Memories of Christchurch's devastating earthquake eight years ago feel like a "lifetime ago" for survivors who now call the Western Bay of Plenty home.

Rhonnie Hughes and partner Vin Allen were among about 300 Christchurch residents who moved to the area in the 12 months after the 6.3 magnitude quake on February 22, 2011.

The 12.51pm quake killed 185 people, injured several thousand and destroyed countless homes.

Hughes said the memories of that day felt like "a lifetime ago".

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"It feels like it just happened in a different world."

Hughes' home was among the first to be red-zoned but she had been working in Wigram, away from the worst of the quake at the time. But the disaster was too much - for her and Allen, it was the September 2010 quake and aftershocks that were worse.

"We were actually seriously affected by the September 4 earthquake. A lot of people were. It was always seen as there were no losses on September 4 but if you saw the deaths afterwards, a lot of older people died and I'm quite convinced they died from fright."

Like many others, Hughes was in bed when the 7.1 magnitude quake hit at 4.35am.

"The noise, you just heard that noise. It was like a really close train, then the house was shaking. It was just incredible how scared we were. We just expected the house to fall down."

It was years before Hughes was able to consider going to a movie theatre and she still took immediate notice of emergency exits inside buildings. It also took a long time before she felt safe in bed, she said.

Moving away from her home of almost 24 years was tough, but helped.

"Moving here was like moving to a different country. The way people speak is different, the things you can grow in your garden is different. And, I think, a part of what happened was survivor's guilt. Why did we get to leave when others didn't?"

Hughes and Allen bought a small bach near Katikati which overlooks Tauranga Harbour. She said it has helped give her peace and the ability to move on.

"We are just really thankful that we are able to come out the other side," she said.

"I feel sorry for people that still haven't."

Tauranga woman Sarah Jesson has used her Christchurch trauma to help raise awareness about anxiety. In a previous article, Jesson said she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder but used a blog to help "fight back" and encourage conversations about anxiety.

Tauranga urologist Peter Gilling was among doctors in Christchurch for conference who helped treat earthquake victims on February 22, 2012. Photo / file
Tauranga urologist Peter Gilling was among doctors in Christchurch for conference who helped treat earthquake victims on February 22, 2012. Photo / file

Tauranga urologist Peter Gilling said, for most people who survived the February quake, everything dated back to that day.

Gilling, originally from Canterbury, was at a conference in the city's CBD when it struck. In the chaos that followed, Gilling helped doctors treat injured quake victims at a makeshift shelter in Hagley Park.

The city was devastated. But for all the destruction and heartbreak, new growth has begun, he said.

Christchurch quake survivor Sarah Jesson suffers anxiety and blogs about it. Photo / File
Christchurch quake survivor Sarah Jesson suffers anxiety and blogs about it. Photo / File

Eight years later, new and exciting projects - including state-of-the-art, modern medical facilities - have sprung from the "wasteland" that had been Christchurch's devastated CBD, he said.

"I feel pretty positive for the people of Canterbury from what I've seen, they will definitely benefit."