I had arranged with Lesley, the woman I was staying with in Christchurch, to drive around the city in the car. I wanted to take a few photos of the devastation of the area for the article I was writing. There were quite a lot of buildings that were half falling down or half demolished after the earthquake in February 2011. Earlier on in the day I had walked around as much as I could, to see what the damage was like and to take photos. I went to “The Strip”, on Oxford Terrace, a street where a lot of the nightclubs were. It’s pretty near Cathedral Square and facing the Avon river. All the bars and night clubs along here were closed due to earthquake damage.
They didn’t look too badly damaged from the outside but you never can tell what the structural damage is. A lot of the windows and doors were sprayed with words such as “Clear. TF 3. 25/2/2012. NZ DF”. These are the Search Markings left behind on the buildings in the Central Business District by Urban Search And Rescue teams. The Search Markings are placed at the primary entrance of a structure and records the name of the USAR team and date and time they started searching the structure. Once the USAR team is finished, a circle is placed around the Search Marking. There were various international Search and Rescue teams working in Christchurch after the quake, so sometimes instead of seeing NZ as the name of the USAR team in the search marking, you’d see NSW for New South Wales from Australia. It was sad to see the buildings sitting there empty and discarded.
I walked along Colombo Street where there’s an awful lot of damage. Some of the buildings here have scaffolding holding them up and one side of the street is barricaded off with fencing. What was even sadder to see was Hereford Street, which looks like a ghost town apart from the odd fork lift truck working there. It really broke my heart to see the rubble everywhere, the streets empty and all the buildings either damaged or half falling down. But this was nearly a year after the earthquake in February and they had cleaned up a lot of it since then, so I can only imagine what it was like directly after the earthquake. It must have been horrific.
Gloucester Street, one of the main streets that leads down to Cathedral Square was blocked off from the bridge on the Avon river to the square and even from the barricades you could still see the black, gaping hole of the gable of the Cathedral. God it was so sad to see. Having been in Christchurch in 2009 and was able to wander around Cathedral Square, to see the Millenium Cone and been into the Cathedral itself, it was nearly unimaginable to think that a few years later, the Cathedral and a lot of the buildings in the square would be totally destroyed practically.
The iconic Cathedral was badly damaged in the February quake but it didn’t fall down completely. At Christmas time 2011, the council opened a temporary walkway into the square for a few days, to let people see the Cathedral, in a way to help people grieve. They opened it up again in March this year for a few days before the Cathedral was demolished. I was thinking of going there at that time but changed my mind at the last minute because it would have been too long a journey to make, there and back in one day from Mt. Cook, where I was for a few days.
There was a lot of controversy about the Cathedral being demolished because there were about one hundred engineers who said that it wasn’t necessary to demolish it because it could be saved. Thousands of people protested in Christchurch on May 26th 2012 against the demolition of the Cathedral. But the decision was made by the Anglican Church to go ahead with the demolition and it broke a lot of people’s hearts and caused a lot of anger to hear that decision. On the 16th April this year, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported that a transitional A-frame cathedral will be built in Latimer Square. Constructed with cardboard tubes, timber beams, structural steel, and concrete, it is expected to last twenty years and will become the new place of worship for the city’s St John’s parish.