The City still struggling to recover
15.04.2013 - 15.04.2013 14 °C
My original plan included a couple of extra days in Christchurch (often described as "the most English City outside England") so I could visit the Antarctic Centre at the airport and go whale watching from Kaikoura up the coast. However Christchurch was hit by a 7.1 earthquake in November 2010 followed by a 6.3 aftershock in February 2011 and when I arrived and saw how devastated the city still was I knew the focus of this entry was going to be very different.
It was the city centre and especially the older stone buildings that bore the brunt of the quake and 2 years on most of them have been or are in the process of being demolished, replaced by wasteland car parks while the authorities decide what to replace them with. Much of the city centre is cordoned off "red zone" still considered too dangerous for the public to enter with scaffolding, traffic cones, cranes and men in hi-vis bibs with safety hats everywhere.
The hub of the city was Cathedral Square but it remains out of bounds apart from a recently opened viewing area. The Cathedral's 206 feet (63 metre) spire was one of the headline casualties of the quake and they are currently building a transitional "cardboard" cathedral to provide a temporary place of worship with an expected lifespan of about 20 years.
Christchurch is New Zealand's 2nd largest city but after the earthquakes there is still very little life in the city centre, I was there for 4 nights and finding shops, somewhere to eat or drink was almost impossible. Also with all the construction workers in town the only accommodation available was in hostel dormitories with very basic amenities even by hostel standards. In an attempt to bring life back to the city centre a shopping mall out of shipping containers has been constructed in what had once been one of the main shopping streets. The brightly coloured Re:START Mall on Cashel Street has now become a tourist attraction in its own right but it is still very quiet for a city the size of Christchurch.
Included in the Re:START Mall is Quake City, described as "the Christchurch Earthquakes Experience". It includes iconic objects that fell during the quakes such as the cathedral bell and spire as well as recalling many personal stories and the actions of the rescue teams from around the world. It also explains what liquefaction is which is what happened in the suburbs while buildings were collapsing in the city centre.