It will soon be four years to the minute since the most destructive and deadly Canterbury / Christchurch earthquake. Condolences to the friends and families of the dead. Greetings to all who lived through it and remember.
As far as I know none of The Standard authors live in Christchurch, so instead you get me. I grew up there. We (my family) were there visiting my parents when the first 7.1 quake hit on the morning of Sept 4th 2010. I was not there for the February quake, but my wife and I arrived the next morning with a trailer full of water, roofing and building supplies. We spent the following week at my parents trying to clean up and make the damaged house secure, caring for my mother (who was injured and trapped under fallen furniture), living through the aftershocks, sleeping in the car, and crapping in a hole in the back garden. When we got back to Dunedin the world seemed utterly surreal.
Over the last four years we’ve been vicariously living through my parents’ struggles with insurance and EQC. I could write a very long, very angry post about that – the insanity and inefficiency the process. And yet, within it, a few wonderful individuals who are really trying to help (our thanks to them). My parents are nearing the end of this process, other relatives in Christchurch have yet to begin their repairs. The quakes have changed our lives forever.
In the last year, there have been a number of projects which have been celebrated as the “best thing to happen since the quakes”. The cricket oval and the Isaac Theatre Royal are two examples that spring to mind. These are good things, no doubt. But they also speak volumes about who the rebuild is serving. Cricket and opera are two of the most rich, white people pursuits on the face of the planet. Everyone living in Christchurch has had a rough time in the last few years, including the rich white people. If they feel like it’s time to put the rebuild behind them, to enjoy the cricket and the ballet, that’s great. But there’s a danger in forgetting that as the north and west of the city move into a post-rebuild phase, some parts of the city have barely been touched. If you go out to New Brighton, you’d be forgiven for thinking the quakes were 4 weeks ago, not 4 years ago. As we approach the anniversary, prepare for the government to tell us that we’re moving on, that the hard work has been done. Prepare for many, many people to agree with them. But also spare a thought for the people who rarely have a voice, the mute underclass of National’s burgeoning have-nots.
Final word to someone who really was there – ex Press reporter Olivia Carville. The most moving thing I have read on the Christchurch quakes, it brought tears to my eyes. No extracts, go read the whole thing: Christchurch: My first quake anniversary away from home.