose of which is to provide a support network for young athletes and further their professional cycling careers. “It is an amazing thing to be a part of,” shares Richard. “We get such a kick to watch young sixteen/seventeen year olds make their dreams a reality.
Whether that is to be part of a professional team, or represent New Zealand overseas — we are always just rapt for them.”
Having been invited to take part in international cycling tours, such as the Tour of Iran a few years ago, Richard is quick to comment that international recognition was never part of the plan. “We just thought we would give it a go, and then several years later we are travelling internationally!” While this has been the only event the entire team has taken part in overseas, riders have been sent to Australia, the Philippines and even further afield to represent the Benchmark Cycling Team on an international level.
With applications for membership to the Trust arriving from all around the world, this is a development squad worth watching. “Many former and current members of the Trust are now riding professionally internationally,” comments Richard, “while others are among the best young cyclists to be competing in New Zealand.” Coupled with ongoing support is the access the young riders have to renowned cycling names such as Daniel Barry, Brian Fowler, Sam Horgan, Josh Atkins and Gordon McCauley. “To be able to learn
from, and ride with, the best of the best, gives our younger riders access to insight
and information that is unsurpassed.” Despite the international and national success of the team, Richard and wife Natasha have never waivered in knowing where their passion lies. While at times their focus has been on working with top Kiwi riders, their passion is without a doubt the grassroots of it — youth development. So it isn’t surprising that the aim today is the same as it was back in 2005. “The aim was to develop the talent of young riders,” comments Richard. “The majority of the team were under 23, and the focus was on providing opportunities to younger riders who showed some potential, but more importantly had the drive and commitment needed to become a professional cyclist.” A humble aim that has become a reality over and over again.

Six young women cycling for Benchmark Homes Team are proving that girls really can do it all!
Richard and Natasha Evans,directors of Benchmark Homes, are both passionate about cycling and helping in the community, and they are understandably proud of their women’s cycling team. All extremely talented, the team is made up of six young women who ride for Benchmark Homes, in between their other commitments.
The most accomplished member of the women’s team is Linda Villumsen, a Danish born road racing cyclist who is now a New Zealand citizen. She was the Danish national champion in road racing and time trialling in 2006, 2008 and 2009, and amongst her many other accomplishments, finished fifth in the women’s road race at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Villumsen has ridden under a Kiwi license since 2010, and most recently competed for New Zealand at the 2012 Summer Olympics. There, she finished 18th in the road race and fourth in the time trial, missing out on a medal by mere seconds. Villumsen joined the Benchmark Homes team in late 2012, after moving to Christchurch, and rides with them in between her commitments as a pro-rider. She has recently signed with the Wiggle


As a consequence of the Canterbury Earthquakes, the Festival of Cycling was moved away from Christchurch in 2011.
The North Canterbury town of Waipara is the new host for the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cyc ling, with events including the ‘Waipara Challenge’ for road cyclists and the all new Mountain Bike Event and the ‘Hurunui Vineyard Mountain Bike Ride’. The ‘Glenmark Challenge’ has been created for kids, and there is also a family ride/run and a 10.2km ‘Vineyard Trail Run’ through the stunning Waipara vineyards.
Now enjoying its status as a national series, the Benchmark Homes Festival of Cycling hosts many competitive cyclists. It previously celebrated Christchurch’s cycling culture and the history of the Harbour Ride, and now is embracing the rich history of the Waipara V alley.
Benchmark Homes is the premier event sponsor of the Festival of Cycling, with other major sponsors also providing financial assistance.

PART OF THE BENCHMARK HOMES philosophy is to give to those in need, and this ethos isn’t limited to their local community. Richard and Natasha Evans recently travelled to Vanuatu, and their time visiting the village on Lelepa Island inspired them to help where they could. The village was in need of many things that New Zealanders take for granted, and Richard and Natasha’s generous financial assistance has made a huge difference to the locals. The Lelepa community was able to secure land via a lease agreement to develop their tourism efforts and purchase a solar system to generate energy for the local primary school, thanks to Benchmark Homes. Prior to the installation of the solar system, teachers from Lelepa were required to pay their own transport via boat to Port Vila, simply to photocopy school material. Following their initial success, Richard and Natasha contributed a significant amount of money to upgrade the only health clinic on the island, and they have since decided to sponsor two Year 9 children from the island. This will ensure those children receive education until Year 13, and Benchmark Homes will continue to sponsor two new children each year.
They are also investigating ways to assist the community in their quest to plumb water to homes on the island.
For Benchmark Homes, success is measured in a variety of ways – from helping people realise their dreams of building a home, to making a difference in the lives of strangers.

Community Spirit | Benchmark Homes

WHEN A WILDFIRE SPREAD THROUGH parts of rural Christchurch, David and Deanna Hartley had to walk away from their home with only the clothes on their backs.
They were not home at the time,and when they returned their house was gone. In its place was nothing but the burnt out shell of the dwelling, and ash everywhere.
Fortunately, their son was home at the time and was able to rescue one of the family’s dogs, but the other went missing as flames closed in. Later that night, when firefighters let them back to their property, he came running out to greet them, with a cough and singed paws as a result of the terrifying blaze.

Both in their 70s, the couple raised all six of their children in the home that David built with his own hands in 1975.
Prior to the Christchurch earthquakes,their insurance had lapsed while they were away helping one of their son’s to build his home in Australia, and it then became impossible for them to reinsure. Now, there is little more than some scrap metal that will be able to be salvaged, and all their possessions were lost.
As soon as Richard and Natasha Evans heard what had happened, they immediately offered to help in any way they could. As a result, Benchmark Homes will be designing a new home for the couple at no cost, including full working drawings, and they will be completing the build as a non-profit project. They have also managed to secure many products, materials and labour for the house free of charge or below cost price.
Benchmark Homes Sales Manager, Scott Harris, has described the support from the community as overwhelming.
“We have had significant support from a wide range of suppliers and tradespeople, including people from outside of our normal supply chain. We now have close to 40 suppliers involved, with so many people and companies being incredibly supportive and generous.”
David and Deanna have been blown away by the generosity of Benchmark Homes. “They have been so marvellous to deal with. It’s just wonderful what they’re doing for us, we just can’t believe how generous they’ve been.”
Building is expected to start as soon as possible, once the site is cleared.