It’s now over three years since the September 2010 Earthquake and nearly three years since the devastating February Earthquake that killed so many. It is surprising to note how little media coverage is given to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. Up here in Auckland, we might see the occasional news article about the rebuild but the news is thin on the ground.
Visitors flying into Christchurch Airport may see a few signs of housing development on the Western fringes of the city, in Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, but very few houses have yet been completed. Then, as you journey from the airport towards the city centre, you may see the occasional rebuild or repair but, on the whole, life seems relatively normal.
When you reach the centre, the scale of the devastation hits you. With so many buildings razed to the ground by earthquake or demolition, it is difficult to get your bearings in what appears to be an endless sprawl of vacant lots.
Of course, by now, you have begun to experience some of the frustrations faced on a daily basis by Christchurch drivers as you negotiate seismically-altered roads, diversions and roadblocks.
If you are a more intrepid visitor, you might head into the worst-affected suburbs in the East; suburbs like the ghost-town of abandoned, twisted homes and streets that is Avonside, or the neighbouring suburbs where houses have been cleared leaving streets of empty sections.
This is where you begin to picture how lives, homes and communities have been destroyed. Most visitors experience some sadness. But for many of those that have lived through the last few years in Christchurch, the sadness is much deeper. Loss of lives, home and community is harder to bear when compounded by aftershocks, or that nagging fear in the back of everyone’s minds of another “big one” happening.
As an unnerving background to their normal stages of development, this will all have a profound and lasting effect on a generation of Canterbury children. As experts had predicted, more psycho-social problems continue to surface at this stage of the recovery. The social services entry points, ‘Right Services, Right Time’, is experiencing a 3-fold increase in referrals with more than half of these cases relating to child behaviour problems.
The Tindall Foundation has been providing additional funding support to some of our Christchurch-based Faith Funding Managers to support them in best meeting the increased need. Under the thoughtful and committed leadership of Mary Richardson, Michael Gorman and Vaughan Milner, faith-based social service providers like Christchurch Methodist Mission, Christchurch Anglican City Mission and Presbyterian Support continue to step up, adapting services to meet the changing need, all the time providing us with sound advice and heartwarming inspiration.
But the emotional recovery is not dependent on social service support alone. From the rubble, there have been so many shoots of self-help, do-it-yourself, community activity, from residents’ groups in places like Sumner, New Brighton, Addington and Lyttelton joining together to revitalise their own neighbourhoods, to the now-world-famous Gap Filler Trust, ensuring those vacant lots get livened up with Pallet Pavilions and Dance-O-Mats enticing residents and visitors back into enjoying Christchurch again.
And a big mention is also needed for the good folk at CanCERN, the network of residents’ organisations that has been tirelessly, persistently and assertively advocating to try to ensure that the needs of the earthquake-affected residents are at the forefront of the actions of all the various local and national government departments, QUANGOs, insurers, and other bodies who are responsible for ensuring the best outcomes for those same residents.
And finally, there’s the drainlayers, roadfixers, linesmen, plasterers, builders and all the others working tirelessly to put things back together again.
Keep on keeping on Christchurch – Kia kaha – you folk are an inspiration to us all.