Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Australian Governor-General visits quake-ravaged Christchurch

Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Cathedral Square today. Photo / Getty Images
Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Cathedral Square today. Photo / Getty Images

The Governor-General of Australia has today made an emotional whistle-stop tour of earthquake-ravaged Christchurch.

After paying tribute to the 185 victims of the February 22, 2011 quake by laying a wreath at the Bridge of Remembrance in the city centre, she was "exited and exhilarated" by the ingenuity of the rebuild, before witnessing the crippled Christ Church Cathedral up close.

Ms Quentin Bryce and her Kiwi counterpart, Governor-General of New Zealand, Lt Gen Sir Jerry Mateparae, were both shocked by the widespread devastation, but were equally impressed by the rebuild efforts which have already been made.

She told Christchurch mayor Bob Parker that Australian tourists would soon return to the city, which she described as being "One of the most beautiful in the world."

The Australian governor-general was "incredibly impressed" by the Re-Start project at Cashel Mall, which was decimated by earthquake damage but has been rejuvenated with shops reopening in converted shopping containers.

Along with her large entourage, she was given a tour of the now world-famous "pop-up" mall by Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale.

She ventured inside Johnson's Grocers, and ended up walking out with a jar of manuka honey, locally-made fudge, and even the Kiwi classic, hokey pokey, insisting that she pay for the goods.

She told grocer Colin Johnson, who had to vacate his "badly damaged" Colombo St shop after more than 55 years of trading, how impressed she was with the mall.

"What wonderful things have been done here, it's amazing," she said.

Mr Johnson told her it was "a lovely feeling" to work there, and praised Canterbury Earthquake minister Gerry Brownlee for his assistance in getting the place set up.

Ms Bryce was then driven inside the Cera-controlled red zone to meet with Anglican Bishop Rev. Victoria Matthews, who updated her on the fate of the Christ Church Cathedral, which faces at least partial demolition.

After taking in the sobering sights of the Cathedral Square, with extensive demolition work being carried out in all directions, the governor-general spoke of her emotions at visiting the city she had visited many times, "a city I love."

She said her visit was an opportunity to see progress made since "the horrific earthquake" just over a year ago.

Ms Bryce said she wanted to return to Australia to tell people the "inspirational" story of Cantabrians' resilience following the disaster, and their "guts and determination, which are qualities held in high regards by both countries".

The two governor-generals then visited Burnham Military Camp on the southern outskirts of Christchurch before going on to Lincoln University where they were to be briefed on trans-Tasman agricultural research projects.

Ms Bryce flies to Queenstown tonight before ending her five-day visit and jetting home tomorrow.

- APNZ

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