boat propelled by a guide who was dressed in a blazer and straw hat and carried
a long wooden pole was an unusual way to see a disaster zone.
an operations manager for Punting on the
Avon, takes tourists into Christchurch’s Red Zone, where
some of the worst damage was inflicted on the heart of New Zealand's second
city. About 185 people died in the devastation on 22 February 2011 when a
magnitude 6.3 tremor struck New Zealand's South Island. Now, two years on,
ruined buildings and vast empty spaces where hotels, shops and homes once stood
dominate the landscape in the earthquake-scarred city.
Over the top of
a grassy riverbank, Jamie pointed to an apartment block that is listing so
badly it needs to be torn down, along with 80% of the city centre. It is an
enormous job as every brick and twisted sheet of metal must be removed by
truck. No-one was even allowed to access the Red Zone for 18 months after the
quake as the area was too dangerous and unstable.
eerie," Storey said. "I've been here beforehand so I know what it
used to look like prior to the shakes. At the moment it is quite quiet, because
there is no public that have been allowed access for the past year and a half. It
feels like a ghost town. There are areas that feel almost
of the Red Zone reopened in August 2012, Christchurch still feels subdued and
shaken. For tourists, the desolate downtown area that once hummed with vitality
and history can be a confronting experience; among the wreckage, the dust and the
noise, lorry loads of debris are still being carted away.
But all around
the city there are unmistakable signs of the population's resolve to bounce
back from its trauma. Within sight of the ruins of the city’s iconic 150-year Anglican Cathedral, the
mall, a temporary shopping centre built from brightly coloured shipping
containers, has become home to more than 25 designer clothes stores, cafes and
gift shops. On a bright day, it is an oasis of normality in the middle of the
Gap Filler, is fostering innovation amid the rubble and
vacant spaces. This urban regeneration scheme started as a response to the
earthquakes, to temporarily create "beautiful and active sites"
within some of the worst hit parts of Christchurch. Their coin-operated disco, the
a formerly-vacant site near the Re:start mall, pumps out music and
lighting through a converted washing machine. For just one New Zealand dollar,
visitors can plug their MP3 players or smartphones into the system and enjoy
one of New Zealand's most unusual dance floors. Britain's Prince Charles
recently showed off a
few royal moves on an official visit to Christchurch.
And at the end of March, another new attraction
will emerge from the ruins with the unveiling of a cathedral made
from cardboard, which will temporarily replace the original Anglican
landmark that was pulverised by those seismic forces. The giant six storey A-frame
structure, which will seat 700 people, will be constructed of 86 large cardboard
tubes placed on shipping containers, with a stained-glass window dominating its
façade. The specially treated industrial cardboard will be water and fire
proof, and promises to be a focal point for both the local community and
such an innovative building go up really does put forward to the city and to
the people a sign of hope," said project coordinator Reverend Craig
But perhaps the
greatest attraction in Christchurch is the city itself, and the determined
efforts of its quake-weary people to recreate the place they love.