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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.

Before the quakes: one great weekend down south

eatToday a region of the South Island including the city of Christchurch suffered a devastating series of earthquakes, almost six months after a magnitude 7.1 struck. Whereas the first quake was miraculously free from loss of life, the situation this time is very different. The full enormity of the impact of today’s quakes is yet to be realised.

In light of today’s events I wanted to post a few words and pictures about a fantastic long weekend we had down in the Christchurch and Banks Peninsula area three years ago.

Christchurch is the South Island’s largest city and is 45 minutes by air from Wellington. Mike and I flew down and collected a rental car, heading for the inner city to enjoy breakfast at a cafe near the Avon River. We didn’t linger too long but did walk around the Bridge of Remembrance world war memorial – I wonder what the state of that is now.

The first of our two nights away was at Sumner, a seaside suburb about half an hour from central Christchurch. We loved Sumner – nestled above and below high cliffs, it had a lovely village vibe to it with good access to beach and interesting rock formations to walk around. Today those cliffs made Sumner especially vulnerable.

Sumner as seen from the Port Hills

One of the most striking geographical aspects of Christchurch is the Port Hills – the hills between the city and the town of Lyttleton where the South Island’s biggest deep-water port is located. The hills have quite an extensive road network across them and it is really interesting just driving around looking at the landscape and the various features and lookouts.

The following day we headed south into the Banks Peninsula, beginning with a short stop in Lyttleton. One of the roads to Lyttleton goes around the side of the hills with places to stop and look over the port. Today slips came down cutting off that road – as well as the main tunnel route.

Looking out over Port Lyttleton

Lyttleton was the epicenter of today’s quakes. We were really quite taken with it on our visit, it could easily be a fairly rough and ready port servicing town but it had a real charm with its heritage buildings given new life from vibrant shops and cafes. There were also some beautiful houses and gardens if I recall.

The port town of Lyttleton

Our destination for the night was Akaroa, a lovely settlement with British and French origins located in the Akaroa harbour on the southern end of the peninsula. Only 75kms from Christchurch, it is a fantastic drive and we enjoyed it despite our very budget rental car. The superb weather highlighted everything to perfection, particularly once we arrived in Akaroa. A more picturesque and idyllic seaside village you would be hard pressed to find. We have not yet heard how they fared today.

The Akaroa waterfront as seen from our hotel

A little pier in Akaroa

Back in Christchurch the following day and with spare time before our flight, we drove out to the suburb of New Brighton. The big feature here is a 300m pier on an 18km long sandy beach. A wet and grey day it nonetheless was a great way to end our weekend.

Lake Ellesmere in Banks Peninsula, a quick detour off the main road

The New Brighton pier

I’m sure the events of today have changed forever some of what we saw three years ago, making these fond memories all the more special.

A damp stroll on the New Brighton pier

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