Slow progress in Christchurch one year after quake - Australasia - World - The Independent

Slow progress in Christchurch one year after quake

view gallery VIEW GALLERY


As families of the 185 people killed in the Christchurch earthquake marked the one-year anniversary of the disaster today, signs of a city still broken were all around them.

Hundreds of wrecked buildings downtown are still waiting to be torn down so reconstruction can begin in earnest — many of them within sight of the morning ceremony at Latimer Square.

The slow pace of recovery is drawing criticism from residents and developers as it wears at the reputation of Mayor Bob Parker, who was praised in the days following the quake for his leadership and for calmly articulating the pain and frustration many were feeling.

"There are many unknowns, there are questions still to be answered, suburbs to be rebuilt and a city to be rebuilt," Parker said at a larger ceremony later Wednesday in the city's North Hagley Park. "We've had our differences, creative and otherwise. But that is not who we really are."

Wednesday was a day of reflection amid what has become a battle between city leaders and many Christchurch residents and developers.

More than 10,000 people stood in silence, some in tears, at the park while police officers and firefighters read out the full list of victims. That was followed by two minutes of silence at 12:51 p.m., the minute the magnitude-6.1 quake struck.

The earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings, causing 30 billion dollars ($25 billion) in damage by the government's estimate.

Downtown is still a wasteland. About 1,400 buildings there were irreparably damaged, and many still stand. Basic downtown infrastructure like the sewerage system has not yet been repaired, and vital decisions about where to locate major structures in a new-look city — including a proposed sports stadium, library and conference centre — remain incomplete.

Many now question whether Parker and council members have what it takes to lead the city through the rebuild.

"The council is seen as being at war with the community and with businesses," said Hugh Pavletich, a developer and city critic. "It's an old culture which is bureaucratised and which is severely impeding progress."

To be sure, ongoing aftershocks and balking insurers also have held back the rebuild. But the political infighting hasn't helped.

New Zealand's government recently appointed an observer to oversee what it describes as the "dysfunctional" council. Gerry Brownlee, the government's earthquake recovery minister, recently called Parker a "clown," a comment he later retracted. Earlier this month, several thousand Christchurch residents took to the streets, demanding that the mayor, council members and senior officials resign.

Parker and council members unveiled a draft downtown plan last August. It included terraced housing and a new light rail system. Critics said it was stuffed with unrealistic pet projects and didn't allow developers enough freedom. Brownlee is considering a pared-back version of the plan and is expected to release his own vision soon.

Parker says the city considered more than 100,000 submissions for the plan and that critics form a vocal minority.

Christchurch developer Angus McFarlane said he now expects the commercial core of the city will take 10 years to rebuild and will contain just 30 percent of the retail and office space it did before the quake. He said he's unsure whether he will reinvest in the city.

He said adaptations made by many businesses after the earthquake — such as working remotely and turning to smaller spaces — will make them unwilling to return to a high-cost city centre.

"A lot of people are waking up and saying, 'Gee, this is marvellous, we should have done this years ago,"' McFarlane said.

Parker said the city centre will be more condensed than it was before and won't have the tall office buildings it once did. But he said it will be more dynamic, livable and green.

"You're not going to satisfy everybody," he said.

Despite the concerns, residents and businesses have so far remained in the city in numbers that have surprised many. When Statistics New Zealand measured the population of Christchurch four months after the earthquake, it found the population had declined by just 2.4 per cent, to 368,000, despite the loss of more than 5,000 homes.

Peter Townsend, the chief executive of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, said that business receipts continue to come in at more than 95 percent of the level recorded before the quake.

Some parts of the city that have picked up the slack are now booming.

"Business has been remarkably resilient," Townsend said.

However, he said people need to start thinking about downtown Christchurch in a new way.

"There's still a perception that we are going to rebuild it much like it was," he said. "It's completely untrue."

Instead, Townsend said he envisions the creation of seven or eight small retail hubs, or villages, around major structures like the hospital and the convention centre..

Brownlee, the earthquake minister, said he understands people's frustration at the pace of the rebuild but added that they need to remember that the earthquake was a massively disruptive event. He said it's more important to get things right than to rush, and that reconstruction remains on track despite the city's political problems.

Brownlee said it's important for land prices to fall in the city to encourage new investment. Overall, he said, he has high hopes for a revamped downtown.

"I feel it will be quite new, quite clean, quite shiny, and safe," he said. "People say it's going to be a smaller city, but I'm not convinced. It's certainly going to be in a tighter area, and it's going to be integrated a lot better."

Asked when downtown might be ready for business, Brownlee said he simply cannot predict.


John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week