Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Devastated Christchurch

It has been almost 3 years since the devastating earthquake in the centre of Christchurch. We have not been to visit, as it felt like being a disaster tourist! I finally had an excuse to check it out as the New Zealand Geoscience conference was held at Canterbury University this year. I went down a day early and was shown around by a guy, Sam Johnson, that I met last year on the HMSNZ Canterbury. Sam is an amazing guy who organised all the student volunteers that after the earthquake when and cleaned up the city of the liquefaction mess and delivered food and water and all kinds of other help to people. So it was a privilege to be shown around the city by him.

I have to say I was shocked.

The city centre doesn't exist. So many empty lots. Lots of buildings still boarded up and waiting to come down. And lots of shipping containers everywhere - holding up the facades of buildings where the rest of it has come down, protecting sites in case buildings collapse, and of course the amazing container mall - fitted out for the shops.

 Empty lots and boarded up and falling down buildings that still need to be removed.

A wall of containers holding up the facade of the theatre as the rest of it is rebuilt after it collapsed in the February 22nd 2011 earthquake

Some poor shop owner trying to keep his business alive without a building...

The "container mall" - very colourful and fun with lots of energy

Container cafes and bars for people to hang out

The old cathedral is severely damaged, but the new "cardboard cathedral" has just opened and looks pretty cool. It is made up of cardboard cylinders with a perspex cover - very clever.

The old, destroyed, cathedral in the centre of the city

The new "cardboard" cathedral a few blocks away

Inside the "cardboard" cathedral - held up by cardboard cylinders (just like the inside of your toilet roll)

While they are waiting for the re-build there are some fun projects that have been developed to "Fill the Gap", including a urban mini gold course around the city, a sound garden where you can pretent you are part of "Stomp", and an open air cinema where you have to power it by pedalling bikes, and lots of art work has popped up to fill the spaces.

The urban mini golf

Sam Johnson pretending he is part of the cast of "Stomp" and sounding pretty tuneful

There is definitely a positive vibe in the city as it starts to rebuild. I'm sure that Christchurch will once again be a great, modern, city - it just might take a decade or so to get there.

It certainly shows how a large earthquake can destroy a city. I just hope it doesn't happen to Wellington any time soon - I wouldn't want to live through what the Cantabrians have had to over the last few years and New Zealand just can't afford to rebuild 2 cities right now.

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