The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Christchurch has revitalised itself since we were last here. Although it is a vast building site in places and has plenty of parking on empty lots, (none of the multi-storey car parks are safe) it now has a vibrancy that makes one want to stay. The trams are running again, and next month the lines will have been completed to allow a figure of eight trip around the city. The Restart container mall is buzzing and one suspects that residents will be sad to see it go when redevelopment reaches Cashel Street. The Transitional Cathedral (more commonly called the Cardboard Cathedral) is beautiful. It is very simple but tranquil, light and airy. Built to last 50 years, it will eventually become the parish church of St John in Latimer Square, replacing the old church that stood here before. For a building made out of cardboard tubes it is spectacular and a clever way to provide facilities. Shigeru Ban is the Japanese “emergency architect” behind the design.

Sadly, the arguments rage about the fate of the old Cathedral, which has now been deconsecrated. The tram drivers describe it as an expensive pigeon loft as nothing has been done to make it weather - or pigeon - proof. The Wizard of New Zealand has come out of retirement to fight the cause of rebuilding. Insurance and donations could make this possible and a majority of the public seem to want this. However, the Bishop favours “new build” and there are legal arguments about who actually owns the building and the right to decide. Time will tell. In the meantime Cathedral Square is being well used and on Friday evenings becomes a hub for Friday Food Trucks, serving food from around the globe. There are a variety of murals around the city disguising the ugly walls left and made safe. In one place a stack of shipping containers is being used to prop up a four storey building. However, there are also a lot of buildings that have had to be abandoned and that are waiting to be demolished. The roads are far from perfect and Christchurch must hold the record for the number of cones in use and the miles of wire safety fencing. It is good to see the efforts being made to restore some of the older, iconic buildings. Newer ones have a mixed fate. The Police HQ is decidedly leaning and is due to be imploded (only the second one to be demolished this way) while the Arts Centre is being underpinned after someone noticed items rolling down what should have been a level floor! The Botanic Gardens are at their summer best. The Hagley Oval is being prepared for the Cricket World Cup.

Three years ago we couldn’t bear to stay long in such a sad place. This year it was hard to board the bus and return to our camper van. Perhaps we might manage a return trip to see the finished project in years to come.

Rosemary Monk

Easter 2015

Rosemary and Colin in New Zealand

Cardboard Cathedral

The old Cathedral