Although it might have slipped out of the news, overtaken by other world events, Christchurch is still suffering from the effects of the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The city is unrecognisable even to natives.
I went in twice with my nephew’s wife and we found new roads opened and others closed so that our progress to the Museum was quite tortuous. But even she found it difficult to navigate without the familiar landmarks to home in on, and she lives and works here. Around the Museum there are many Heritage stone buildings, including Christ’s College School and the old State Building, all in various states of disrepair: surrounded by scaffolding, braces and workmen. There is a great debate about whether the millions spent to repair such damaged sites is better spent on repair or re-build, and as usual in such situations opinions are divided. Certainly around this area, repair is the order of the day.
Measures to preserve frontages where possible are being taken, huge sea containers filled with concrete are holding up the remains of some important buildings.
Sad but true, it is these old buildings that suffered the worst. Stone and mortar do not respond well to shaking, and these two earthquakes, the first since 1888, were magnitude 7.1 and 6.3 respectively. The building about which most controversy rages is the Cathedral.
At present there is a new, very controversial Cathedral, of a temporary nature and costing millions and which a new ruling has just said cannot be paid for with the insurance money, being constructed on another site, prepare for a shock!
This is constructed with tubes of cardboard and covered with a waterproof skin. A similar building was put up in Japan after another severe earthquake and is still standing 25 years later. And however long-term that seems to be, it could be at least that before a decision on the final state of the present damaged Cathedral Square has been taken. Indeed, the whole city is going to be a building site for at least the next 15 to 25 years.
But a suffering city is not a city without hope. Re-Start City is proof positive that New Zealanders are resourceful, imaginative and determined to get on with life as near to normally as possible. Can you imagine a shopping mall, with chic, internationally recognisable brands, all trading in a series of shipping containers? Well – be amazed!
And the Mall is smart, attractive and a lovely place to sit in the sun. I believe these are the up-turned bells from the Cathedral (I am ready to be corrected).
There are two more, lower down. Then there is this lovely bike rack, designed with the Koru Fern bud in mind, the opened fern leaf is familiar to all Rugby Fans from the Kiwi All-Blacks strips.
This was a lovely city and will be again with thoughtful regeneration, imagination and care. Too soon and there will be many of the same mistakes again. There is a great and understandable outflux of people and businesses, but I think good redevelopment, with modern quake technology will soon bring them back.
This Chalice of Hope still stands where it belongs: