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Before I finish this part of the Christchurch blog, I think I should mention the year’s anniversary of the February 22nd 2011 quake. On that fateful day, many people went to work and never came back, others lost loved ones and friends. It was a time for Christchurch to remember and grieve but also a time to look to the future with hope and determination.

There was a memorial service between 8am and 8.45am at Latimer Square, a service focused towards the families of those lost and first responders. A Civic Memorial Service was held in North Hagley Park between 12 noon and 1.30pm. This was a public event for the whole community. There was a reading of the names of the one hundred and eighty five lost and an observance of two minutes silence at 12.51pm, the time the earthquake struck. During the singing of the song “You Raise Me Up”, one hundred and eighty five monarch butterflies were released by the children of employees of Telecom New Zealand in Christchurch, to represent the souls of the one hundred and eighty five people who died in the quake. I thought this was a really touching way to remember these people who died.

Between 2pm and 4pm there was a public event in North Hagley Park, where the whole community recognized the earthquake heroes. As well as the public events, other community events were organized across the city. The city council developed an internment site at Avonhead Park Cemetery, for those people who lost their lives in the February quake, including the unidentified remains of people who died and the four unfound victims.

Through all this sadness and loss, the people and city of Christchurch are rebuilding their future. Like a phoenix, this disaster-struck city, rises out of the ashes and lives to see another day. So what has been done so far to get the rebuild started? In May 2011, Christchurch City Council’s “Share An Idea” website was launched, to get the public’s input on the city central plan. Glenn Livingstone, a Christchurch city councillor said “the Share An Idea initiative was unique in the fact that it was a good exercise in participative democracy.” It was a way for the whole community of Christchurch to share their vision about how the central city should be redeveloped. One hundred and six thousand ideas were submitted and shared on this website.

Under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, Christchurch city council was given the responsibility of developing the Central City Plan, which will guide the development of the central city, over the next ten to twenty years, following February 2011’s earthquake. The plan was developed from the ideas shared by the community during the Share An Idea campaign, in consultation with key stakeholders and various partners.

An organisation which was set up on 4th August 2011 to help build a stronger and more sustainable future for Christchurch was the Rebuild Christchurch Foundation. It provides positive action and tangible assistance by matching volunteers and volunteer organisations with members of the community requiring assistance. Through various projects, communities have been brought together, helping them rebuild their lives effectively, long into the future.

I asked Glenn Livingstone what the long term plans for Christchurch were over the next ten years. He replied “it will involve the unfolding of the Central City Plan through the development of anchor projects, which include: the Convention Centre, neighbourhood centres, a Memorial site, the Avon River Park, to name a few”. In the meantime, he said “there are short, transitional projects such as music, art and theatre that will be used to attract residents, businesses and investment back into the city”.

The people and city of Christchurch are resilient and strong. We admire their strength and look forward to seeing a vibrant, up and coming city in the near future. Ka oi Ruaumoko ara ake Waitaha – Despite the heaving earth, Canterbury will rise again!