I was in Christchurch yesterday. I was there for work, MCing an early morning event in the centre of the city.
And in the background, I could hear the all-too familiar sound of heavy machinery and construction crews hard at work. The sound of the rebuild entering its seventh year.
I was near the Bridge of Remembrance, looking out across the Avon towards the sunrise, and watching three large cranes as they cranked into life.
Today, of course, is February 22, the sixth anniversary of the 6.3 earthquake that ripped through Christchurch, changing countless lives forever and reshaping the footprint of the city.
My family still lives in Christchurch and each time I go home it's always a challenge to manoeuvre through the city. So many of the landmarks I grew up with are gone, but the city was humming yesterday. Why? Well, The Boss. Bruce Springsteen was in town and 30,000 people flooded into AMI Stadium to see his first concert in the South Island.
I didn't really think that through, did I? I should have stayed on in town to see him play.
But the best source of knowledge in any city, I think, is always the taxi drivers and mine was a wealth of knowledge.
He showed me where the new metro sports facility will be - one of the many big civic projects that are yet to take shape - and the Town Hall and the Convention Centre too.
But even without those projects in place, Christchurch is truly becoming such a modern, beautiful city. It's my home town so I always thought Christchurch was beautiful, but it's almost glistening these days. It feels fresh and new and clean and modern. It feels so state of the art.
And here are so many new restaurants and a gazillion shops I want to explore. There's never enough time. And still so many big retail centres yet to come.
Something that did surprise me, though, is that a lot of Cantabrians don't head into the city anymore. Well, that's what my taxi driver told me. And so I guess that is the real challenge for Christchurch, isn't it? How do you bring people back from the suburbs and into the city? And are Cantabrians receptive to living back in the city, in apartments? Or are they happier in the 'burbs?
I always find it difficult to comment on Christchurch because I don't live there anymore. And I know there are still so many frustrations and challenges that people face.
But as someone who pops in and out of the city from time to time, I am in awe of how it's developing. Everything is within walking distance. There are intimate laneways, pretty little courtyards, and magical futuristic architecture. Yes, there are still reminders of its past, but it is very much a new Christchurch and is well on its way to becoming our most beautiful city.
- Rachel Smalley hosts Early Edition on Newstalk ZB