When the world experiences a natural disaster (flood, landslide, tsunami, earthquake), there’s always a flurry of media attention. All eyes are on that country, especially when it’s a region that we feel connected to, and we raise money, donate goods, and do whatever we can to help out in relief operations. Then, a Kardashian has a baby. Or a royal gets married. Or housing interest rates go up. And somehow, after all of our worry and tears, attention and concern, we forget about that tragedy, and move on.
I felt shocked, and naive, when we arrived in Christchurch to see blocks and blocks mid-city, either being demolished, under new construction, or still totally barren. The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 (the most destructive was in February 2011) are still being felt in the South Island, with witches hats and “Danger Keep Out” signs taking over the city. 1500 buildings were demolished after the quakes. 185 people died, and 10,000 people moved elsewhere. Everyone has a story about that day. About how they couldn’t open doors because that 10 seconds moved the frames of their houses, and they had to jump through smashed windows. Their children became used to scooting under tables and bracing themselves when they felt an aftershock. They had nowhere to live because their home was lost, and rentals were full.
The back of the once glorious Christ Church Cathedral, consecrated in 1881, was destroyed, and is now overrun with flocks of pigeons and weeds. A rebuild has been hotly debated in this town, with money pouring in from council and government (more here). The old Teacher’s College, The Peterborough Centre, which had been turned into apartments, built in 1930, saw $12 million dollars in damage.
And check out this link to see aerial shots from before the 2011 earthquakes and now.
There is a positive, forward-planning vibe in the air however. Shops have popped up in shipping containers, and food trucks, bars and outdoor venues are making the most of difficult conditions.
The city is rebuilding. The people are mending, and the regeneration of Christchurch is set to be something pretty special.