Wednesday, 23 February 2011


The Press Building (1909) now completely destroyed
It is just 24 hours since a second and more devastating earthquake struck Christchurch.  The most horrific revelation in its aftermath has been the loss of life; 75 and climbing.

People are still being pulled alive from collapsed buildings and our small nation is in shock that this could happen not once, but twice, to the Garden City.

As I watch the 24 hour coverage from the safety of my lounge in Auckland I realise also that the city of my childhood and later memories will never exist again as I knew it.

My father came from the suburb of Cashmere in Christchurch, and lived just down from the Sign of the Takahe at 118 Dyers Pass Road.

He attended Christchurch Boy's High School and was passionate about the city and its environment even though he lived most of his adult life elsewhere.

Fond memories of walking hand in hand with my grandfather past the Press Building and the Cathedral in the Square are all that remain today, as both buildings have been irreparably damaged and will never be rebuilt.

The heritage heart of the city is gone - the old Provincial Chambers are partially demolished and aerial views of other sites shows a state of total collapse.

Cathedral Square in 1960 - the spire (circled) came down during the 23 February 'quake
Where trams once rattled through in the late 1950's and newspaper men called from street corners, there is now only dust and vehicles flattened by falling masonry.

Cathedral Square in 1957 - buses not trams, which I used to take to my grandparents house in Cashmere Hills
In the early 1980's when I returned from Papua New Guinea I went to live in Christchurch in the small suburb of Sumner.

This is the same suburb that now features in mobile phone video of falling boulders from the surrounding cliff faces.  Goodness only knows the state of properties on Scarborough Hill where we had a house and which overlooks Sumner Beach?

But of course property can be replaced and lives cannot.  It will be many years before the city recovers but recover it will, as Cantabrians are a stoic bunch and the rest of the country is behind them helping wherever we can.
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