Scott Yeoman is a NZ Herald reporter

In silence for Christchurch: NZ remembers victims of 2011 earthquake

• Today marks the fifth anniversary of the deadly 2011 Christchurch quake
• Christchurch woke to a light 2.7 quake
• Politicians and Kiwis have paid tribute
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A civic memorial service has started in Christchurch to commemorate the 185 people that died during the February 2011 earthquake.

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae has spoken at the service, which marks the fifth anniversary of the deadly quake.

He passed on the "warm good wishes" of the Queen and said her thoughts were with the people of Christchurch and New Zealand as they gathered to remember the disaster that killed 185 people.

Sir Jerry said: "Noting the recent severe aftershock, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales wrote to the Mayor of Christchurch to express his concerned good wishes and went on to say 'I know the people of Christchurch are incredibly resilient, and I am sure that you will continue to draw comfort from the terrific community spirit and kindness you have shown for each other these past years. You are all very much in our special thoughts and prayers at this time'."

Sir Jerry was speaking at the civic memorial service on the Archery Lawn in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

He talked about the ongoing struggle for the people of Christchurch, and paid tribute to those who lost their lives and those who responded to the devastation in the days, weeks and months that followed.

"There have been thousands of earthquakes in Canterbury since 2010. However, today we are commemorating the earthquake of February 22, 2011. In doing so, we are commemorating a day when everything changed for the people of this region and particularly Christchurch - a day of acute sadness, a day of devastation and loss."

But Sir Jerry also spoke about the progress made in the city since the quake, and its bright future.

" ... a new and stronger city is taking shape. Each time I come to Christchurch I have been able to witness some of the change and I look forward to seeing what is yet to come."

He ended his speech by, on behalf of all New Zealanders, wishing the people of Christchurch "all the very best" as they continue on their journey.

Mayor of Christchurch Lianne Dalziel also spoke to those gathered, and a bible reading and song followed.

All 185 names were then read out before a minute's silence was heard.

The Peace Bell was rung five times and representatives and dignitaries laid wreaths.

Bereaved family members also laid their own floral tributes to their loved ones.

Around 400 people, including school children, gathered at a site alongside the Avon River.

A minute of silence was held at the Medway Street site at exactly 12.51.

It was followed by a haka and solo piper.

Avon-Otakaro network co-chair Evan Smith said involving children in the commemorations is hugely important.

He said many of the children have been really badly impacted, and are still suffering.

Smith says acknowledging today is an important part of the healing process.

Flowers wre also being tossed into the river - to honour those who lost their lives in the 2011 disaster.

The cricket was forgotten for a moment at Hagley Oval as the crowd stood as one, along with the New Zealand and Australian players, at 12.51pm.

It was treated respectfully, youngsters out the back playing their games stopping momentarily.

On the replay screen, a simple message read: ''In memory of the 185 people who lost their lives in the Canterbury earthquake 22 February 2011".

The players of both teams are wearing black armbands today to acknowledge the significance of the day.

A memorial service in the city's Botanic Gardens started at noon today.

Earlier in the day the commemorative River of Flowers event opened. It will give people the chance to throw flowers into the Avon River from 8am to 8pm at 19 official sites around the city.

Dozens of people are expected to make the floral tribute over the 12 hours.

One site, at the Places of Tranquillity Gardens in the central city, is just metres away from the PGC building site where 18 people lost their lives.

Fresh flowers have already been laid there with a note saying "I'm so sorry we couldn't have been with you on that day, even though we tried our best."

Tears have been flowing at Christchurch's CTV building site where 115 people lost their lives five years ago.

Loved ones of those who died are sticking close to each other as they lay flowers at the site of the greatest loss of life during the 2011 February quake.

Following a request from the families, a display has been set up where people can place flowers. It includes tissue boxes for those overcome with emotion at the site.

Across the road, at the white chair memorial, a red flower has been placed on each of the 185 chairs - the number of people that died on the day - and members of the public have also been laying flowers there.

Newstalk ZB reporter Lesley Murdoch was this morning talking to locals around Christchurch.

New Brighton community leader Tim Sintes told Ms Murdoch that before the earthquake there were about 16,000 people living in the area.

Now there were only about 6000 people left, he said.

Sintes said it was "extremely hard" to see the amount of progress in New Brighton compared with other areas of Canterbury and Christchurch.

"We need a sign to show money is being spent in the area ... so people can see the council cares."

A minute's silence for those killed in the earthquake five years ago. Photo / Jessica McCarthy
A minute's silence for those killed in the earthquake five years ago. Photo / Jessica McCarthy

Prime Minister John Key joins a number of dignitaries at commemoration service.

The Prime Minister told Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch beforehand that the country is behind Canterbury - and shares the hopes and aspirations for Christchurch.

Mr Key also acknowledged the frustrations residents of the city faced but says the Government is genuinely doing everything it can to try to get those issues resolved.

He earlier posted a tribute message on Twitter.

He said: "Today we reflect on the Christchurch earthquake, remember those we lost & look forward with optimism to the future."

In a statement this morning, Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee said the people of Canterbury could be "enormously proud" of what they had achieved in the past five years.

"As we mark the fifth anniversary of the February 22 earthquake, it's a chance to reflect on how far we have all come."

The New Zealand Fire Service has also paid tribute this morning.

It tweeted: "The #EQNZ that struck #CHCH 5 years today placed enormous demands on all our people. We remember those whose lives changed forever that day."

Key's comments came as hundreds of people protested in Christchurch's cathedral square yesterday, calling for an external review of the way the Earthquake Commission has handled claims.

Almost 1000 Christchurch residents attended the rally to vent their frustration over insurance delays.

Just a day out from the fifth year anniversary, the protesters participated in chants, song, and were handed chalk so they could decorate the square with messages of their choosing.

One woman was cheered on by the crowd, as she danced in front of the stage holding a Gerry Brownlee puppet.

But Mr Brownlee today said most insurance claims had been resolved, most of the demolitions done, most of the infrastructure repair complete, and that the city was now in a building phase where new facilities were springing up.

"Of course there are people who still face challenges, and as a Government we will continue to fund and support services to help them."

Mr Brownlee said progress was evident in other organisations too, with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) settling 98.6 per cent of dwelling claims under $100,000 and private insurers settling over 75 per cent of claims over $100,000.

He said more than $1.4 billion worth of building consents had been issued in the central city since February 22, 2011 and over $12.1 billion in all of greater Christchurch.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said the Canterbury economy was continuing to strengthen and its economic infrastructure was continuing to develop as the region positions itself for long-term growth post the earthquake rebuild.

He said the region has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.9 per cent, compared with 5.3 per cent nationally.

Since December 2011, employment in Canterbury had increased by 40,500 - 14.1 per cent - compared with national growth of 8.1 per cent.

"As we move through the peak of the rebuild stage, the Government and the region are working to develop the long-term infrastructure that will sustain and grow the region into the future."

Various Government ministers released statements this morning, outlining progress in Christchurch in their respective portfolios.

These included Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, Education Minister Hekia Parata, Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett, Building and Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Nicky Wagner and Communications Minister Amy Adams also released statements.

Meanwhile, a nationwide flash mob for today's earthquake anniversary needs another 500 people to sign up in order to launch.

Participants donate space on their social media walls to share the message "Let's stand united with Christchurch. Kia kaha. We will not forget."

Social media tool Get Behind It will post the message on people's feed at the exact time the quake struck Christchurch.

Founder Becky Siame was hoping for one million participants to show their support for Christchurch.

She has about 500 people already, and needs another 500 to launch.

And the residents of Christchurch are also marking the fifth anniversary by transforming road cones and construction fences with flowers.

Cantabrians this morning started to redecorate their city, which has been under a constant state of construction since the quake.

Placing flowers in road cones was an act of remembrance that started during the first anniversary of the February 22 quake.

Jo Scott went round with her family filling up 185 cones for victims of the Christchurch earthquake this morning, alongside her kids.

"Busy day for the Scott whanau...we did 185 cones," she wrote on Facebook.

"One for each person who died. Cars beeped, people thanked us, there was even a thumbs up. Lovely way to remember.

"And next year...let's all do it. We got most our flowers from trees in the redzone. So peaceful though sad there."

Christchurch today - What you need to know

• The civic memorial service will be held at 12pm on the Archery Lawn in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and all members of the public are welcome to attend.

The mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, will speak at the service at midday. A minute's silence will be observed at 12.51pm and the service is expected to end about 1pm.

• The Order of Service can be seen here:

• The River of Flowers event will take place at more than 20 sites along the Christchurch waterways including at the Daffodil Woodlands bridge in the Botanic Gardens, near to where the civic memorial service is being held.

People who attend the civic memorial service will be invited to release a flower into the Avon River as an act of remembrance.

The sites will be open from 8am to 8pm and some of the sites will be hosted by local groups between 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

• The Christchurch Transport Operations Centre is reminding people that because of the Black Caps v. Australia test match at Hagley Oval today and the earthquake memorial service in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, extra traffic is expected around the central city.

It said to plan ahead for both events and allow extra time for parking and walking. A 30km/hr speed limit is in place for parts of Riccarton Ave and parking for the memorial service is available at the Riccarton Ave and Armagh St carparks, as well as on street parking.

There will be a drop off zone in place on Rolleston Ave next to the Canterbury Museum.

• The WeatherWatch forecast for Christchurch today is morning cloud with the chance of some drizzle, then breaking into some sun this afternoon. Easterly winds will also develop. There is a 30 per cent chance of precipitation.

- NZ Herald

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