Thursday, 1 December 2011

Reclaiming our City – the Red Zone Bus Tour

23 Nov. 5.40pm to 6.20pm, the RED ZONE, Christchurch.

This blog is more for our past, present and future guests than the people of Christchurch, but maybe they will also relate to what is said.

At present the motel and where we live is just 1 small block from the edge of the Red Zone. In fact, for the first 18 days after the 22 Feb quake, we were behind the cordon and under curfew from 6pm to 6am.  Most Christchurch people have no idea what that could be like, and many have not seen the city centre that we live and breathe in every day.  For many, the RED ZONE bus tours would have been the first visit to that area since the quake, but for us driving around and living right next to the Red Zone is an everyday reality.

But still, actually going inside the barrier instead of walking along the outside of the fence was a time of mixed emotions.  One thing for sure was that there were no feelings of excitement and that no doubt resulted in mr16’s comment that it was boring.  He was looking for a live demolition site that could not be seen from the barrier and was as disappointed as a 16 year old could be.  For the record, mr12 recorded the whole trip on his ipod. 

To be honest, I first declared that I would not do the tour but the *Bucket List* emotion took over and we did the once in a lifetime experience.

We walked the 5 minutes to Cramner Square and read the cautions before boarding the bus. The warning that we may well not survive the tour if there was an earthquake was absurdly surreal but once in the Zone it was easy to see what was meant as the bus crawled along right next to large buildings that are on the demolition list.  CERA was right.

On entering the Red Zone I was immediately struck by the surrealistic situation we were actually in.  Going to the city centre was a right that was torn away from us by a force of nature to the extent that 8 months on all that has been achieved is a snail paced bus ride around the Zone.  Nature has indeed triumphed in a perverse way.

The atmosphere on our bus was solemn but cheerful, quiet ruled but riders gently spoke of items of interest.  Looking out the window at pavements we used to walk on, restaurants we used to eat in, grassy areas we used to sit on and eat ice cream.  It was surreal seeing how tormented the whole central city area is.  We knew about the buildings, they have been well publicised.  It was the parks, roads, riverbanks etc. that we were seeing for the first time that was surprising.  The bike stand outside Icecream Charlie’s park had half sunken into the earth, as in an attempt to escape the absolute loneliness of the place.  It’s easy to say that the whole central city area is buggered.

On a technical note, while the bus tour allowed close up viewing, a lot of what we saw could be seen by walking around the edge of the red zone, especially the CTV and PGC building sites.

On a lighter note, the bling that littered the ground outside what used to be the Louis Vuitton shop was bizarrely dazzling and driving under the raised arm of a massive demo digger that spanned an intersection with room to spare showed the immensity of the task being faced in the country’s largest work site.

From the point of an inner city business owner who has been battling the tyranny of proximity to the Red Zone, it was clear that those who have still existing leases that will force them to trade once the barriers are removed will find the situation harsh, having to trade in what is essentially a dessert with a smattering of oases.  Many may well just trade until they are forced out of business.  It is my hope that Christchurch people and visitors to our city support these businesses in unending orgy of shopping because by god these owners will need it.

So should you do the tour? Yes you should.  There is something for everyone in the Red Zone because it’s everyone’s city and it’s a way to reclaim it, reclaim it from nature, reclaim it from the diggers and reclaim it from CERA.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately the bus tours are all booked out now so I won't be going.