At 12.51 pm on 22 February 2011, countless lives changed forever.
Christchurch, New Zealand, was violently rattled by a 6.3 earthquake, devastating the beloved garden city.
Five years on and change is being treated as an opportunity to revitalize and renew Christchurch.
On 30 July 2012, the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan was released. The plan, developed by the Christchurch Central Development Unit, includes input from residents, community groups and various government authorities charged with the task of developing the vision for the new Christchurch. The recovery plan aims to not only restore pre-quake Christchurch but create an even better city.
“We have a plan and a vision to make Christchurch healthy, vibrant and liveable,” said Mayor Bob Parker, 2007-2013.
Life is being brought back to the central city with many anchor projects that will draw on the rich natural and cultural heritage of the city, and provide Christchurch with world-class facilities.
Unique features have already been erected throughout the city like the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, Christchurch Town Hall and other new retail precincts. Fresh projects aim to breathe life back into the city, test new ideas and improve the environment. The SCAPE Public Art Centre, Christchurch Bike Share and a variety of street artists have recently added more creativity, colour and vibrancy to the CBD.
Christchurch’s most famous landmark is the Cathedral in ‘The Square’. The Cathedral was severely damaged by the quakes that hit over a period of about 18 months from September 2010 to summer 2012.
Eighty percent of the original building still stands with the roof structure entirely intact. Over the last year or so the earthquakes have tapered off to small and infrequent events and no further damage to the building has occurred. Many protests and debates have taken place in regards to the Cathedral being restored to its natural state or bulldozed and rebuilt.
Like a lot of loyal Cantabrians, 23-year-old Becci Louise still loves Christchurch and is embracing the rebuild:
“The quake happened just after I graduated high school. I was disheartened that the particular physical ‘real world’ in which I was entering had been turned upside down. I spent a long time feeling guilty about this grief and resentment I was carrying because I was one of the lucky ones,” she says.
“I didn’t lose anyone close to me; I didn’t lose my house or my job, all I had lost was the potential self I could have been in ‘old’ Christchurch.
“It took a stint overseas, several very close friends leaving town, and my parents moving to Australia to shake that grief and resentment, as I realised that ‘new’ Christchurch is somewhere I really want to be. I can’t quite put my finger on why.”
She adds: “There’s energy about Christchurch that I gravitate towards. It’s mothering; it fosters potential. The people that it breeds are the reason we coped so well, and the reason it’s flourished in the aftermath. It’s home.”
Watch the Christchurch CBD Recovery Plan below: