By Jake Bailey
There has been a lot of discussion about the Christchurch rebuild over the past month or so. A bit of discussion about stadiums, the opening of the Justice Precinct, the Cathedral, a bit of criticism published as well.
The criticism hurt, and I felt I couldn't sit back and see my hometown get gently slagged off without a quick rebuttal.
I've been based outside my hometown, Christchurch, for a little over a year now. In that time I've made a dozen or so trips back.
To be honest, I was a bit disenfranchised with the city when I left. It wasn't my motivation for leaving, as it was for a considerable number of my friends, but I certainly didn't hold Christchurch in the same regard as other parts of the country.
I don't feel guilty about that - the reality is that the earthquakes left the city as a place that wasn't particularly conducive for normal socialising and living, let alone for teenagers.
The initial lack of progress and warzone-like setting meant Christchurch was beginning to become the butt of jokes, maybe even overtaking Hamilton dare I say it. That's through no fault of anyone, but it's the reality.
I'd also never lived outside of the city until now, having been born and raised there for 18 years. The phrase that comes to mind is "familiarity breeds contempt".
I'd seen enough of the rest of the country to see what Christchurch was lacking, but not enough to see what made Christchurch special. For me, it was just home, normality, average.
A few weeks ago I spent a good amount of time back in Christchurch, and it has been a real eye-opener.
I had already become aware of some of what sets Christchurch apart over the past few years. The way the community rallied around me during my cancer and have been supporting me ever since is undeniable proof of the ability of people there to pull together.
Some say it's a shift in mindset as a result of the earthquakes. I feel it's certainly something that sets the place apart - I've never felt a part of something on such a huge scale as I have felt part of the community of Christchurch.
But talking about the rebuild, over the past few weeks it has been such a pleasure to see the blocks of progress that have been made, begin to amalgamate into one cohesive monument to success.
Previously there was a gradually increasing number of flash new buildings surrounded by "carparks" (ie, rocky plots of rubble and stones where buildings used to stand). It looked like aliens had come through and carefully selected buildings to take away, leaving behind only a few shiny and sharp ultra-modern structures.
Now however, Christchurch is finally getting to the stage where it is looking like a city again. Not just a normal city though - the phoenix emerging from the ashes is something pretty special.
The progress made around High St, where the Container Mall once stood, is huge, and the area is now worth more than just a look for the novelty. The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is looking outstanding, and people queued for hours last weekend to see inside.
The new hospital is rising up on the city's skyline. New bars are opening up, and the Strip is coming back alive. A decision has been made on the Cathedral. The convention centre, town hall, earthquake memorial, a handful of sports facilities - it's not a short list. The city is well under way in the process of really forging itself as a tourist destination of its own once again.
None of this might take your fancy - fair enough. In which case, know that the true attractions are harder to name. I can promise you that if you walk around with an open mind and open eyes, you will not be disappointed. Hidden gardens, cafes, street art, colour - it's almost tranquil at times.
I'm not saying it's perfect. Yes, there are empty sections. Yes, there are delays. Yes, there's a lack of progress in some projects. But can we not take a moment to look at how far we have come? Are we more focused on perfectionism than progress?
Please do give it a crack if you're looking for a weekend away. You've got my word that you'll enjoy it, provided you put the effort in.
An epic rebuild has become the beginning of an epic city. One unlike any other in the world, and not just because of the number of road cones and repurposed shipping containers.
Christchurch will never be the same. After seeing what it is evolving into, I'm prouder than ever before to be from such an incredible city.