Travel writer Hugh braves Paris in one of the rainiest months of the yearWritten by Hugh Thomas on 11th April 2016
Christchurch Earthquake: Discussing the aftermath one year on
Will the land of the long white cloud be able to regenerate the iconic city of Christchurch? 12 gruelling months after the disaster, the outlook seems promising
Will the land of the long white cloud be able to regenerate the iconic city of Christchurch? 12 gruelling months after the disaster, the outlook seems promising.
The devastation caused by the Christchurch earthquake is firmly etched on the minds of people all across the world. Many watched the news in awe, shocked at the sight of the city being ripped apart by nature. The magnitude 6.1 quake claimed the lives of 185 people, injured many more and caused billions of pounds worth of damage.
On the anniversary of the disaster, the citizens of Christchurch remember the victims of the earthquake. People across the world follow the struggle to rebuild the city, in the hope of bringing it back to its former glory. The damage has been so extensive, however, that progress is slow and costs are running high.
Descriptions such as 'wasteland' and 'rubble-strewn' are not likely to encourage the average tourist to vault across the Pacific to visit Christchurch. The desolate landscape of the urban centre, coupled with the widespread coverage of the catastrophe, explains why Christchurch has not been receiving quite the number of tourists it had enjoyed pre-earthquake.
Many people think of the city as a disaster zone, and reports show that many citizens are even choosing to migrate out of the city. Australia alone welcomed record numbers of migrants last March, almost double its normal intake.
Much of the beautiful architecture of the city has been destroyed, and attractions such as the landmark cathedral have been damaged to such an extent that whole areas of the inner-city are cordoned off to the public.
Despite slow progress, Christchurch has declared itself open for business in many sectors, including tourism. More than 95 per cent of its shopping facilities are back in action. A 'restart' vibe is emanating across the city, further encouraging shops and businesses to keep the city buzzing.
The 'pop-up city' is Christchurch's innovative solution to the slow progress of reconstruction. Shipping containers have been tastefully redesigned to house all sorts of shops, restaurants and bars. The 'restart' projects enable Christchurch to offer a fashionable and alternative entertainment scene, attracting more and more visitors everyday. Lonely Planet states that the city is 're-emerging as one of the most exciting cities of New Zealand'.
One of the most affected areas of the tourism sector is accommodation. Many of the large hotels in Christchurch have suffered from severe damage, and only 14 out of 36 hotels are in operation. Unfortunately, the reconstruction of hotels is restricted by the need to develop other sectors of the city.
Many tourists have not been able to receive the four-star accommodation they would normally expect, but many are happy to simply have a bed to sleep in, and the number of cancellations has barely risen.
There is still a lot to see and do in Christchurch - there are many nature-based activities on offer, and the majority of visitor attractions are still open. Being close to the coast, Christchurch is the perfect base for all those who have a keen interest in wildlife. Swimming with dolphins, whale-watching and albatross encounters are just some of the activities on offer.
The surrounding countryside also contains many gems; the tranquillity of punting or relaxing in the thermal spas and stunning lakes contrasts with the devastation of the urban centre. Still, the city itself remains popular; there is a certain lure to experience the revitalisation of Christchurch and feel a part of the catastrophic landmark event.
Many want to help out in a time of need, whether by taking hands-on action in the effort to rebuild, or simply travelling there to support the local industry and boost the economy. The daily struggle that faces the people of Christchurch should in no way be belittled - many are still trying to survive in very difficult conditions.
However, Christchurch is trying its hardest to become the tourist destination that it once was, and with so much still on offer, there is no reason why it should be struck off the beaten track of New Zealand's most popular destinations.