Rebuilding Christchurch: A Lesson on Reflection

The last stop on travel writer Nathan McGregor’s travels throughout New Zealand has seen him end up in Christchurch. Here he views the devastation of the latest earthquakes and the rebuilding process taking place.

HOME to around 400,000 residents, Christchurch proudly holds the accolade of being the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand. Only behind Auckland and Wellington in terms of population, Christchurch was obvious to us as a sanctuary of human interaction and collaboration.

Upon our arrival into the city it was apparent the empty spaces and construction work on show. What made our observation more distressing was our understanding of the series of devastating earthquakes which occurred between September 2010 and early 2012. We needed to learn more. Learn more about the history of these events and learn more about what the city viewed as moving forward as a whole.

That’s why we chose to book a tour with Red Bus.

These guys offered an unbridled and unique guided experience through the past, present and future of Christchurch.

Slaloming through the sometimes narrow but bustling streets of Christchurch, the tour itself proved hugely popular in terms of the actual attendance figures on the bus.

I was humbled to learn about the eagerness and friendship that radiated from the tour guide which, in turn, echoed throughout the bus. Reciprocated well from other passengers, the tour guide was keen to hear about our stories and experiences, as well as teaching us about her own.

Travel New Zealand: Christchurch

We learned about the city’s vibrant history, the innovative transitional projects and, most importantly, how a city mourns, reflects and rebuilds.

This was made most apparent as part of the journey included a visit to the unofficial memorial, 185 empty chairs. Designed by local artist Peter Majendie, the memorial honours the 185 people who perished in sadly Christchurch’s most recent and infamous earthquake.

Just after midday on the 22ndFebruary 2011, registering at 6.3 on the Richter scale, the earthquake claimed the lives of 185 people. Sadly, 115 of those victims came out of the Canterbury Television building alone. The earthquakes victims included 12 Japanese students from the Toyama College of Foreign languages as they died in the building collapse.

We were encouraged to walk amongst the seats to take a moment, reflect and envision rebuilding the city and all walks of life throughout.

Rebuilding Christchurch: A Lesson on Reflection

The tour continued throughout Christchurch and stopped off at other sites that had been affected, including large-scale tenement buildings and a church – to name but a few. Some of the local architecture was chosen not to be forgotten by artists leaving their own impressions and concept designs on them. Inspiring, yet a harrowing reminder of the past.

It was clear to see that the devastation of what only happened a number of years is still raw in the minds of locals, and quite understandably so. But what was most recognisable was the spirit, courage and community strength of coming together to rebuild and move forward.

The lesson learned here?

First, we must rebuild our foundations, our communities, our friendships before we look to rebuild our infrastructures.

Christchurch may still be a number of years away from being fully rebuilt, but you can bet it will come back bigger and stronger than ever before.

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