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Archive for the ‘Earthquake’ Category

Christine and I set out this morning with some trepidation as the forecast was for rain. We bundled up warmly and drove to Dallington, north-east of the central city. We’d planned to start our walk from the newly opened Dallington Landing, which we understood was at the corner of Gayhurst and River Roads. However, that location was not easily found and we eventually parked by the recently rebuilt Medway Footbridge, the third bridge on that site.

Medway Footbridge

The previous Medway Bridge was completely destroyed in the 2011 earthquakes, and part of it now forms a memorial.

Munted Medway Bridge

We followed the river back to Gayhurst Road where we discovered the Dallington Landing. This area is attractively planted, and all funded by the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust.

Dallington Landing

We’d met only one brief shower of rain, and were pleased to sit in a dry shelter to have our morning snack. On the way back we saw several swans and a few traffic cones that had been dumped in the river.

Swans and cones

We popped in to check out the Dallington Craft Shop at the corner of McBratney’s Road, where they offer free books, magazines, and jigsaws. I couldn’t resist adopting a couple of jigsaws to add to my collection. Round the corner the Dallington op shop was also open, so we browsed there. For just one dollar I bought a hole punch to replace my old one which is inclined to leak small bits of paper. All in all, a satisfying expedition.

After a walk it’s good to stop
and browse an interesting shop

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As I walked towards the river early yesterday morning I thought how lucky I am to be free of most responsibilities. When you’re no longer in paid work every day is like a holiday, especially when the weather is warm and sunny. As I continued along among beautiful trees, surrounded by the song of birds and cicadas I found I was feeling heavy, both physically and emotionally. A friendly fluffy dog approached me with tail wagging, and a monarch butterfly flew by, yet neither of these lifted my spirits. I looked up and saw the waning moon outlined in a clear blue sky, reminding me that there is always darkness somewhere.

Tiny moon in the sky

The date being 22 February was the reason for my heaviness. The earthquake anniversary is always a sombre time. At 12.45pm I took some flowers and went over to The Bricks beside the river, where five local people had gathered. One woman had brought a bag full of dahlia flowers which she shared. After 12.51 and some silent contemplation we each threw our flowers into the river to the disgust of the ducks who thought we may have brought treats for them. A sign on the riverbank warned the water is currently polluted and contact should be avoided.

We quietly dispersed, and after lunch on the patio I snoozed for an hour, then listened to the radio which informed me protestors and police were in a standoff outside Parliament, and Putin had moved troops into Ukraine for “peacekeeping” reasons. I longed for some encouraging news.

I’m glad the earthquake day has passed
and hope we’ll get good news at last

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Today marks eleven years since our city was shaken and forever changed by earthquakes. On each of the ten previous anniversaries I’ve been involved in facilitating a commemorative gathering beside the Ōtākaro/Avon River. We decided last year that we would make that the last one, and this year, because of Covid, there is no civic service either.

Tenth earthquake anniversary

Memories of the earthquake are planted deep inside the psyche of all who were here at that time. It was an experiential event that can never be fully understood by anyone from outside. While there’s no formal local gathering today, I expect I will wander over to the river, toss in a flower, and contemplate what happened, some of which I’ve recorded in this verse:

Before and After

Throughout the years before the quake
before the city’s mighty shake
our land we thought would never break
turned out to be a big mistake!

Once Rūaumoko got in action
the ground soon turned to liquefaction
with gravity in counteraction
it shook things up more than a fraction

So many houses gone a-tilt
whole neighbourhoods have been rebuilt
some suffer still survivors’ guilt
remembering the blood that spilt

And now eleven years have passed
since that day left us all aghast
the need to set things right was vast
our Red Zone now is fully grassed

There was a citizens’ committee
set up to plan for our new city
but then the Government got shitty
and over-rode them – what a pity!

But after all the ballyhoo
we finally have something new
a lovely river path, that’s true
and playground where the kids run through

Our town will never be the same
with much lost heritage a shame
new buildings sometimes earn acclaim
but few will merit long term fame

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Those who experienced the Christchurch earthquakes will find this novel enthralling, and possibly disturbing. I recommend it to anyone who seeks to understand the effect the earthquakes had on the people of Christchurch.

After starting with an earthquake, the story later goes on to consider the effect a virus spreading from China would have on international students, and much of what is written seemed so familiar. Two major issues that have affected all of Christchurch this century are laid bare through the eyes of a group of University students who are also feeling their way through new relationships. In some cases the consequences of the earthquakes have influenced responses to the pandemic.

I found parts of this book moving, especially the return to the red zone. Everyone who lived through the earthquakes has their own story and it’s good to have some of them recorded in this novel. It relates how the after-shocks have eaten into our psyches and will remain with us indefinitely – perhaps for ever.

Bringing the earthquakes and the pandemic together in one novel is brave, and it may be too much for some readers. I appreciated the author’s personal story at the end. This self-published book will surely be one that is valued as a fictional but believable chronicle of unusual times.

As well as living through the quake
we now have vaccines we must take

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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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