Archive for the ‘Earthquake’ Category

The site of St Luke’s Church on the corner of Manchester and Kilmore Streets has been a significant part of my life, although I don’t remember ever attending a service there.

My earliest memory, aged three, is of going to Play Centre in St Luke’s Hall. Later experience as a Play Centre mother leads me to believe that one of my parents must have accompanied me, but I have no memory of this. What I do remember is being served slices of apples and oranges at morning tea time.

St Luke’s corner is where my father suffered a fatal accident when I was just five. I recall seeing the motorbike he’d been riding lying on the road beside the church.

In the late 1980s PLEBS (Plains Exchange and Barter System) used to hold a monthly market in the Church Hall which we often attended. In the 1990s I was part of a group facilitated by Virginia Westbury where we discussed Goddess traditions. Virginia has a particular interest in labyrinths and she created one on canvas that was displayed at St Luke’s one Sunday afternoon each month. I frequently enjoyed this meditative journey. Sadly the canvas labyrinth was lost in the earthquake.

After the 2011 earthquakes St Luke’s Church was de-consecrated and demolished. Now the bell tower is the only part of the building that remains.

St Luke’s Bell Tower

A plaque on the seat at the bus stop outside the church site memorialises the women who have worked, lived, and died on the streets of Christchurch, and is particularly appropriate as this is an area frequented by street workers.

Memorial plaque for street workers

After the earthquakes a group of students constructed a brick labyrinth in the church grounds that is still there today.

St Luke’s Labyrinth

The building at the right of this photo is St Luke’s vicarage which was in use for over 125 years.

When the poignant 185 White Chairs earthquake memorial needed to be moved to make way for the new stadium it was fitting that it should come to the St Luke’s site.

185 White Chairs

The other significant aspect of this site is that it is believed to be the burial place of Tautahi, for whom our city is named Ōtautahi.

A while ago I heard there was a plan to build a community centre and Diocesan offices on this site, but I’ve heard nothing further. Do you have memories of this corner of Christchurch?

This site has seen so many things
let’s see just what the future brings

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Today, the tenth anniversary of The Christchurch Quake, I again led a small ceremony of remembrance on the riverbank as part of the River of Flowers commemoration. We were supplied with flowers by Moffats, and also with three floral artworks. I went over early to install these artworks which was not easy. Although they are on iron poles the ground was hard and dry and I couldn’t push them in very far. I went home to get a hammer to assist me, and as I walked back across the road I was conscious of the fact that someone was murdered with a hammer last night, just a couple of blocks away. Even with the hammer I couldn’t get the artworks far into the ground, but I hope they’ll stay upright for the rest of the day.

Flowers and artworks

This year there’s a new seat beside the Bricks cairn and new planting on the riverbank which all seems to symbolise the fact that we are moving forward. The river was tranquil with a few ducks floating by and the summer sound of cicadas. I sat there at 12.15pm wondering who and how many would come to this ten year commemoration. Over 40 people turned up, and I felt emotional as we observed our two minutes’ silence.

Over recent days media have been focussed on the earthquake and its anniversary, and I’ve seen, heard, and read more than I want to. My experience of the earthquake and its aftermath is available on my blog archive for anyone who’s interested, and over 500 of my post-earthquake posts are permanently stored in the University of Canterbury’s Quake Studies archive.

I’ve been honoured to take part in our local annual commemoration, but I’m pleased that this will be the last year I take responsibility for it. Ten years is enough for me. In future people may continue to put a flower in the river, but it will be an individual action rather than anything co-ordinated.

We’ve done it for ten years and so
the time seems right to let it go

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Today, the ninth anniversary of the major Christchurch earthquake, I was privileged to again lead an informal commemoration beside the river.  We were pleased that so many local people came.  I’m not sure of the number – at least 40.  Several told me how much they appreciate the opportunity to remember in this way.  Always a poignant occasion, I felt emotional during the two minute silence, and when I tossed a flower into the river while the piper played Abide with me.  I suspect the emotion will always be there on this date.  There’s a woman currently doing a study that suggests there have been changes in the brains of those who experienced the earthquakes.

Afterwards everyone was invited to a barbecue lunch at the Community Cottage.  Rain had been forecast for the middle of the day, but the sun shone, and we sat in the shade of a large gazebo enjoying live music.  The rain, much needed and very welcome, started to fall in the late afternoon.

Later as I sat doing the daily Code Cracker I realised that the first word was seismic, and the word earthquake also featured.  Good to have this oblique extra acknowledgement of the day.

Years ago when I was a Brown Owl 22 February was celebrated as Thinking Day because it was the birthday of both Lord and Lady Baden Powell.  I asked a current Scout leader whether this is still so and he told me they now call 22 February Founders’ Day – not sure whether they still use the day as an occasion to think, but in Christchurch we certainly do.

On this our special day of days
our memories come in different ways

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We went on a Heritage Festival tour of McLean’s Mansion this morning.  Having organised a Festival event myself I have some appreciation of what’s involved.  This one was many times more complex.  Our booking was for 10.20am.  We were asked to arrive half an hour beforehand, which we duly did, and registered.  We were given a copy of the Site Emergency Evacuation Plan, then obliged to wait for half an hour.  Luckily there were chairs to sit on.  We were able to wander around part of the gardens and to realise what a tremendous amount of work will be needed to restore and maintain them.

McLean’s Mansion

At this stage my trusty camera (only ten years old) refused to work.  Luckily I had my cellphone, but hadn’t used its camera for six months and it took me a while to remember just how to do it.  Unfortunately the couple of shots I took inside the house were too hurried and came out blurry.

At the beginning of our tour we were given hard hats and hi-vis vests – the third time I’ve worn these in recent weeks.  The guide then told a woman with a larger camera that she would need to leave that with a staff member outside the house.  When I queried whether any photos were allowed he replied that there was no problem with photos, but in an emergency someone might be inclined to focus on saving the camera around their neck rather than exiting quickly.  This seemed absurd to me but I refrained from pointing out that I was carrying a handbag at least as large as her camera (and I’d want to save it).

Our group of 16 was split in two with different guides for the ground and first floor.  It was amazing to see the earthquake and vandal damage, and how much has already been done to make the house safe to enter.

Graffiti inside the building

I have memories of the building from the 1950s and late 1980s.  In the earthquake thick brick internal walls collapsed completely, but because parts were reinforced with iron, much of the building’s integrity was maintained.  Built in 1900 it is New Zealand’s largest heritage wooden residential building and listed as Heritage Category 1.  It’s wonderful to know that it should eventually be restored as a centre for art, music, and community events, especially when Christchurch has lost so much heritage.  With 20 half-hour tours today and more tomorrow and Monday, the volunteers will be busy!  Of course the cost of restoration is tremendous, donations are required, and they are selling merchandise to raise funds.  Stephen assisted by buying a T-shirt.

Souvenir T-shirt

It’s great the Mansion will be saved
providing heritage that’s craved

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Stephen and I went on a Behind the Fences tour of Christ Church Cathedral, as part of the Beca Heritage Festival.  A group of 24 assembled by the police kiosk in the Square, and had our names ticked off the list.  Only three of these tours are scheduled, and I was glad I’d booked early.  A couple of people who hadn’t booked turned up and were politely told there was no room for them.

It felt privileged to be allowed through the gate and into the area which has been off-limits since February 2011.  We’d all been told to wear long sleeves, long trousers (no dresses or skirts), and enclosed flat shoes suitable for rough surfaces.  One man who was wearing shorts to below his knees was given overalls to put on, and we were all issued with hi-vis vests and hard hats.  All of this is required on the site because of Health and Safety regulations, and nobody under 18 was allowed on the tour.

The marshals were members of the Cathedral Reinstatement Project team, and our guides were two Cathedral Vergers, Jenny May who is Heritage adviser for the reinstatement, and Chris Oldham the Cathedral Administrator.

Commencing the tour with Jenny and Chris

It felt quite emotional to be walking on ground that has been forbidden to us for more than eight years, and to have a close-up view of the earthquake damage.

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Parts have been covered with plywood to make them weatherproof, and some of the treasures have been removed.  The statue of the Risen Christ which stood near the front door has been put into storage.  It’s expected that the reinstatement will take 7-10 years, and is still at the planning stage.  I could well be 80 years old before the reinstatement is complete.  All the bells but one survived their fall.  They’ve been refurbished and will be part of the reinstated building.  Halfway through, and at the end of the tour, a recording of the bells was played – nostalgic as we often heard them from home if the wind was blowing in the right direction.  This recording is played at midday every Friday.

There was no charge for this tour and no request for donations, although we were each given a pamphlet which included information about donating.

On the way back to the car park I was accosted by a Radio New Zealand journalist, asking whether I’d be buying a ticket for tonight’s Powerball Lottery, where the prize is $38 million.  I told him I’d never bought a Lotto ticket and disapproved of gambling (you may hear me on Checkpoint this evening).  I did say that when I was in paid work Lottery had paid part of my salary and I’d appreciated that.  I thought afterwards that the Cathedral reinstatement may well be hoping for financial support from Lottery.

We went inside Cathedral fence
the project planned there is immense.


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Flora and Otto have found a new home on the daffodil lawn beside the Botanic Gardens in Hagley Park.

Flora and Otto

I first saw these pieces in Colombo Street five years ago.  The mosaics are made from china which was cracked during the Christchurch earthquakes.  They make a quirky and comely earthquake memorial.

Now any daffodil explorer
may chance to meet Otto and Flora


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It was my privilege today to lead the Earthquake commemoration at The Bricks beside the Barbadoes Street Bridge.  It’s the third time I’ve done this, representing the Avon Loop Planning Association who host this annual event.  After a brief introduction, I sounded a gong for two minutes’ silence, then a piper played Abide with me while we threw our flowers into the river, remembering the changes the earthquakes brought into our lives, and thinking of our hopes for the future of our city.

Piper Gordon McAlpine

This area of the river has special significance for both Maori and Pakeha.  It was the site of the pa of Tautahi for whom Otautahi/Christchurch is named.  On the other side of the bridge is Te Wai Pure, a sacred stream which flows into the Avon, and which has been used by Maori for ritual purposes since Tautahi and his wife Riki were married there.

The Bricks cairn marks where the Deans brothers landed because their boats couldn’t go any further and this whole area was the focus of early Pakeha settlement.  It is also where the tidal waters of the estuary meet the fresh waters of the Avon, a fitting symbol of the bi-cultural heritage of the Avon Loop.

The effects of the earthquake eight years ago are still being felt by many of us, especially children as an article in today’s Press describes.  People who came to The Bricks appreciated the opportunity to be part of a low key commemoration and to come back to the Community Cottage afterwards for refreshments.

We can’t forget eight years ago
when all our lives were altered so


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What’s the most expensive thing you own?  What was it like to buy it?  These questions got me thinking.  A house and car would be the most expensive things I own, but once bought they’re not often changed.  We bought our current home 32 years ago, still love it, and hope to be here forever.  We did buy a new (to us) car three years ago, only because it was no longer economical to repair the old one.

The only other expensive items I can think of are furniture and overseas holidays.  I’m not an avid consumer, and try to live frugally.  However there is one ‘frivolous’ purchase I’ve been quietly seeking for some years.

One of my mother’s prized possessions was a table lamp always referred to as the White Lady Lamp.  My brother in Australia had a similar lamp at his bedside – it must be something in the family genes.  When my mother died I inherited her White Lady Lamp, placed it on a shelf in the lounge above the TV, and always had it on in the evening.  I consider the image to be of Diana/Artemis, a goddess I admire for her ability to set and reach goals.  My mother used a homemade fabric shade which had become tattered, and I replaced this with an attractive stained glass shade.

When The Earthquake struck the lamp fell to the floor, the shade was shattered, and the electric fitting which ran down the centre was broken.  I took it to an electrician who pronounced it beyond repair.  Now my White Lady sits on the shelf bereft of her Lamp.

I’ve looked at TradeMe and in antique shops, but so far have not found a replacement for this 1950s lamp.  If I did I’d buy it, move the Lampless Lady to another spot, and once again bask in the light of a White Lady Lamp.

‘I think perhaps some day I might
buy a new lady lamp that’s white.’

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Two innovative inner city schools, Discovery 1 and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti occupied a central city site until the building was destroyed by earthquakes.  The two schools have merged to become Ao Tawhiti Unlimted Discovery, and will return to the central city in early 2019.  Thier new campus is currently under construction at the corner of St Asaph and Colombo Streets.

New school on its way

In adjacent Mollett Street the students have designed a creative hoarding called ‘Homecoming’  Different classes created works to hang on the stave ‘like washing on a line’.

Homecoming artwork

It’s good to know the school will soon be back taking advantage of all the learning opportunities the central city can offer.

‘They offer a new way to learn
student directed at each turn.’


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This is an amazing book about an amazing family.  Chessie covers the story from the birth of her parents, through an African honeymoon, isolation in the Tokelaus, the experience of major earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura, and the family’s determined support of each other through many challenges.

Much of it is set in places that are familiar to me.  The chapter on the Christchurch earthquake makes breathless reading and brought back many memories.  Reading about the feeling of fragility that lingers after the trauma made me wonder whether I should be reading this at all.

Another theme is the overwork and stress of G.P.s, especially rural ones, together with the difficulty of admitting when one is facing burnout and needs help.   The whole book gripped me.  I am in awe of the skill and understanding displayed by the young author and wonder what she will choose for her next subject.

‘As Chessie’s family make it through
I wonder what else she might do.’


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