Friday, 1 July 2011


We have been working in Christchurch for two weeks - across a couple of government departments as we move to more co-ordination in the public sector - something we support whole heartedly.

We stayed at a motel a stones throw from the barriers around the cordoned off CBD. While houses and buildings around it shook apart during the big quakes, the motel and its next door twin stayed strong.
And that is the most perplexing thing to a quake virgin like us- that some buildings cannot withstand the shocks while others brace against the onslaught and shrug off the fiercest of the vibrations.

We were in Christchurch for work shortly after the September quake and that left us sad and numb but nothing can prepare you for the visual shock of the damage in the worst areas of the city -post February's big one.

We weathered a 5.5 bone jarring jolt on the first night we were there this time that bought us to our knees. It was a but a shimmy to the big shakes.

The thought of another quake hovers on the edge of your existence day in and day out.

The residents draw on a huge well of resilience to get through each day.

While some people think that the centre, the CBD, is the heart of the city- we dont think that way. We think it is Hagley Park. That great verdant centre of Christchurch with its lush magnificence that is the home to the Hagley hound dogs - the pooches that walk their owners around its paths every day. And the older couples who map out a route for a bracing stroll on a willy chilling frosty morning. And the lithe lycra clad young guns who jog at pace. And the mothers with children at heel and prams pushed out front with vigour. Thats where the heart of the city beats.Christchurch people look much fitter and healthier than their northern cousins and its because that great Green is their space, they are part of it and it is part of them.

Lots has been said about the stoic nature of southerners ands its a truism and we witnessed it as we watched older people looked out for each other. The problem is that stoicism is stopping them from asking for help when they need it. They just think that there will be someone in a worse situation than them and they dont want to trouble anyone.

And in the muck ridden pockets out east life is a groundhog hell. People have to cope with the most rudimentary of living conditions. There are even some in Christchurch who have no real understanding of how bad it is.

We had dinner with some residents who lived over by Merrivale who have considerable damage to their home but its repairable. They bundled their children up in the car after their off hand comments made the parents realise that they really didnt get the enormity of the situation for those out east. So they took them for a drive around the worst areas last weekend so they could get an understanding of what other people were living through. They cried.

Others, big strong men who have worked in the central city for 20 years, still haven't been in to see it - they told us bluntly, without shame that they aren't ready yet.

And there is no way to describe the effort that is going in to sorting out the mess other than to say it is a hugely complex event on every front made more so by that mental shadow of the possibility of another quake that you see in the eyes of almost everyone.

All those involved in the recovery effort are working long hours often in crappy conditions to get the place working again - that goes for the street cleaners to the people at Cera, the volunteers , the home bakers, the hospital workers, the mums and dads - everyone is getting on with the job of getting their city sorted again.

And each day is another step forward another bit fixed another problem solved and other person helped.

Christchurch residents enjoy the interraction with "out of towners," They are happy to share their experiences and for some there is a need to talk. So visits by others are appreciated and injecting your hard earned dollars into they economy is even more appreciated.

And so much of the city is unscathed so there is infrastructure to support visitors. Your journeys around the town might take a little longer but hey - whats a few more minutes here and there?

What will come out of Christchurch is an amazing city and a whole generation of young people who will be made better and stronger and more caring by their experience, that much we can see now.

But if you dont live in Christchurch and want to know what you can do - pick up the phone - ring the friends and family that you may not have talked to for a while.

Its a tough bleak winter for the good people of Canterbury and they will welcome the warmth of your voice .

Remember while the bricks and mortar and the rebuild is critical to the future of Christchurch what is most important right now? He Tangata He tangata - it is people it is people.

1 comment:

gravedodger said...

I don't want to sound Mawkish but I may well do so.
Your empathy and caring are evident in your words.
I am nowhere as affected as many but I have been amongst some of the worst affected and just someone expressing what you have is often enough to prevent an unraveling.
I went to my local for Happy hour this evening and we are lucky in that we still have one. It was indeed still happy.
I met up with an acquaintance, he is a good bastard and no more than just that, he got up from his stool,shook my hand and gave me a little 'man hug' and when I said how great it was to catch up and thanked him for his obvious support his reply was, It was good for me to.
We are largely a more considerate, caring, thoughtful people and although we will still have people who slip through the cracks, the community that is emerging is a far better one than it was.

Thankyou for calling, I am certain you have made a difference to many of those you have touched.

kind regards