Regeneration

I took an opportunity the other day to wander through the Otakaro Avon River Corridor (residential red zone). I wanted to get a sense of it – where it’s up to and how its looking. Before I note my impressions, here’s the back story.

Stephen and I recently joined the Dallington Residents Association. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages, but just haven’t had the time. With Stephen less involved in hockey, and me travelling and working less, now seemed a good time. So I answered a call for a new DRA secretary. It’s a great little group with some good ideas, but maybe lacking direction and a bit out of touch with the resident population. Dallington has changed massively since the earthquakes. We lost approximately half our residents, and I suspect that a lot of those were older people. Demographically, Dallington is now a young suburb, with almost half of the residents being under 30. That’s in stark contrast to the DRA, where the average age is probably around 60. While the DRA has some great ideas about community events and beautification, I think it has been slow to react to the changes that the earthquakes have caused.

This month Regenerate Christchurch released a discussion document for the various land use options its considering in the area. At our last DRA meeting, I suggested that we could hold a workshop for residents on the options, with the objective of producing a submission from the DRA on our view of the options. The committee agreed, and that workshop is scheduled for 31 October.

So this is why I found myself wandering along the new Otakaro bike trail thinking about regeneration.

And what was my sense? It’s a beautiful place. The river looks as though its well on the way to regeneration all on its own, taking parts of the neighbourhood with it. And that feels right. Maybe for this area, regeneration means letting the river find its place again. Maybe it’s about giving the land a chance to settle, and then we can figure out what bits to give over to the river, and what bits we can use again.

I stopped along my walk to look at the plants and trees that now delineate the house boundaries.

In my logical brain, I look at the land and understand that its an valuable asset. We can’t realise that asset unless we use it for something. But in my heart, I feel sad for the people who had to leave. I know some of them went willingly – they took their money and found more stable ground to rebuild on. But a lot of people left only because they had to. If that was my former home and I was faced with the prospect of it being sold on to new homesteaders, I’d be upset, and maybe angry. It seems too soon. Leave it alone for a while. Give people a decent chance to grieve.

How long does that take? It feels like seven years isn’t enough. It might take 20 years. Or fifty. Can we afford to wait that long? I think we can, out of respect for the people who were moved out.

Rise Up

Bruce Springsteen was in town last night. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to go, but it was great to see all the photos and videos from friends.

One video in particular caught me out – on the way to the gym, walking past the 185 Chairs and the former CTV site, I was moved to tears watching a video from the concert last night – Bruce singing a special tribute version of My City of Ruins.

 

He wrote the song about New York City after 9/11, but its equally fitting for Christchurch on 22/02.

There’s a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s thrown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The empty streets
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Now there’s tears on the pillow
Darlin’ where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city’s in ruins
My city’s in ruins
Now with these hands
With these hands
With these hands
With these hands, I pray Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the faith, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your love, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your love, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for your faith, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
I pray for the strength, Lord
With these hands
With these hands
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up
Come on, rise up

My giant local park…

It’s been six years since the the first Canterbury quake and so much has changed. For me, one of the most tangible differences I see every day is the huge park that has emerged around our home.

It’s hard to think about the scale of the residential red zone in Christchurch – it’s really really big, but how big is that exactly? Its 732 hectares of land, but that number doesn’t mean much to me…another way to say that is that its over four  times the size of Hagley Park. That’s pretty big!

I found this interesting comparison map on Stuff the other day – it puts the scale of the demolitions into context for non-Cantabrians.

If the residential red zone was in Auckland, it would cover most of New Lynn and New Windsor.

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If it was in Wellington, it would cover most of the city!

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It boggles my mind!

Why would you?

I was driving through town the other evening and it was teeming with tourists. A couple stopped me as I was leaving the gym to ask me about where they could find something to eat. It took me a while to think about where I might send them. I don’t know why anyone would want to come to Christchurch.

As a tourist myself, I usually stay in the inner city where all the interesting stuff is. I can just imagine catching a bus from the airport into the city (staying at the Ibis maybe?) and being bowled over by the complete lack of city. What do tourists think when they come here? Do they know how bad it is? That there really isn’t any city at all? Or maybe they are attracted by the pop-ups and weird abandoned feel.

I can only assume that some people are there because they are curious and others because they don’t know.

The one where 20 seconds changed everything

It’s hard to know where to start this one, I have so much in my brain! Lots of people have been sharing their reflections two years on from February 22nd 2011. It’s been really good to read and listen, and consider my own thoughts and feelings now that some time has passed.

On reflection, I think I was pretty deeply traumatised for the first six months after the earthquake. I had all the classic signs – inability to concentrate, feeling restless or anxious, easily stressed, trouble sleeping, random crying. I’m glad that part has passed – as I knew it would.

But it’s been hard to move on. After a traumatic event – like when someone dies suddenly – there is a period of shock, and then grieving and a sense of loss, and then eventually a letting go. I wish I could. Sometimes people express surprise to me that it’s still at the top of my mind – something I still talk about a lot (are you sick of hearing about it? If you’re not from round here, probably).

If you were in Christchurch every day, you would understand why most of us haven’t been able to put it behind us. I’ve moved from shock, to grieving, a sense of loss, to road cones and destruction and waiting for insurance companies and EQC and being told that it’s a long road ahead. My every day starts with remembering what we’ve been through and where we are up to – I back down my driveway and have to think about what to do next – I never quite know where the roads will be closed, detouring, causing banked-up traffic. It reminds me everyday what I went through.

Sometimes people ask why don’t I just leave this dangerous, depressing place. Think about it. Would you leave your home, your job, your children, your grandchildren, your friends and extended family if you were in my shoes? That seems like the opposite of a good idea. They are what hold me together. I would be less frustrated by road cones somewhere else, but I’d be leaving my entire life behind. So for now, this is where I stay (sometimes I feel a little trapped, but it passes).

And because I’m not one to wallow in the boo-hoos, there are some great things happening too. Reality has changed, and to be honest most of it sucks, but here and there are bright little sparks of awesomeness that make it a bit better. Our wrecked city is actually looking pretty cool in places. It’s like someone bombed it and then left children to rebuild. There are strange and colourful gap fillers popping up all over the place. I love them so much – going to the city it makes me so happy to see a pavilion made from wooden pallets, a mall made from containers, a library in a fridge, a cathedral made from cardboard for goodness sake! We had the city pulled out from under us, and people have been so creative about poking bits of it back in. I hope it stays, and grows.

I sat in Latimer Square today (it was a triage zone for the city on the day) with hundreds of others today and thought about all this. People talking about their thoughts and feelings. What are my thoughts and feelings? My thought is “the recovery is taking forever, I want to move on”, and my feelings are “grief and loss and sadness and happiness”.

Those 20 seconds on February 22nd 2011 changed everything. We can’t go back and the way forward will be slow. That’s reality for me.