Sunday, 1 May 2011

So what is happening in Christchurch?

Locals have a pretty good idea about what is happening in Christchurch, but we have found that those from outside of the city don’t really have a clue. Understandable. 

One of more common misconceptions is that the central city area is accessible.  Many guests arrive asking for help getting reservations at restaurants that just aren’t there any more!  The truth is that the Red Zone is guarded by the NZ Army and no-one gets in without permission. Many ask why this is, and the reason is that it is just not safe. Aftershocks are still continuing to jolt us and it was one of these that resulted in people being crushed in buses and outside the buildings they were shopping in.  This cannot be allowed to happen again and the central city area must be made safe before it is reopened.

So this is a quick round up of what is happening – according to Jeff.  Its not complete but will give you an idea of where the city is at.

On Sat. 30 April, the National Civil Defence Emergency ended and responsibility for managing the cleanup is now in the hands of CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority), a government department set up with special powers which in some ways exceed those of Civil Defence. 
The Red Zone, with limited entry, is inside Salisbury St., Madras St. St. Asaph St., and Cambridge Terrace.  Hopefully the northern perimeter will be reduced to Kilmore St soon but this will not happen until some more unstable buildings are demolished.  If a building becomes unstable, roads can still be suddenly closed until the danger has passed, which usually means bringing the building down.

Due to the widespread damage, it is estimated that the Red Zone may remain off limits until at least the end of the year.  At the latest count almost 350 buildings require either demolition, partial demolition, or work to make them safe and the list is still being added to.  You may think that it is the old, heritage style buildings that headline the list and while that is true, the brute force of the quake and associated liquefaction has also done terrible damage to many modern buildings as well.  Several high rise buildings are considered so unsafe that No Go Fall Zones have been set up around them.  The Hotel Grand Chancellor is one such building.  This all adds up to an unsafe central city area that cannot be opened up. 

50,000 people used to work in the CBD area and to start returning to normal, a central city retail area on Cashel St. between Colombo St & Oxford Terrace is planned to be reopened at the end of October and will include the Ballantynes Department Store.

Other than that, the only places open in the central area are; Botanical Gardens, Punting on the Avon, Cook’n with Gas restaurant, Canterbury Cheesemongers and 2 restaurants in The George Hotel.  

The Art Gallery is the Civil Defence HQ and won’t reopen for some time.  The Arts Centre is severely damaged and is not expected to reopen for around 4 years.  The weekend markets have relocated to Ferrymead Historic Park. 
QE2, the site of the 1974 Commonwealth Games and a proud addition to our city that recently held the 2011 Paralympic Games, is a total write off and may not be able to be rebuilt on the same site.

Outside the city centre, most activities (jet boating, ballooning, wildlife parks etc.)  are operating normally.

Closer to home, the buildings along Colombo St. between Peterborough and Kilmore Sts. were largely destroyed beyond repair in the quake.  The only restaurants left largely undamaged are Strawberry Fare and Thai Smile and we look forward to them opening once the cordon is lifted.  Café Valentino, Metro Café, Johnson’s Grocer, are all gone but their owners have already put plans in place for the rebuild.

Approximately 1/2 of the restaurants and bars in Christchurch are inside the Red Zone and this has resulted in the suburban bars enjoying a roaring trade.  Good for them but it means that they can be extremely crowded.  Some advanced planning is neccessary to enjoy your meal!    

The Town Hall and Convention Centre are both damaged and won’t be reopening until early next year.  It is hoped that AMI Stadium will be ready for next year’s season start at the end of January.

The eastern parts of Christchurch were also badly hit and an estimated 10,000 houses will need to be rebuilt.  The construction of hundreds of temporary houses in parks is about to begin. An indication of the damage to the infrastructure can be seen by looking at the 2000 portaloos that now dot streets.  The quake has basically stuffed much of the sewerage system on the east side of the city.  Along with the portaloos, some 30,000 chemical toilets have been distributed for in home use.  People have to empty their full tanks into 400 human waste disposal tanks spread around the city.  Because the Poo Ponds, as we call them, are damaged and not operating at 100% capacity, raw sewage is being pumped into the rivers and to reduce the pressure, people who can flush are being asked to not flush too much.

Two months after the quake, a lot has been achieved but the sheer magnitude of the damage means that it will be a long time before Christchurch begins to return to normal.  Estimates are anything from 5 to 10 years for the rebuild .  This means that some people will be able to visit several times in this period and see the rebuilding of Christchurch, the Garden City.

That’s what’s happening in Christchurch.

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