The scars of a city brought to its knees by a disastrous earthquake, which claimed the lives of 185 people, are still all too real today. But key areas of the recovery in Canterbury and a spur in local tourism have brought new hope to the area.
The majority of the city’s ruined buildings, close to 1500 thus far, have been demolished to make way for new ones, with only a small handful left to be torn down.
But the planning and rebuilding for many of these sites is now well underway – with $602 million worth of insurance-funded building work currently underway.
Interestingly, any vacant lots left in the wake of demolition have provided ample space for entrepreneurial car park operators close by to the CBD – a place where both locals and tourists have been frequenting of late.
But this is only temporary; the newly poured concrete symbolising a transition from a demolition phase, to one of construction and new beginnings.
The $30 billion rebuild has made so much progress that earlier this month, it prompted Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to say that the CBD red zone could now be officially known as the rebuild zone.
The rebuild has spurred a wave of mass migration, with thousands of labourers from economically strained countries like Britain and Ireland, joining the 10,000 strong New Zealand rebuild workforce. The number of overseas workers is expected to grow too as many as 30,000 at the height of the construction process.
Although it is expected to take at least 15-20 years to complete, Roger Sutton, chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, believes the reconstruction does have a silver lining: “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to recreate the city.”
“What we’re hoping is to build the best little city in the world, where people will want to come, work and play,” Sutton told New Zealand reporters.
”Everything still works. We’ve had a bloody big event here but the hotels are reopening, there are new bars and restaurants and the airport is unaffected.
If the increased number of Australian tourists to the area is in anything to go by (a three per cent increase since last December), then the once tourist-dependent city can expect sunnier times ahead.
Local tourism is expected to boom again next month, with the arrival of a Japanese –designed cardboard Cathedral, a temporary replacement for the 19th century Christchurch Cathedral – which was an iconic landmark of the city that was severely damaged by the quake.