We arrived into Christchurch on a February afternoon to a warm family welcome on a bright summers day. The first evening was spent eating, drinking, chatting and catching up – as you do….
After a good nights sleep the sight seeing began. First thing on the agenda was to visit Christchurch’s city centre. Nine years on from the devastating earthquake that took 185 lives and seriously injured another 164 people, an unrecognisable city greeted us.
First stop on my brothers personally guided walking tour was Antigua Boat sheds. The colourful sheds are still standing after nearly 140 years I’m pleased to say, and the river remains relatively unchanged.
Many days during my childhood school holidays were spent rowing down these tranquil waters. Single person canoes were the thing, and to this day I’m still a single person canoe person. I can’t get the rhythm that’s needed to share the rowing in a double canoe. So literally – I like to paddle my own canoe!
Next onto a restored Bridge of remembrance. I believe this was severely damaged in the earthquake, and restoration has only been completed within the past year.
Eventually we arrived into the centre of town, the Cathedral Square. The square centre of the city has always been known and spoken of using the Cathedral for identification. We never caught the bus to the square, it was always, The Cathedral Square.
The whole of the square, once clearly bordered by rows of solid buildings roughly at right angles to each other and forming a square, is now stark and airy in comparison. There’s space – lots of space now where shops, movie theatres, and peoples lives and livelihoods once stood.
It’s eight years on since the devasting earthquake on 22 February 2011. The rebuilding of Christchurch is clearly underway, evidenced by the multitude of high cranes towering everywhere you look. Equally as clear is that the rebuilding is a slow process, and sadly, that the city will never be the same again.
Everywhere we went throughout the south island we were met with signs of what to do in the case of an emergency. We’re all familiar with the usual fire emergency warnings posted in hotels etc. All of these emergency warning notices in NZ now list three things, fire, earthquake and Tsunami. Earthquakes are now accepted as an almost weekly occurrence, and, I gather, the general consensus is that the worst may not yet be behind them. Yes, the city has changed, and so to have the people. You just can’t live with that constant threat without it changing you to some extent.
But I digress, back to the cathedral. Apparently there’s been several years of discussion and argument as to whether or not the iconic cathedral was to be restored. It’ll be a monumental task, but the decision has been made in the favour of restoration. I’m pleased!