Monday, 30 November 2015

Christchurch post earthquake

After all the perfection, peace and beauty of the last two weeks, we felt that before we went home we had to go and visit South Island's main city of Christchurch to understand the other side of things. The centre of the city and the eastern suburbs were badly affected by an earthquake in February 2011. 185 people were killed, making it New Zealand's second most destructive disaster.  It was one of several quakes experienced in the city both before and after that date.

Visiting the area today was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life - and how long it takes to rebuild after destruction. The most famous building, the city's Victorian Cathedral, remains fenced off amid discussions about its future and the damage is clear. Indeed, it's hard to think how it can be saved.


In the four streets in the centre of the town, almost half the buildings were badly damaged and have since been demolished or are condemned. Everywhere we looked as we walked around, there were scars where buildings had once stood and others were being carefully demolished. The noise of cranes and machinery was constant.

                                   
      

But amidst all the destruction, there were heartening signs of the rebuild. An art project funded by the City Council has encouraged many New Zealand artists to create pieces of street art especially for exhibition in the area around the cathedral.
          
             Installations and a mural  on boarding around the cathedral

'Planted Whare' an installation by Chris Heaphy, who is of Ngai Tahu Maori and European ancestry, was constructed in steel girders and covered in baskets planted with flowers. It was my favourite for its colour and its feelings of optimism and protection. Walking inside, it offered a cocoon of much needed safety.

          Call Me Snake by Judy Miller, one of New Zealand's foremost painters.

Each of the works - and there were several more that I've not shown - were a powerful expression of a positive future amongst the rubble, but the whole was most sobering, nonetheless. It is hard to see how the government's target of a complete rebuild by 2018 can possibly be met.


2 comments:

  1. I am very much enjoying your posts about New Zealand, we wnet a while back, literally a flying visit as my husband was speaking at various conferences but I fell in love immediately. Its good to see photos of all the places we didn't go and some that we did.

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    1. As I write this, I'm sitting in Christchurch airport waiting for the long trek home to begin. It has been a wonderful and unforgettable experience and I have a feeling that we may be back to Australasia. Preliminary discussions are underway!

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