A very different Christchurch

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.

Antigua Boat Sheds
Weeping willows line the peaceful meandering Avon river

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.

The newly restored Bridge of Remembrance

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 once proud cathedral now stands steeple-less and in ruins

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!

14 thoughts on “A very different Christchurch

  1. Are you surprised at how slowlythe re-build is going? We definitely were. The whole place has a different feel to it now, the feeling you get after weeks of low, dark skies. Yet the sun was shining, the skies were blue, and it was hot. I can’t really explain it. The earthquake is still very prominent in people’s minds and conversations. It’s knocked the heart out of the place.

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  2. It was such a charming city, to us one of the world’s most charming. We last visited in a motor home just after the first quake and couldn’t get out quick enough as the aftershocks were frightening. Thanks for the pics of how things are now.

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  3. I’m surprised how slow the process has been. But then again, the re-building can’t begin until the decision to re-build is made. If the decision making process takes 7 years, goodness knows how long the re-build is going to take.

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  4. Not great for the future is it although they are trying to make all of the buildings earthquake-proof aren’t they? Depends how severe they are I suppose.

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  5. I lived in ChCh for the first 20 yrs of my life. When I left in 1975 it didn’t have a lot going for it. The following 15 or so years saw it really go ahead and it became a city really going somewhere. It was clean, and cultural with plenty to do. It’s been knocked right off it’s axis, almost literally. And the really sad thing is earthquakes are now really common. There’s a real chance of another really big one.

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  6. It is definitely sad. I was shocked that they even considered demolishing it, and actually debated whether or not they should restore it for more than seven years. Never mind, they’re made the right decision now I think. I’m sure restoring what’s at the very heart of the city will help restore the heart of the people.

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  7. Definitely the right decision to restore the cathedral isn’t it? It seems to be the heart of the city so needs to be put back to the way it was. Visited Christchurch twice and its a strange feeling with all of the empty space and rebuilding going on.

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  8. My daughter was in Christchurch just a few months before that earthquake hit. She was so upset to see the devastation on the news and I can only image how upsetting it is to see first hand. Sad that the Cathedral hasn’t already been restored.

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