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A broken city slowly mends

Summer 12/13 roadie, day 9, part 2

Our last night of the trip was to be spent just north of Christchurch. Nowhere exciting, just somewhere to break up the State Highway 1 march north. By mid afternoon we were in the vicinity of the Garden City and we took the opportunity to head in, the first time we’d been there since the earthquakes and a few weeks out from the second anniversary of deadly 22 February 2011 quake.

That horrible day which crippled a city and halted a nation happened the same month I started this blog. To help me process the event I wrote a post with some photos of our previous visit there. That was in 2008, so fast forward to this trip it had been quite a while since we last saw Christchurch.

With the road closures we didn’t really know where we were going, but we parked on Oxford Terrace beside the river and followed our noses from there.

One of many buildings still waiting for a decision on its fate

One of many buildings still waiting for a decision on its fate

CERA notice, Christchurch

This container mall (named Re:START) was set up to help bring life back to the CBD. It had a great vibe when we walked through

This container mall (named Re:START) was set up to help bring life back to the CBD. It had a great vibe when we walked through

Red zone, Christchurch

Several countries sent teams to help with the search and rescue effort. I interpret this message as being on 26/2/11 at 5pm, team 1 of the New South Wales firefighters forced entry into this building and found it to be clear of people

Several countries sent teams to help with the search and rescue effort. I interpret this message as being on 26/2/11 at 5pm, team 1 of the New South Wales firefighters forced entry into this building and found it to be clear of people

Temporary footpaths, Christchurch

Red zone, Christchurch

I didn’t visit Christchurch often enough to become overly familiar with the layout of the inner city, so while it was still a bit confusing to walk around I wasn’t as impacted as many have been when it suddenly hits home how many familiar landmarks are missing. Or perhaps worse, there are so many empty lots it must be hard to remember what was where.

Is it better to remember what was there so that you can honour its memory, or to have accidentally forgotten meaning you kind of can’t?

Damaged building, Christchurch

Red zone building, Christchurch

Near here we called into one of the reopened cafes, C One Espresso, and found it to be excellent. We saw a sprinkling of open cafes/bars and they all seemed to have the happy atmosphere that people, sunshine and a convivial beverage or two bring. It is impossible to imagine the challenges the proprietors have gone through to (re)open but it is they who are helping to pioneer the rebirth of the inner city.

Damaged building, Christchurch

Site of the CTV building where the largest loss of life occurred

Site of the CTV building where the largest loss of life occurred

CTV site, Christchurch

CTV site, Christchurch

Christchurch's first street mall, New Regent Street, escaped relatively unscathed and is meant to be reopening soon. It was built during the Depression and has distinctive pastel-coloured Spanish Mission style architecture. Note the clock in the top right corner - stopped at 12.51pm, the time the earthquake struck

Christchurch’s first street mall, New Regent Street, escaped relatively unscathed and is meant to be reopening soon. It was built during the Depression and has distinctive pastel-coloured Spanish Mission style architecture. Note the clock in the top right corner – it is stopped at 12.51pm, the time the earthquake struck

Construction signs, Christchurch

Damaged building, Christchurch

Breaking up rubble, Christchurch

We were fortunate to be there on a day where some of the CBD red zone had been opened up which enabled a good view of the Christchurch (Anglican) Cathedral.

There has been much controversy and debate over the fate of the cathedral and I still don't think it's been resolved

There has been much controversy and debate over the fate of the cathedral and I still don’t think it’s been resolved

Christchurch Cathedral

In the meantime, a 'Cardboard Cathedral' is being built near the CTV site

In the meantime, a ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ is being built near the CTV site

You can see a current view of its progress here.

Damaged mall, Christchurch

Cracked retaining wall, Christchurch

Cracked and undulating footpath, Christchurch

The Avon River provides a welcome bit of sameness in a city that's now vastly different

The Avon River provides a welcome bit of sameness in a city that’s now vastly different

The Bridge of Remembrance memorial was unveiled in 1924 and looks remarkably ok. But the arch is cracked and needs >$2m to fix. With no timeframe on that, it's been left in a vulnerable state with a decision made to not erect temporary reinforcing

The Bridge of Remembrance memorial was unveiled in 1924 and looks remarkably ok. But the arch is cracked and needs >$2m to fix. With no timeframe on that, it’s been left in a vulnerable state with a cost-based decision made to not erect temporary reinforcing

That’s as far as we went. The land status map maintained by the Recovery Authority is useful to see the various parts of the city still classified as red zone and to see the progress over time.

As far as the CBD goes, the physical city is very slowly mending. Much of the demolition has apparently finished and the rebuild plans look comprehensive and exciting. It will be a fantastic place when it’s finished. How much of the old city heritage will remain, well that’s still up in the air. Not as much as many people would like.

The social city is slowly mending too I think. Other aspects will take much, much longer.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow! It looks kind of eerie, even on a sunny day. I’m glad to see it’s slowly healing.

    23 March 2013
    • Good point, sunshine and having a bit of life around ultimately gave me a positive perception (on balance). Change those factors and it would’ve been a completely different experience.

      24 March 2013
  2. Thanks for the post! I’m happy to see that things are slowly mending… I haven’t been back to CC after the quake happened… ❤ Christchurch

    25 March 2013
    • It is good, even if it does take a long time for everything to get sorted out. And at least (touch wood) the smaller after-quakes have settled right down now. Thanks for the comment!

      25 March 2013
  3. Great pictures. Looks so strange compared to when I last went in 2009 but the sunshine makes it look positive there at least!

    25 March 2013
    • Thanks, much appreciated. Yes if you know what it was like before then it is strange to look at in 2D and pretty surreal to see in person. The sunshine somehow made it all easier to digest.

      25 March 2013
  4. Ali #

    I knew that it was a bad earthquake, but I had no idea that the damage was that bad still two years on. I love the container city and it definitely looks like a vibrant addition to the city and things like this will help bring the place back to life.

    29 March 2013
    • If a lot of rebuild starts happening concurrently the new city will take shape pretty quickly. It would be quite neat if the container mall stays but I guess it might come down at some point.

      29 March 2013

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