Christchurch has seemingly forever been the gateway to the South island of New Zealand. An international airport, a vibrant garden city with an innercity that was both historic and full of interesting activity, a university city (two actually) and a centre for overseas students.
On the 4 September 2010 a powerful earthquake rocked the city, followed by another massive jolt on 22 February 2011 which killed 185 people and effectively destroyed the historic heart of the city.
This was not the end, it was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, and at least two more serious earthquakes.
Christchurch lost more than three-quarters of its hotel rooms, and 70% of its Backpacker rooms.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost to the economy, and some say it will be 50 years before the city is back on its feet. Almost every house was affected in some way, and three years later many have still not been repaired, as Christchurch heads into its third winter.
I have just been in Christchurch, and while it is sobering to see the number of empty sections where houses, buildings and whole blocks in the inner city have been flattened, there are strong signs of life too as businesses open up in new buildings, container shops and precincts are developed. It is expected that seven or eight hotels would be reinstated by the end of 2014.
- I sat with one friend in a cafe called C1. Peter pointed across the road and said C1 used to be there, and above it was the apartment he used to live in. Now an empty section beside buildings with containers in front of them to prevent more damage.
- Frauenreisehause – was a well known women’s backpackers and hostel in Christchurch. It had 72 beds. Now it is an empty section, with some buildings down and others waiting to be repaired. More on this story to come
- There is The Viva Project – planning a Sustainable Urban Village on on the now empty Inner City site.
- A new transitional Cardboard Cathedral is well on its way to completion.
Tourists are coming back, it is still the gateway to the wondrous South Island, the Akaroa Peninsula is on its doorstep, the Southern Alps are its backdrop.
It is true that many people are still stressed out with houses and businesses far from fixed. The rebuild is taking it’s toll – anxiety, depression, domestic violence all on the rise. But also there are individuals and communities rallying and determined to reclaim their city.
You can see Phoenix rising from the ashes. Come and visit and see the changes.