Christchurch Before and After the Earthquakes

Barrow's Buildings, Papanui Road, Merivale, Christchurch

Christchurch Before and After the Earthquakes

I have lived in Christchurch City most of my life. I find it difficult to describe the sense of loss at the disappearance of so many of the city’s buildings following the series of devastating earthquakes starting with the magnitude 7.1 shake on 4 September 2010. It is as if the soul of the city has gone. So many buildings in the CBD have been erased that it is now almost unrecognisable. There are vast open spaces between office blocks that just don’t look right at all. I suspect it will be a long time, if ever, before these spaces are filled with new structures.

Many business’s have now moved out into the suburbs. Any new office space erected in the inner city will be very expensive to rent which is a major deterrent to many who might otherwise return. Before the quakes there were large numbers of small café’s and shops which have now long since found business premises elsewhere.

The affect of the earthquakes on the city’s people is far more difficult see. One of the bizarre aspects of the disastrous earthquakes has been the random nature in which people’s lives were affected. The less powerful but shallower magnitude 6.3 earthquake on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51 in the afternoon killed 185 people and injured several thousand more. Thousands of people also lost their homes and livelihoods.

Huge numbers of people had to find alternative accommodation, either because their homes were destroyed, or seriously damaged, or as happened in many cases those renting were tossed out to make the house available to someone else, or for it to be sold. Rents on the remaining housing stock rose rapidly forcing many tenants to move on to somewhere cheaper.

Many home owners with fully insured but damaged houses found themselves in limbo waiting for endless assessments and repairs to be carried out. Their situations made worse by being told a different storey after every scope of works.

Yet others suffered few ill effects following the quakes finding instead that their mostly undamaged houses where suddenly rising in market value. The eastern side of the city has largely been ignored. Those who could afford new homes have moved north, south and west, changing the demographics of the population considerably.

I wish that I had purchased a good 35mm camera back in the 1970s and shot a couple of rolls of film each week – which would have been quite expensive back then. Such photographs would have been a treasure trove today. In later years I took many pictures around the city not realizing of course that many of the buildings would soon be destroyed in the big Christchurch earthquake on Tuesday 22 February 2011.

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