Christchurch revisited

I’ve jut spent the weekend in Christchurch, the first time I have spent any length of time there for quite a while.

Coincidentally it’s 10 years since the first Christchurch earthquake.

I had passed through or stayed briefly in Christchurch a handful of times since the earthquakes, and had seen the city centre a couple of times but didn’t hang about, It had a semi-desolate and sort of spooky feel to it, with a lot of empty sections and abandoned buildings.

This time I spent an hour or so wandering round the city centre.

There are a number of new buildings, some of which look flash, but there’s still quite a few ghost buildings, including a couple of high rise towers, quite a few empty sections, and a lot of work going on. And there weren’t many people there other then those in high-vis clothing.

There is still a lot to do until it is back to it’s new normal, and it looks like that will take years.

Roads were a lot busier outside the city centre. Christchurch had already become dominated by suburban malls, and after the earthquakes many businesses moved out from the centre and have stayed out. So in many parts of the city things look more back to normal.

I was staying in the east of the city and travelled through parts of the east quite a bit. Without knowing or looking closely it appears there are many green park areas, but when you know what many of these areas are it is obvious that despite there being no buildings and only perimeter fences (some with warning tape) everything is laid out in rectangles. Lines of plants are old hedges, and shrubs have grown.

These are the red zones, whole chunks of suburbs stripped of buildings and fences but mostly left deserted and unused. I don’t know what is planned for these.

I was staying people who have just bought a house in Christchurch, but most of the time I was in there I did what I usually do when visiting cities – getting out.

We went north to have a look around Woodend and Kaiapoi (the first time I’ve been to Kaiapoi which is just off the main highway) because I have some old family history there. We went to the beach (Christchurch has a very long beach punctuated by a few river mouths).

We then went down the coast, through New Brighton which was quite busy on a Sunday but generally looking quite jaded. Sumner was also busy – too busy to stop. So we went up into the port hills and walked around Godfrey Heads. Great views of parts of Banks Peninsula.

The old WW2 observation posts and gun placements are interesting, but were probably pretty much token and wouldn’t have been great defence for Lyttleton Harbour or the beach (the guns were supposed to cover it up to Waimakariki mouth) if anyone seriously wanted to attack.

The road to Godley Head is very narrow with steep drops so you have to be careful when you need to pass other vehicles.

One funny thing – when we were in the Square we saw a statue of John Robert Godley who is considered to be the founder of Canterbury. There was a seagull on his head.

A curious fact – I always thought that Canterbury was an English settlement and Christchurch a very English city, but Godley was born in Dublin and his father is referred to as Anglo-Irish (but was a landowner in Ireland so was probably a colonial import).

Yesterday we went through the tunnel to Lyttleton to have a look around there – it’s a fairly small port with a small old looking town.

We then drove around the peninisula a bit and back along a ridge road which had great views of the harbour and peninsula and also of the Canterbury plans stretching to hazy mountains. We had a wee walk and climb to and up Gibraltar. It was an enjoyable and sunny excursion.

I’ll likely be going to Christchurch and spending more time there. The gloom of the earthquakes has been slow to lift and there is evidence of them everywhere, but the city seems to be slowly recovering.

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  1. John J Harrison

     /  8th September 2020

    Pete, I’m from Christchurch originally and returning for family occasions are an eye – opener.
    Frankly, apart from the attempted rejuvenated of the Cashel Street / Avon river area I find the city centre absolutely depressing.
    None more so than the heart of the city, Cathedral Square.
    Here you have the iconic cathedral looking worse than it did 10 years ago.
    Not only is it still in its semi – demolished state but covered in weeds, graffiti and assorted trash.
    All due to the internecine brawling amongst the Anglican factions.
    Love, peace and tolerance- yeah right !

    • They have just started work on restoring the Cathedral. I’m not sure it’s sensible thing to do but that’s what’s happening.

      I thought the city centre felt more than depressing on past visits but it wasn’t as bad this time, it just looked a long tome from full rejuvenation.

  2. John J Harrison

     /  8th September 2020

    Pete, thanks for that.
    My last visit was in February.
    Obviously, after 10 years they are making a start.

  3. Gerrit

     /  8th September 2020

    Some context around rebuild times. Even 20 years after WW2 there were still rebuilding work going on where I grew up.

    I think the difference was that, before the rebuild stated in Rotterdam, they decided to future proof the city and build an underground rail system and a modern port. Meant focus was on that instead of other projects. Having a large pool of under employed workers made the work schemes doable (unlike Christchurch). Mind you they had a lead time of 5 years to make decisions on what to do, in the city, during the war.

    But it all takes time once you start. Local parks for example, were still not finished 20 years later as the labour pool went onto more productive work..

    Even though bombing had flattened large parts of the city, the basic underground infrastructure (sewerage, water, electricity) was still there. Unlike in an earthquake when the underground services are totally destroyed.

    Remember driving to Sumner from Pleasant Point, a year after the earthquake, on a roller coaster of a road. That road would not be fixed till the underground services were first repaired that flow under that and all other roads. .

    At least the Catholics had the sense to demolish their cathedral though that decision has taken 10 years?

    • Duker

       /  8th September 2020

      Catholics havent yet demolished their cathedral( just started)..the building costs have gone through the roof since an possibly reconstruction early on.
      Even that will take 18 months !
      if they were clever they would have had a rebuild ‘shovel ready by now’ – which just means plans drawn up- and got some covid money to start.
      But their minds are drawn to a ‘new precinct’ ..which costs a lot more money and does who knows what.

    • I have read about bomb sites still being there in England in the 60s.

      They are still paying for WWI, or were until recently ! Why not make the bloody Germans pay for it ? They began it.

      • Blazer

         /  8th September 2020

        How did the Germans begin it?

        Please think before you start typing.

        You are a font of misinformation and wildly inaccurate theories.

        • Look it up or buy a book. It would take too long to explain it here, and you would sneer and try to refute whatever I said.

          You seem to be unaware of the countries they invaded. Didn’t you learn any history at all at school ? You must have some idea of how the two wars began and what caused them.

          • Blazer

             /  8th September 2020

            ‘Why not make the bloody Germans pay for it ? They began it.’

            Looking it up or buying a book will not make this statement true fact.

            Stick to English literature you can bluff your way through…that.

      • Gerrit

         /  8th September 2020

        The German history between the two wars is a fascinating study on how not to proceed after vanquishing the foe. They did make Germany pay for it with money lent to the Germans (they had no means to raise the money) from the USA. Repatriation meant that none of the USA loans were for the German rebuild. That all fell apart in 1929 with the stock market crash. Germany owed heaps, had no means to pay it, dividing the country to enable either natrionalism or communism to be the dominant player. Hitler seized the opportunity for the nationalists and the rest is history that you will well know. .

        Worth a read;

        A lesson certainly taken on board after WW2.

        • Blazer, alas, doesn’t know or he wouldn’t need to ask. He seems unaware of the various countries invaded by Germany ! Or of the events leading up to WWI. We learned this at school; he seems not to have.

          Germany caused the wars; only someone like Blazer would attempt to deny this. If I had said that they didn’t, he would argue the opposite and say that they did, I suspect. He is like that, it’s his nature to be as disagreeable as possible and contradict even in the face of irrefutable evidence. Meshuuggenah.

          When Germany recovered financially, how much reparation of the amount that they owed did they actually have to repay ?

          • Gerrit

             /  8th September 2020

            Repatriation after WW2 was not as much financial but more ceding territory, give up IP, provide free labour, give up manufacturing facilities, pay for the cost of occupation,etc.

            Money changed hands to various countries. It must be taken in context of the beginning of the cold war. Shipping whole German manufacturing plants and IP to Russia was not in the interest of the NATO players. As was ceding more land to the eastern sphere of influence. The Marshall plan to rebuilt Germany was as to have a strong buffer between the West and East.

            Russia kept 100’s of thousands of POW as labourers. Not many returned to Germany (either east or west).

            Worth a read



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