How to rebuild a city

Saturday 1st November – Sunday 2nd November
Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand

The flight from Wellington to Christchurch was absolutely beautiful, travelling across the Cook Strait and down the east coast of South Island. 

Christchurch city centre
When visiting the Te Papa museum in Wellington we’d learned a bit about the natural forces affecting the environment in New Zealand, including earthquakes. And if anyone wanted an example of the reality of earthquakes and the destruction they can cause, then Christchurch is it.

We had heard about the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch on 22nd February 2011 (we were less aware that there had been one before then, on 4th September 2010, which had already done some damage to older buildings in the city). Despite this, we weren’t prepared for what the centre of the city would look like when we arrived. Whole blocks levelled. Many of the buildings that were still standing had been condemned, and were clearly just waiting to come down. Infrastructure is also still in a poor state (which led to floods in the city last summer, according to one person I spoke to, due to the fact that the city’s drainage system is still not fixed).


But actually our experience of the city was a positive one – living proof that it’s not buildings that make cities, it’s the people that live there, and the creativity and positivity that they bring. This is a city that’s still living with a terrible recent past, but is facing the future with pride.

The Re:Start mall – Christchurch’s temporary city centre – is built out of shipping containers.




There’s also some fantastic art all over the city (the giraffe is from a new project called Christchurch Stands Tall, which can be found across the city).



But perhaps most impressive is the temporary cathedral that has been built. Nicknamed the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’, the structure is built from cardboard tubes, covered in corrugated plastic. A truly incredible building!



Rugby in Riccarton and Botanic Gardens
We are always looking for opportunities to enjoy sport in the countries we visit, and in New Zealand it had to be rugby union. So, first thing on Sunday morning, we headed a short distance out of the city centre to Riccarton, to a pub that was showing the All Blacks against the USA in Chicago (the first time the All Blacks have played in the US since 1980). It was all a bit one-sided – the final score was 74 – 6 to the All Blacks – but the USA played well in possession and the fans in the pub seemed to be enjoying it anyway.

On Sunday we also took a walk through the Botanic Gardens. It was a beautiful spring day, and showed a very different side of the city.

Photo of the day
This temporary art installation in Christchurch city centre is called ‘185 Empty Chairs’. The chairs represent the people that lost their lives in the earthquake of 22nd February 2011. The individuality of each chair pays tribute to the uniqueness of each person represented.



One response to “How to rebuild a city

  1. Really nice blog, as usual. Love Dad & Di xx


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