When I wrote about the September 2010 Canterbury earthquake for Online Insider, there was a sense of invincibility about the region.
We had been through a whopping great quake and no-one had died, the iconic cathedral in the square was intact, and life had pretty much returned to normal for anyone who wasn’t homeless or wrestling with their insurance company.
Things could only get better, right?
Wrong. On 22 February, as you will all know, a smaller but much more devastating tremor hit nearer the city of Christchurch – pretty much under the Heathcote entrance to Lyttleton tunnel for those of you who know the area.
Cliffs and boulders fell from the hillsides, in the city centre buildings crumbled, TVs and microwaves flew across room in the suburbs, and liquifaction spewed through damaged ground in the east. The spire on the cathedral collapsed.
The real tragedy was that 181 people were killed, many more seriously injured, and thousands made homeless in a matter of 20 or so seconds.
Almost four months on, and horror stories from that day continue to be told – houses jumping into the air, people being flung metres from where they were standing, rats falling through the ceiling into the pool at QEII, to mention just a few that I’ve heard.
The aftershocks also continue. Our sense of invincibility has been replaced with an atmosphere of vulnerability. However, the amazing support from the rest of New Zealand and the world has touched the hearts of many Cantabrians.
Some have left the area for good, but most will stay put and are looking forward to rebuilding the city. It’s a rare opportunity for locals, and the level of public consultation is impressive. The Share an Idea website takes its lead from Twitter and gives people 140 characters to spell out their dream for Christchurch.
As at 9 June, 61,718 ideas have been submitted. There have been workshops and meetings and the next stage is an interactive online game, Magnetic South , to help the people of Christchurch and beyond brainstorm – and hopefully build a city that the generations to come will be proud of.
Thus far the main themes have been a desire for a decent transport system (light rail and/or trams) to the suburbs and commuter towns. Green spaces, cycle-friendliness, and food markets. Places for people, young and old, to play, but also incentives for businesses to return to the centre. Oh, and low rise, earthquake proof buildings!
We are at the very beginning of an exciting journey to create a city from what is almost a blank canvas. Modern-style or heritage, nothing will please everyone. But whatever the end result, I for one can’t wait to see what Christchurch looks like in its new clothes in the years to come.
Yesterday afternoon, 13th June, another 6.3 ‘aftershock’ rocked the area. Unlike its February predecessor this one, fortunately, did not claim lives. It has however caused significant damage – some of it new and some of it damage on top of damage. Essential services in many areas have been knocked out. Schools have closed. It seems it is not over yet.