Quake - a year on: Christchurch is 'the waiting place'


As New Zealand prepares to mark the first anniversary of the February 22, 2011 Christchurch earthquake, nzherald.co.nz asked local bloggers to describe how their lives have been affected in the year since. We sought a range of voices to paint a broad picture of how life really is in the shattered city.

Bex Davies has relied on the support of her friends in New Zealand's digital community, as well as her neighbours and friends locally, as she and her two young children struggled to adapt to life in a city with an unstable foundation and an uncertain future.

Follow her on Twitter: @BexieLady.

Bex Davies' children have incorporated Christchurch's post-quake bureaucracy into their play routines. Photo / Troy Rawhiti-Forbes
Bex Davies' children have incorporated Christchurch's post-quake bureaucracy into their play routines. Photo / Troy Rawhiti-Forbes

I've spent the year picking up broken glass.

I waste my time on trips to shops which I hope are open, but barely anyone bothers to update their websites if they're closed. I watch my friends cry as their houses are unexpectedly red zoned or - the more frustrating - white zoned, throwing them into who knows how many years of limbo land.

Waiting, waiting... Christchurch has become 'the waiting place' from Dr Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!.

I've been spending months driving past broken buildings and then, within two days, they are gone. In the bigger picture, we look stagnant, but if you look closer Christchurch is changing with every day that passes.

I live just across the road from the artist formerly known as the city centre. It is strange to think that when I saw my street when I first moved back from Auckland in 2008, I thought: "I am going to live on that street one day."

I loved it because it was so close to the CBD, there was so much to do, so many beautiful buildings nearby.

Well, we all know how that story ends.

My children, aged two and four, play 'earthquake', where they make little houses out of boxes, climb in and shake them until they fall down. Then they have a talk to each other about their earthquake damage, and fill in pretend EQC forms. They still get extremely scared whenever there is some sort of documentary piece about the earthquakes on TV, so I intend to keep it turned off for the next few days.

Life has changed so much in a year. My children's friend, our neighbour's child, lost her father in the February earthquake. She says to me, "I'm never going to see my Dad again." It breaks my heart. She's only six.

Before the earthquakes, we neighbours had only spoken a handful of times. Now we speak daily. I think we feel safer knowing that we have people we know right next door if something was to happen.

Generally, people in Christchurch have always been friendly toward each other, but it feels as though the earthquake has drawn us closer over the past year. I have talks about life with the checkout staff at the supermarket. People are more forward with compliments and engagement with strangers. You can feel the (occasionally awkward) gratitude for life that radiates from people. We are bolder, braver. It's wonderful.

I think another positive is that it's highly unlikely that we will ever face as much disaster as we did a year ago. The buggered buildings are cordoned off. A year later, I can say I genuinely feel safe here. I don't feel like my life is in danger at all.

It's been interesting watching new bars and shops pop up every month or so, people are putting in a lot of effort, new fit-outs, the functioning parts of the city look very chic and fresh.

The SoMo (south of Moorhouse Ave) area is worth keeping an eye on. 363 Columbo Street received a dramatic makeover, and has turned into one of my favourite shopping spots, along with the Cashel container mall.

I don't know how I feel about the anniversary of the earthquake. I myself, along with so many others, am just trying to move on and find our new normal. I just keep trucking, in Christchurch, the waiting place, the city of "no public access."

We are the tortoise in terms of regenerating our city, slow and steady - but I know we will win the race in the end.

Read also:
Mike Dickison - City without a heart

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