"The new and old Christchurch as at March 2015" Christchurch by Kate-Me

Christchurch Travel Guide: 1,250 reviews and 2,676 photos

Recovering 4 years on after the devastating quake

I made three earlier visits to Christchurch, 2004, 2005 and 2010 just after the first earthquake and 3 months before the really devastating one on Tuesday 22 February 2011 which killed 185 people and in addition injured several thousand more.

I'm now just back from another visit in March 2015 where we spent 1 1/2 days in Christchurch...wandering around, dumbstruck and a bit lost.

I had heard that Christchurch is recovering well now, 4 years on...and I believe they've come a long way, but I was still shocked to walk around the CBD even now and see just the ruins of the former Christchurch Cathedral with pigeons now roosting in the partially gaping open front (the sides are more boarded up) and quite a lot of other security-fenced off areas which haven't yet been cleared. So many empty holes and spaces where streets used to be....though they have brightened up the gloom with a lot of murals and pop up art all over the city. When I can, I will add more pics to show you what it really looks like now (something I didn't find online before I went this time, in all my weeks of research, or I would have been more prepared for what I saw).

While in New Zealand for 10 days this trip, we bought the paper every day so that we could follow what had been achieved in Christchurch since February 2011 and what was still being done or to be done.

Our reading and research gave us a much better appreciation of just how long it takes to rebuild after such a devastating quake and some of the many difficulties involved.
For a start, the quake's shaking was not just side-to-side, but up and down vertical as well. That means that not only were many roads cracked and split down the middle, but also Uplifted, which means that even after you repair many roads (and all the sewerage, pipes, etc) they may LOOK smooth, but they are undulating (up and down) which you get to experience best when you try to drive over them. And I've also heard that with each large aftershock (and there have been many), it brings the water table closer to the surface, which means there is more risk of liquefecation (sand and water rising to the surface). I also read in the news that some experts believe it may take 40 to 50 years for the roads to be restored to normal, whatever normal is. And that's just one aspect of Christchurch life.

You also need to appreciate that the Christchurch CBD was closed off to everyone but contractors from February 2011 until June 2013. So all those businesses who could, needed to move out to the suburbs in order to operate and survive. Even just looking at one kind of business, you can see that there are so many more motels out there than ever before, for example at Riccarton they are one after another after another in a long line along the main road. It must have required a huge amount of building out in the suburbs to accommodate them all. And then only after June 2013 could people - and businesses - start to come back into the city where buildings had been repaired or rebuilt to accommodate them.

And also, besides all the other infrastructure, thousands and thousands of houses (and businesses too) needed to be made safe and repaired, not just in the city, but many of the suburbs too. Some suburbs may not have had too much housing damage, but every suburb that I went through over 2 days on the bus had road damage that was still being repaired, with thousands and thousands of red traffic cones still lining the roads, along with barricades, lane closures, security fencing and other work. This has led to some locals generally referring to Christchurch now as 'Cone City', not the Garden City as before.

It was really sad to see the former Christchurch Cathedral looking like this current 2015 photo. There is a public campaign to try and raise 20 million dollars towards its restoration, and some controversy over insurance.....I really don't know what the future will be for this building, considering they now have the Cardboard Cathedral in a different location in the city. It's a very somber memorial and really makes you think.

Now some background on this city.....
Christchurch's population is a little over 300,000 (about 14,000 people moved out after the 2nd earthquake) - but it's still NZ’s 2nd largest city after Auckland) It has the feel of a much smaller city, or large town, to me however.

The city is located in the South Island region called Canterbury, and used to be be New Zealand’s most English city in appearance (that title must now go to Dunedin) . The Avon river still wends its tranquil way through part of the city, and there are big plans to beautify it even further.

The special aspects of Christchurch though I found still a bit English: Victoria Square, looking like I remember, the picturesque Avon river winding its way through part of the city and the English named streets as well)

Elsewhere in Canterbury:
The seaside town of Kaikoura, about 3 hours drive north of Christchurch, is considered to be the region’s eco tourism capital – very consistent seal and whale viewing opportunities, as well as Dusky dolphins, penguins and other birds (see my Kaikoura pages for more, and seal travelogues)

Mt Cook in Canterbury’s Alps is the highest mountain in New Zealand.
(See my Hokitika, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier pages from 2004)

The Canterbury Seaside town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula,1 ½ hours by car/bus south east of Christchurch, is New Zealand’s uniquely French flavoured town, where French settlers landed in 1840. It’s also the best place to see the rare Hector dolphins (see my Akaroa pages)
Penguins can also be seen here and we saw a large assortment of different types of sea and wading water birds. I spent a whole week there this time (March 2015) and it was so lovely

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Modern rebuild is progressing but the city can still feel empty at times
  • Cons:roads and infrastructure will still take a long time to complete overall
  • In a nutshell:A resilient city that is really trying hard to make a comeback
  • Last visit to Christchurch: Mar 2015
  • Intro Updated Apr 27, 2015
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Reviews (42)

Comments (4)

  • Jul 4, 2008 at 4:03 AM

    A must see whilst in Christchurch is the Willowbank Park. we nearly chose Orana instead of this GREAT attraction. The Restaurant and Guided tour along with the traditional Maori dancing was a credit to the Park.

  • sprdak11's Profile Photo
    Jun 10, 2006 at 4:27 AM

    Very interesting travel page with nice pictures. Greetings.

  • pepples46's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2005 at 12:01 PM

    I'll be back ^..^..well it took me a while LOL this has become a wonderful, informativ&well photographed page. the intro is very special! tks Kate, job well done!! greets Wal

  • Alain_Smeets's Profile Photo
    Feb 23, 2004 at 12:57 AM

    Nice page Kate, it brings back greet memories about my NZ trip. You visited a great part of the country. Great photo's, and did you learn to kayak now? :)


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