By Anne Scoular
Back in February you may remember the Christchurch earthquake which not only rocked the heart of New Zealand but its trembles resonated within the heart of Meyler Campbell as its devastation wiped out much of NZ’s second largest city, 30,000 businesses, and dealt a deep psychological shock to the whole country and particularly the local population, still enduring “aftershocks” of 5+ – which anywhere else would count as a terrifying earthquake. 30% of the Christchurch population were left homeless. Not just NZ-born people like me, but almost all Brits, have family or friends immediately affected.
As Christchurch happened after our commitment to Ann Orton’s jump for Breast Cancer Research, we vowed that once her 20k target was met, we would see how we could possibly help Christchurch in varying ways such as ‘coaches for Christchurch’. Our initial aim is to spread awareness about the continuing plight of the citizens of Christchurch. This is Glenda’s story..
On Monday 25 July, Christchurch woke to a 22cm covering of snow – the thickest blanket experienced by the city since 1992. With the coldest July temperature since 1918, the coating settled … and the city came to a halt. Police advised people to stay home, businesses stayed closed, and the school children – already on holiday – enjoyed a winter wonderland of glistening snow.
A snow which created slippery sidewalks, covered cracks, hid potholes, and made for a freezing trek to the nearest portaloo. Because, yes, Christchurch is still very much a broken city with 5000 Christchurch homes now in a designated ‘red zone’ which will see those property owners receiving offers from the Government for the 2007 rateable value of their property. The ‘purchase’ of these properties – if the offers are taken up – will cost the Government between $485m and $635m. And while the offers are being presented as ‘options’ the ‘red zones’ will now receive ‘make safe’ only maintenance. This ‘red zone’ area is considered unable to be re-built on for the forseeable future.
Christchurch has a population of about 376,000 – 182 died as a result of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake which hit the city at 12.51pm on 22 February 2011. The build up to that ‘quake had been some 3,700 aftershocks since the major 7.4 magnitude ‘quake on 4 September 2010. Now with the demolition of some 430 buildings either in progress or in the pipeline, the city still has 1800 portaloos on the streets – and Civil Defence has delivered some 41,000 chemical toilets – and the aftershock total (since September 2010) sits at some 8,000 …
Christchurch is the main centre of the province of Canterbury – well-known for being one-eyed in its support of it’s provincial rugby team and …. for being staunch. So, on Monday 25 July, as the magic faded, the people of Christchurch – and in particular those of us in the ‘quakes hardest hit areas on the east – pulled out our shovels again. But this time we shovelled something which was light and clean. And we revelled in how easy the job was compared to the previous two or three times we have done this since September 2010 – when what we shovelled was a filthy grey silt which is dusty and gritty when dry, and heavy and cement-like when wet … liquifaction – a sort of physical manifestation of the underground energy of the earthquake which erupts like mini-volcanoes in backyards, under houses, and on streets … and in the worst-hit areas flowing along the streets like a river … and, with extensive damage to the city’s drainage and sewerage infrastructure, very possibly contaminated.
I hope that pulling back the curtains to such a wonderful site of clean white show glistening under a brilliant clear blue sky on a wonderful Christchurch morning held a little magic for everyone on Monday 25 July. That for one brief moment, those still living in the ‘red zone’, or those in the ‘orange zone’ (still awaiting a decision from the Government as to whether their properties will be deemed ok for rebuilding/repair), and those in the ‘green zone’ (given the go ahead to begin their repairs) were able to escape briefly from the stress that has been inevitable in the city since that fateful morning in September 2010 when life in the ‘Garden City’ – designed so stoically to remind its English settlers of home – changed forever.