The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Over the next few issues we are running a series of short notes from Colin and Rosemary reflecting on their recent visit to New Zealand…

We arrived in Christchurch just after lunch today so made our way into the city, as they had announced that the Cathedral Square would be open to the public over the weekend. The shopping centre is a bit of a ghost town but many businesses have been re-opened in brightly painted containers and the atmosphere was good. Other parts are just piles of rubble and cranes and earth movers. There are various parking lots sprung out of holes in building lines where properties have been demolished. The multi storey car park is fenced off and we weren’t sure if parts of it were leaning or not.

We joined the queue in the main street, which fortunately moved quite quickly. They were counting us in and out, presumably to keep the numbers reasonable, and we had to read the signs telling us that we were entering the earthquake zone at our own risk.  It was quite a sombre mood all round and the walk down to the square, past wrecked buildings was unreal – Colin said “like Beirut”. The square was really sad and the Cathedral devastating. No one could fail to be moved by the sad sight. A lot of people had come to see the city they knew and were commenting on the loss of places they knew. Discussions about the rights and wrongs of the decision not to rebuild the Cathedral were going on all round – many people more annoyed that there had been no chance for the public to express an opinion than anything.  Maybe it will encourage more people to contribute towards the redevelopment rather than sitting back and expecting the church to fund it.

We have met several people on our travels who describe themselves as earthquake refugees. Some have had to leave their homes completely and others have huge bills for rebuilding drainage systems etc. The Gondola to the viewpoint on the way to Lyttleton is out of action – the building at the base is falling apart. In Lyttleton itself lots of the wooden bungalows on the hillsides are shut up and you can see that their stilt bases are all over the place. Many roads in the area are rather “bouncy” as they have moved about in the quakes and aftershocks. Incredibly many other buildings and old bridges are still standing!  They obviously knew how to build some things to withstand all events.

In spite of the sadness we are glad we came. Tomorrow we are off early to catch the Tranz Alpine train to see the glories of Arthur’s Pass (weather permitting). Basically we are going to Greymouth for lunch!  Think I might have whitebait patties again.

Rosemary & Colin

Festival Edition 2012

Travels in New Zealand