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.