Christchurch is definitely not your average city. It’s the largest city in the south island with a population of about 375,000. There were two earthquakes that significantly changed the city, a 7.1 in September 2010 south-west of Christchurch followed by a more damaging 6.3 that hit in February 2011 with the epicentre just 10km from the city centre. It caused the greatest ground acceleration ever recorded in New Zealand. 185 people died in the 2011 quake mostly from within two buildings and there were around 11,000 aftershocks. Over half of the buildings in the city centre were condemned and the infrastructure of the city ground to a halt. Six years on and they are on the road to a stronger city but they are by no means finished. The city centre is a mix of rubble covered patches of land used as temporary car parks, condemned buildings blocked up and covered in graffiti waiting to be demolished, temporary structures made of shipping containers, portacabins or similar allowing shops, cafes and bars to keep open, half built construction projects with promises of a better Christchurch and lots and lots of glossy new glass office blocks, shops and houses.
From what I’ve seen of the construction underway the key to building within the new construction requirements is several a-frame steel structures on the ground level. Local residents have been consulted throughout the rebuild but the logic in the order of construction is based on what funding is approved for what project first. A taxi driver told us the local council is broke because of all the investment required and the government is heavily involved in a lot of projects. The central library is underway and due to be finished next year, a convention centre is agreed but not started yet and they are currently consulting on cathedral square which is the key open space in the city. They have done a lot of work around the river Avon which looks really nice and when it’s finished they say it will be the safest city in the world in terms of earthquakes but it’s probably about 15 years off being finished.
Out with the city centre there were 2,500 homes destroyed, mostly through damage from silt. There are red zones around the city where the land is not geologically safe to build on. The street we live on is mostly new builds so I assume most of the houses here were lost but don’t worry there were lots of extensive geological surveys done across the region before any rebuild was allowed.
One of the focal points is the Cathedral which was damaged beyond repair in 2011. It has been suggested that a restore project could take up to 22 years and cost up to $225million. There’s been a lot of debate about what to do with it. The Catholic church deconsecrated the ground and relocated while a decision was made. Earlier this week they gifted the building to the government and people of NZ. I guess they gifted the bill for restoring or removing it too.
Wandering about the city you see signs of temporary parks and public places created in the suburbs while the city centre was a no-go zone. The problem now is that the city centre is still very quiet and there are very few tourists. Hopefully this will change over time as the city has a lot to offer.
So what’s happened this week…
We went to Lyttleton on Saturday. It’s about 6 miles away and is the harbour where all the ships come in. It is a lovely town with a great community spirit, they had a farmers market which was very busy, it was clear that most people knew each other and tourists weren’t around. We also made it to Glamour Cakes bakery which I found when we were in Scotland. The doughnuts are amazing, click on the link to see photos.
On Sunday I made my slow roast beef in Guinness for everyone in the house which went down well. Danny brought home a Scotsman from his afternoon of drinking. Despite being blootered Alan was interesting, totally loved the roast beef and most of all gave Chris and I some helpful information including a butcher that sells black pudding and haggis.
NZ news this week highlights there is a 100,000 increase in the population which is worrying them. They highlight an increase in UK and US numbers due to Brexit and Trump. However businesses in NZ are saying they need the increased numbers to fill jobs. The concern seems to be mostly around Auckland where Chris and I have no desire to head to.
Chris started his job, his first shift didn’t start until 9.30am but since we had a month’s worth of rain on Monday that was just as well as the buses were all running late. He seems to have had a good week and wasn’t too tired by end of Friday which surprised me as he hasn’t work Monday to Friday for three years since he left Ninewells. I’ve applied for Chris’s tax number through the post office.
I’ve been spending my time walking everywhere (too tight to pay for buses!) I clocked up 21,500 steps today though my legs are feeling it now. I’ve found all the good shopping centres and seem better at finding bargains than our housemates that are kiwis, clearly still a Fifer at heart!
The weather has been good for winter. It was 19 degrees yesterday and I sauntered into town with my sleeveless top and holiday trousers to be met by locals wearing three layers, nobody else was dressed like it was summer. It’s clearly going to take time to acclimitise myself to this better weather. To make you all feel better It’s to rain here over the weekend.