New Zealand, Aotearoa the land of the long white cloud. Population 4 and a half million people. Where the sky is blue and nature is very green and there are 31 million sheep. Home of the best rugby team in the world, the All Blacks. Christchurch, known as the Garden City, was struck by a 7.1 earthquake on 4 September 2010, and a devastating after-shock of 6.3 on 22 February 2011, and then another 6.3 on 13 June 2011. Pre-earthquake population of 380,000 but, today, only 348,000. With estimated damage of 30 Billion. There have been more than 10,000 after-shocks recorded.
So where do you start? Some would argue with homes for those who have been homeless for 2 years, some would argue schools, or maybe a library, or a university, a swimming pool, or how about a new downtown?
The downtown, also known as the cbd (central business district) where there is no shortage of parking, is still closed off. Where, for the most part, they are still in the tear-down phase, and the rebuild is not really evident, although tourists are everywhere to be found. Christchurch, the garden city, is now known as the container city. In true kiwi style they just find new ways to do things. Finding real estate for your business doesn’t exist, so they take shipping containers and turn them into shops and cafés and restaurants. Containers are also being used to protect houses from falling debris from future earthquakes. To beautify these containers, people will paint art on them or, if artistic talent is not your “thing”, maybe you just knit or crochet – all in an effort to beautify the city.
Most of us don’t think too much about how or where we keep our cereal, or jam for toast in the morning – it is normally at arm’s reach. However, after three devastating earthquakes, they are now stored at ground level, for they are some of the worst things to clean up every time there is a large quake. You and I just put up our Christmas tree without hesitating as to where it goes. We will often just put it where we have put it every year. Not so for Cantabrians; it goes in a corner of a room so you can anchor it to the walls on two sides from different angles, so you won’t lose precious ornaments that are of a sentimental value. After having to replace your TV three times, the set is now anchored to the wall from two different angles. The same goes for your computer screen.
Some of the hardest hit are places that rely on tourists, like Orana Park and Christchurch Museum, as the numbers of tourists heading to Christchurch are down and those that do go only want to visit the downtown area.
Residents who have chosen to stay are by far the most resilient, good humoured, optimistic and hard-working people that you can find.
Most locals will not talk to you about the earthquake unless you have lived through it, as they feel you just could not understand it, or understand the new way of life. It just is.
If you are interested in making a donation to help rebuild Christchurch you can do it at Christchurch Earthquake Appeal “Tomorrow Starts Here” by visiting www.christchurchappealtrust.org.nz where you can select what you would like to help with – whether it be museums or soccer fields for kids, the choice is yours. It is the New Zealand government site, the official global fundraiser for the recovery effort for Christchurch and the Canterbury region. Putting a city back together, puts its communities back together too.
Thank you all for your support two years ago when we ran our fundraiser “Hands up for NZ”.