Christchurch Earthquake Restoration

  

Christchurch Earthquake Restoration

In 2011, the city of Christchurch on the South Island was rattled by a devastating earthquake. In the following years, the council has had the difficult task of recovering and rebuilding the ruined metropolis into a regenerated and functioning home for the people of Christchurch. While there is still a long way to go, year by year, roads are being re-opened, the cracked pavements are disappearing, and the city centre is slowly taking shape.

One of the biggest shocks to the community was the severe damage caused to the iconic Victorian gothic cathedral that was built only 14 years after the founding of the city. While 80% of the building remains intact, including the roofing structure, the building lost the spire which now stands in the Quake City museum; an exhibition that informs visitors about the earthquake. Leading seismic and structural engineers claim that the cathedral can be restored to it's former glory and as a result, the building has so far been spared from demolition. While it is currently unsafe to be used as a community building, the cardboard cathedral is working as a temporary replacement. Negotiations are still under way to fund the restoration project, with volunteers, insurance companies, government backing and multiple projects all contributing to the repair costs.
The battle to recover the city is huge, but the community of Christchurch have outdone themselves and gained international recognition in the process. The $40 million restoration of The Great Hall and Clock Tower have caught the attention of the people at UNESCO Asia-Pacific, and have been merited an award for cultural heritage conservation. After seismically strengthening the buildings and adding more fixtures to improve their earthquake resistance, the intricately detailed buildings were restored so that the community could enjoy a breath of exuberance.
Other temporary projects have drawn tourism into the area. Multiple street art installations have brightened a grey and damaged city, and the now iconic shopping mall made entirely of colourful shipping containers has become a vital location for the community to operate from. The plethora of building projects has attracted a large international backpacker community who want to help to rebuild the city and pump money into the tourism industry in the process. While the city has a big uphill battle to become fully functional again, the community has never been stronger, and the determination of the population is always evident.
The evidence is still on the surface, and while empty lots are constantly being filled with temporary and permanent fixtures, it will be a long time before the city can consider the earthquake as a thing of the past. While the CBD is in constant development and improvement, some of the slower rebuilding projects of the resident's homes are happening in the suburbs. Due to a two tier insurance policy in New Zealand when it comes to earthquakes, any case with damage over $100,000 has been handed to private insurance companies who are often struggling to settle the case, leaving residents waiting in limbo in unsafe or uncomfortable living conditions. While residents are celebrating newly erected buildings and structures, there are still buildings to come down and huge areas of unstable land which are unsafe to rebuild upon. Where the workload is so huge, the council and single-goal government institutes in charge of the restoration are often opting for speed over accuracy, and some residents are criticising the decisions made.
Then there is also the issue of the residential red zone to deal with. The land was subject to liquefaction and deemed uneconomic to repair. More than 100,000 ideas were presented, using post-it notes, lego, crayons and videos by the local people. The zone still sits derelict with some buildings still waiting to be taken down.
Brick by brick, Christchurch city is being rebuilt, and it will be interesting to observe developments over the next few years to see which direction they take - to find out how the residential red zone will be utilised, to see the resolution of the private insurance company policies on residential homes and to finally see the residents caught in legal limbo find their homes again, and to see the central area begin to thrive again.

 

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