Reconstruction of Christchurch

I’m a Geography teacher. I have spent the last dozen years teaching students about natural disasters. Teaching them that disasters are not just one off events, that a major part of understanding a disaster is the reconstruction afterwards. Yet, today I was shocked by what I saw in Christchurch.

I like to think I am fairly on top of what is happening in the world currently. I constantly read news online, I scour social media for any storied that might be relevant for our learners. Heck, I’m even connected online with plenty of people that live in Christchurch. My in-laws were involved in the Quake. Injured, lost belongings but realistically lucky compared to many others. They have told me that I don’t understand what it was really like. Today I know that is the truth.

I think many of us in the North Island truly do not comprehend what it has been like for Cantabrians over the last 4 years. Initially there was an outpouring of grief and support but it isn’t in the news anymore so we know that the rebuild is still occurring but without the realisation of what that means.

As a Design Thinker I espouse the importance of empathy. Today’s walk around (what remains of) the Christchurch CBD was eerie for me and for the first time in almost 4 years I once again really empathised with Christchurch.

I’m not sure what my words will add to others understanding of what Christchurch is like and I really don’t know how my words will be taken by those living here. What I can say is that myself and the other eFellows had a very sobering walk around that provoked intense discussions around transformation. First about Christchurch and then relating this to transformation of education.

For those who haven’t been to Christchurch lately, here is some of the devastation we saw:

Roads still completely shut off 4 years later

Roads still completely shut off 4 years later


The Cathedral

The Cathedral

Sites like this were why there was so much dust in the air

Sites like this were why there was so much dust in the air

There were 28 containers holding the facade of this building up so that it can be used again when rebuilt.

There were 28 containers holding the facade of this building up so that it can be used again when rebuilt.

Yet, we also saw some inspiring sights of creativity, innovation and transformation:

Loved this 'urban farm' producing goods amongst the inner CBD rebuild

Loved this ‘urban farm’ producing goods amongst the inner CBD rebuild

Garden Whare in front of Christchurch Cathedral

Garden Whare in front of Christchurch Cathedral

Re:Start Container Mall

Re:Start Container Mall

And of course around all of this, Christchurch gets on with it’s business. I really encourage you to read these 2 posts by Bridget Compton-Moen: Four Years On… which beautifully captures the feelings that I just cannot even imagine and Home Sweet Home which gives 15 things that make her family smile about living in Christchurch.


7 thoughts on “Reconstruction of Christchurch

  1. Last time I was there with the eFellows, I shared my observations of the destruction and impact of the quake. The locals shared with me their strength and resilience by reminding me that the surroundings only demonstrated the progress that they were making. They celebrated every road cone and route re-direction as a sign of moving forward.I have huge admiration for my Cantab friends!

  2. Kia ora Steve, thanks for taking the time to stop and process what you saw in our home today. We’re four years on and amazing things are happening, but at the same time there is still so much rawness surrounding us daily that we almost become nonchalant to many aspects of it. The quakes happened in my first year of teacher training so I have only ever taught post-quake students. Your post has got me thinking about how this impacts on my teaching practice. I love that you captured both elements of what’s going on. By putting the images together in the same post, instead of one post focussing on the devastation and another the innovation, helps to portray the reality that they truly are co-existing forces in our city. Ngā mihi nui mō ō whakaaro.

  3. Thank you for this, Steve. It can be easy to feel like Christchurch has been forgotten or that people in other parts of NZ have moved on and are sick of hearing about it. I’ve mentioned the quakes when visiting friends in other part of NZ and watched their eyes glaze over and their body language change to frustration. Interestingly my blogpost from Sunday had the lowest readership of any of my posts……I wish it was that easy for Christchurch people to skip over the quakes and move on to something more interesting.
    BUT, your post is beautifully written and reminds us here that people really do care, its just that without actually coming here it really is just so difficult to understand what has happened to Christchurch. It is also important to mention that I think every single NZer was touched by and helped out in some small way and Chch ppl are so, so grateful for that. My husband had to keep working so a week after the quake we went to Auckland(on a full 747!!!) so he cld work in his firm’s office in Green Lane. I will never forget the kindness Aucklanders showed my children- the free fluffies and gingerbread men and the hugs and the incredible empathy. I remember how kind and gentle everyone was when I howled noisily through the minute’s silence a week later! Oh dear…..

    Anyway, I hope you have seen some of the “good stuff” because there is lots of it tucked away and peeking out of the rubble. Funnily enough we think we’re making progress. You should have seen this place 3.5 years ago!

    Thank you.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Steve. It’s much appreciated. I met Murray Fastier, a Geographer from the University a few years ago when working for the Geographical Association, and he talked about some of the impacts. He lived just outside the city I think. I’ve read about the use of shipping containers, and the replacement ‘cardboard cathedral’ was in the news too, but there’s a lot you don’t normally see. This update is much appreciated, and I shall take a look at some of the links you’ve included too…

  5. Thanks Steve. I wasn’t here when this happened but moved to Christchurch (two years ago) as my husband is part of the re build. I clearly remember arriving here and having to go and pick up a car set for my daughter in one area that was hit quite hard. I drove into a street that looked completely deserted. Boarded up windows, everything overgrown, houses that looked like they had been there for a lot longer than 4 years, the road itself filled with potholes only to realise families still lived here. For me this was an eye opener as it wasn’t something that people outside of Christchurch saw a lot of. My parents live in the North Island and I remember the first time they visited us. Walking around the CBD area they were trying hard to remember what buildings used to stand in certain places. This I think is something that will be lost and a lot of Cantabrian’s find hard- Trying to remember what ‘used’ to be there. But the positives are the changes that take place every day. I love walking around the city and seeing how creative and colourful some parts are. I love the ‘Container shops’ Re-Start Mall and glad that this is a permanent fixture now of the city. Change is happening and although it seems a long way off before Christchurch will be fully restored, there are pockets of this.

  6. Hi Steve, I remember the efellows 2011 sharing photos that shocked us around NZ as they toured the CBD, then in 2012 I was shocked by all that I saw as we toured the centre… feeling the devastation… first hand, face to face!
    I now visit Christchurch regularly and feel the resilience and incredible fortitude of everyone each visit.
    I love Bridget’s posts – so real… so incredibly real…
    Thanks for sharing…
    Really loving following your e-fellow journey!
    Anne K

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