Last week I had a train-the-trainer course in Christchurch (on the new Library Management System we will be using in our libraries from June). I didn’t get anywhere near the Red Zone to see the damage in the central city, but the effects of the earthquakes are still obvious to the visitor. Nearly two years after the second quake, there are many homes with bracing where the porch should be, boarding over gaps created by falling chimney stacks and fractured picture windows, and gardens where ordered loveliness has been invaded by weeds and grasses. It is those houses that seem saddest to me, as it means the house isn’t occupied – or if it is, that the occupants have given up caring about the garden.
Taxi drivers – as ever great sources of local information – shared their own situations with us, telling us of the difficulties of getting resolution to their issues. One had been assured his home repairs would be completed this year – but was caught in the middle of the insurance sandwich as EQC and his insurance company argued over the value of those repairs ($50,000 vs $200,000 – a considerable mis-match). Another had been told his repairs would be made – in 2015!
Yet the spirit of Christchurch is strong. People smile at each other, help each other out and more-or-less cheerfully shrug their shoulders when they find the route they planned to take today is cut off by road closures (at least it means some much-needed infrastructure repairs have started there, right?).