My recent weekend in Christchurch proved to me that life goes on regardless of the earthquake devastation suffered by the city. It did seem very unfair to me, however, for Mother Nature to wreck such havoc on such a beautiful place. Since the life shattering events of 2011 the city has picked itself up, dusted (literally) itself off and is starting all over again. Driving around the CBD left me with the impression that everyone is working hard to get things back to normal -yet there is a lot to do. Not only do the citizens of Christchurch have to rebuild many buildings they have to carry out essential repairs and strengthening works to those structures that survived.
As somebody with a keen interest in place making, I was delighted to have the opportunity to learn from Keith Beal, one of the team rebuilding the city about the challenges and opportunities facing them. We focused some of our time on how the city plans to rescue its major public spaces such as its two cathedrals. In the case of the Blessed Sacrament recovery plans were only announced last September when the diocese confirmed a $45-million revamp of quake-damaged Catholic cathedral. There is a lot of work to do.
Whilst much of the CBD has been rebuilt the city is still wrestling with problems such as a large expanse of land called the ‘red zone’ It stands today as derelict land where the Authorities had to demolish almost 7,700 homes as a result of the earthquake. Whilst proposals to reuse this enormous amount of land stretching to some 630 Hectares are still under discussion it stands like a scar or blot on the landscape.
Whilst it is clear that there is an extensive to-do list which stretches out over the next decade I was struck by how much is been achieved notwithstanding that the city still suffers after-shocks. The most recent one shook the city on Valentine’s day 2016, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on the event as ;- “that’s life you get used to the rumbles!”
It will be interesting to see how the city evolves given it has the chance to inject some new thinking into urban design. Hopefully, they will follow a sensible mix of retaining the best of the old, the learning from other relevant place making initiatives and a fair sprinkling of fresh thinking. It will be a shame if the new look Christchurch follows the same thinking applied by Londoners following the great Fire of 1666 when they spurned Wren’s masterplan for a different London and reverted to the myriad of streets and lane ways which clogs up the city today. The best of luck to the Kiwis with their efforts at reshaping this most interesting of places. They certainly seem up for the struggle as this video demonstrates;- http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/82373313/christchurch-needs-to-fight-for-slice-of-nzs-tourism-boom