Jan 19th: It was not out of voyeurism that took us to Christchurch but a newspaper article that talked about Lonely Planets announcement of Christchurch being one of the top highlights of visiting New Zealand.
We wanted to visit and give support to a place where we could spend our tourist dollar to help support a city and community that has been devastated over the past year or so. Earthquakes continue almost daily and although not to the extent of the two big ones that have rocked Christchurch and Canterbury as a whole.
On traveling around and through Christchurch it was sad to see clear signs of what was once a thriving historic city. In the centre there are swaths of concrete parking lots where buildings once stood and have not been replaced or historic buildings bolstered with supports or held together in preparation for their rebuilding and restoration.
Most rebuilding going on in the commercial space is seemingly by the big national or multinational companies who have the finances and support to start the rebuild, for smaller businesses and companies the struggle is a longer process.
What we learnt throughout our time in NZ, from the newspapers and simply talking to people is that the rebuilding process has and will be long and slow, some insurance companies have not been paying claims as the aftershocks and quakes still continue, stalling the communities ability to rebuild their lives, this along with the continued aftershocks and quakes takes its toll on the local community.
Life is tough in Christchurch and Canterbury but what we found is a great amount of resilience and hope within the community, also a sense of ingenuity in the face of adversity, such as creative ways to continue business even without a bricks and mortar shop (see below)
My Great Grandmother used to have a saying; it was very famous in Britain during World War Two and is something that has continued through the generations to me – “Make do and Mend”. Christchurch and Canterbury have this mentality and it definitely shows in the responses you get from people in the street, happy and helpful and positive! One such example is a young lady who served us in a supermarket chatting away with us as she realized we were visitors, she remained positive about things, “this is Canterbury” she declared! She also talked about the positive impact of the New Zealand All Black team in winning the Rugby world cup, proudly letting us know that the majority of the team were from or played in Canterbury!
Its funny I had not really thought about the power of sport to heal, like when the New Orleans Saints won the American Superbowl, I never had the opportunity to see the much lauded positive impact it would and did have, especially after visiting New Orleans a couple of years after Katrina, much like Christchurch, but it is great to hear about the positive impact and power of sport on the local community.
What I want to say is that spare a thought for the communities impacted by the earthquakes, with the way climate change is impacting the world, any chain of natural events could impact your way of life and family.
If you have the opportunity to go to New Zealand, Visit Christchurch and Canterbury!