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Two years after the Christchurch quakes it’s a tale of two cities

Sep 15th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features, Student Features

UNITED VOICES: Protest march, 1st Sep 2012  PHOTO: Gudrun Gisela

CHRISTCHURCH Press and Dominion Post columnist Jane Bowron says although she is aware there is still anger and frustration over the earthquake rebuilding effort, she describes the resilience of locals as, “impressive”.

Ms Bowron, speaking on Radio New Zealand’s Sunday Morning programme, said she sees a lot of “cooperative spirit” in Christchurch two years on from the September quake.

Like many Cantabrians she has formed a closer alliance with her neighbours since then.

“I previously had a nodding acquaintance, now we crack up and break bread together,” she says.

However, one resident feeling frustrated is Ian Blenkinsop. He has been voicing his concerns over the political response to the disaster through protests and online forums.

“Two years on from the first big quake, and we have a dictatorship telling us Christchurch needs a covered stadium as part of the “rebuild” when some people still have tarpaulins on their roof, ” he says.

“John Key and Gerry Brownlee host champagne breakfasts to make announcements to the business community, while the ordinary people are left out in the cold.

“The well-connected have positioned themselves to make fortunes out of this disaster, while others who have diligently paid their insurance premiums are dicked around. This is a tale of two cities.”

Other Cantabrians who  share feelings of exasperation express their views on several blogs from groups and individuals in the region.

On Action for Christchurch East’s website a tradesperson added the following post:

“I drive from my broken home in Shirley over broken roads to repair million dollar properties that are hardly affected. How is that fair?”

Jane Bowron agrees: “It’s very hard to drive past the worst afflicted streets and houses in the east without wincing and feeling for those who’ve had to slog through another winter doing it hard, their lives held up and unable to move on from being mucked around by insurance companies and EQC.

“Those in the west with minor damage have had their dwellings fixed up, ‘finessed’ you could say, while those in the east wait and wait and wait, some of them knowing they’ll never be able to sell their properties.”

FLOURISHING HOPE: Magnolia in earthquake hit area PHOTO: Yani Johansen

On a positive note, city councillor Yani Johansen initiated the plantings of Magnolia trees in some of the worst affected areas.

Happy to see them now flowering as a symbol of hope he comments on his Facebook page:

“Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your efforts and support over the past two years. This photo shows me the best and worst of nature at once.

“A reminder that so much of our dreams and hard work were destroyed in a few seconds but also that we can and will flourish with beauty again. Kia kaha Christchurch.”

Catherine Cuneen moved to Wellington earlier this year to complete her Certificate in multi-media journalism at Whitireia.

She moved back to Christchurch in June and says the place is starting to feel like home again.

“You do get used to the emptiness, but being in the centre of town still really sucks. You completely lose your bearings because you can’t remember what used to be on the corner of such and such. Other than that, Christchurch is messy but still going.”

Dan Jourdain, another Whitireia student who has returned to Christchurch, is finding his home town an easier place to be now.

“It feels a lot more normal than it did the last time I went back,” he says.

As a degree of normality returns to the city, Jane Bowron reflects on how people have retained a sense of unity.

“We hear about the honeymoon period that communities are supposed to go through after a disaster, how everyone falls in love with each other and how that period is supposed to pass with a return to structure and some kind of normality.

“But I believe that in the Christchurch experience the bonds formed in the early days after the February quake remain and are still strong.

“Christchurch used to be a city where the question was what school you went to, but no one seems to ask that anymore, with people coming together through a universal experience.”



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  1. good article, keep up the excellent work!

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