Fotoeins Fotografie

the visible wor(l)d, between 🇨🇦 and 🇩🇪
Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

New Zealand: Christchurch red zone post-quake

The sight of overhead cranes.

The clang of jackhammers.

The constant rumble of dump trucks filled with debris.

The dust clouds surrounding sites slated for demolition or new buildings under construction.

After four earthquakes since 2010, over half of the buildings in Christchurch’s Central Business District (CBD) were destroyed or have been condemned; the number I got from informal conversations was 70 to 80 percent. The expected cost to the local economy and for reconstruction will be in the billions of dollars. These are staggering numbers. Before reconstruction can begin, there are buildings to take down, and mountains of rubble to take away.

There’s a certain hustle and bustle by day inside the fenced no-go red-zone, but at night, there’s an eerie stillness where there should be activity befitting the central downtown area. The oldest parts of town suffered the most severe damage. The truth is somewhere between a film set and a war zone – few in Christchurch were left untouched by the seismic activity.

It’s hard to find fault if anyone wants to leave the city or area, nervous by the presence of frequent tremors or the threat of another large quake. However, I met people who decided to stay. They remain optimistic, and they want to be involved in the long reconstruction process which will take at least the next ten years.

I felt a little guilty coming into town to see how things were like. But I wanted to see the reality of it, and to talk to locals about it. I was interested in what was happening now, and how people were trying to get back to their lives.

To draw people back into the CBD, the Re:START Container Mall on Cashel Street is a collection of shops, food stands, and coffee shops, housed in refurbished shipping containers. I was encouraged by the large weekend crowds. When I told staff at a coffee shop or the Kiwi-Greek family at their gyro stand I was visiting from Canada, they were pleased I was spending some coin with them, and they also seemed happy I had come to visit.

On 30 July 2012, the Christchurch Central Development Unit or CCDU announced plans for the complete reconstruction and revitalization of the CBD; see also the story here. But serious problems remain for existing homeowners in the outer suburbs, with some still waiting on insurance claims and definitive aid from the national authorities.

The no-go red zone is shrinking and changing, as the process turns eventually from clearing to reconstruction.

UPDATE: At the end of June 2013, the cordons around the CBD have been removed, reconstruction in full activity, and responsibility returned by the national government to the local city authorities.


Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand


I took the photos above on 15 and 17 July 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-27p.

9 Responses to “New Zealand: Christchurch red zone post-quake”

  1. Leah Travels (@L_e_a_h)

    I’m so glad to see that the red zone is shrinking. I’d not seen Christchurch prior to the earthquakes, but I can imagine how beautiful it once was. It saddened me to see the rubble. I couldn’t even bring myself to take photos. It’s good to know they’ve got a plan for reconstruction.

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    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Leah.

      I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for someone to photograph scenes just after the quakes, or to be allowed into the red zone to photograph and document the goings-on during the recovery process. There’s one particular corner (Lichfield & High) in the CBD I wanted to see because of the history there, but of course, the area was off limits after suffering heavy damage. It was difficult to take photos to go along with the “voyeur” guilt I was feeling, but I wanted to provide some sense of how things were like in “July 2012.”

      Thanks for reading and for your comments!

      Like

  2. Christina

    Thanks for this article, Henry. It made me really sad looking at these pictures, which are very thoughtful. I think anyone who doesn’t live there or nearby just can’t grasp how bad those quakes were. It’s been 1.5 years since the really bad one, and the city still looks like this. Sure the red zone is shrinking, but it’ll take quite a while to get beautiful ChCh restored. I think it is great you went there, took pictures and are showing these, so we remember what happened and that it doesn’t go away or ChCh magically gets reconstructed just because the news don’t report on it anymore (outside NZ). Plus you spent your tourism dollars in the city that needs them most, and with local businesses. I can’t wait to go there again, although it will be a painful trip.

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    Reply
    • fotoeins

      Hi, Christina. You can imagine how it’s like to straddle the line between emotions when considering how best to represent the efforts of the citizens. It really is hard to imagine, but it will in fact take years, if not a decade (or two), to move the city “forward” to the long-term visions and plans. I think that if visitors continued to give the city and the area a chance, visitors will get their own view of how things are like and they can take away their own interpretation; hopefully, they will in turn tell others to visit Canterbury. Thanks very much for your kind comments, and I hope you visit Christchurch later this year!

      Like

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