A Shaky Start to My Time in Wellington

Lets be honest earthquakes are two a penny as we say in England. They happen almost everyday and on more than one occasion as well. Earthquakes to New Zealand are what rain is to Manchester and self importance and an ideal that your superior to the rest of the country is to London. In fact by the the time you have read this post, than New Zealand would have been struck by 7 quakes.

I arrived in Wellington, the city I’m hoping will be home for the next however long, and as I sat on my bed I experienced a full on 5.1 earthquake. Once again it was on the small fault near Seddon. Now if I’ve learnt one thing while being upside down its that people don’t bother with small quakes. Why would you when you get them by the bucket load. However anything that is bigger than a 5 is mentioned, even estimated. People say ‘think that’s a 5.5’ or ‘that has to be at least a 6’.

Yes earthquakes are part of life here, and unless large go unnoticed. Felt, but ignored. Quakes are part of the daily routine like the metro to Bury being late or virgin trains not running on time. Very much like when virgin actually do run on time, the big quakes make the news.

This one I felt was 5.1 and it shock, it shock for 45 seconds and was said to be felt in Auckland but lets face it, that’s just them wanting a bit of the action. While it wasn’t scary, or loud, or even stressful it did bring home the fact that NZ is quake paradise. I’m not going to go into why, but the power of the earth to rattle buildings is quite extraordinary.

My dream was to live on the west coast of the South Island but today they have found new fault lines off the coast. That with the large alpine fault line, where the two plates meet could spell tsunami if the earth moved a bit, and I’m not a strong swimmer so I think i’ll stay in Wellington.

I’m oddly looking forward to more quakes, but hope that the ‘big one’ never strikes. While it shock and vibrated the room, all the occupants gave the knowing look of what was happening and for a short time people stopped going about their chosen activity.

While I’ve been here my love of the power of the earth has risen again. I’m keen to relearn about volcanos and quakes, thermal pools and the like. And while being in a really bad quake would be bad, NZ is use to it and have built their towns to stand up to the force. I’d much rather be in a quake zone than the volcanic region.

The Silent Majority

This has come about due to a comment left on my wall and may sound a little bitter towards the end that but rest assured thats not the case. Now as many of you know I am away seeing the wonderful delights of New Zealand and being the avid facebook and twitter user I have been posting away.

At first my updates were getting a lot of attention, I think the update ‘that’s my plane see you in a year UK’ had almost my entire friends list clicking the like button with many also choosing to add a comment, the ‘Likes’ may have just been a way to show they were celebrating me leaving the country and getting out of there lives but I’d like to think many of them are saddened by my lost and a tiny bit of their lives are that little bit more empty because due to my absence.

But as my time has gone on the comments or likes have dwindled. Maybe people are getting sick of looking at mountains dominating the the clear blue sky, or they don’t like pictures of seals or dolphins in crystal clear waters. Maybe they don’t enjoy forests that fade into the horizon or charming little settlements built on hill sides. At first I thought it was time difference. I’d tweet or update and post pictures during the day which meant that many in the UK were fast asleep and by the time they had woken my updates informing the world Im having a swell time would be buried under more recent statuses about the Burnage train being late or sign this petition to stop the Olympics in Russia ( the fact no one tried to stop the world championships, it’s always the Olympics, people did it with China and Tibet as that story had been dragging on for years and then along come the Beijing Olympics and everyone’s like Chinas policy stinks but this is another post. I’d like to add that I don’t approve of Russia stance but there was another big world event taking place that everyone seemed happy to take place).

I would off course receive one or two likes or maybe a comment, but nothing like the start of the trip where comments and tweets were in there abundance. It’s true that only a small handful of friends have kept in regular contact either through messenger, Skype, or tweet conversations and I often wonder whom Im tweeting for. Is it myself, after all who is reading or checking twitter at 3 a.m UK time. Who bothers to scroll back through there twitter feed to see12 tweets from me, and who actually takes an interest that I think NZ is a top place has after all I already tweeted that back in July.

To tell the truth I was thinking of chucking it in. Those who want to know will ask, or get in contact like the ones who already do, and maybe I’m just boring people now with constant updates of trains and wooden bridges or comments about supermarkets or images of sunsets, and white beaches or earthquake updates.

But it was down to one comment on Facebook that shows there’s a silent majority who do follow with interest (I hope). A friend left a comment “I know I don’t comment a lot but rest assured I’m following your every step. We’re very jealous mate., enjoy every second and enjoy the hill…” So maybe not everyone needs to comment, and it’s a stark reminder that people follow your updates and the silent majority will always win out, but a like or two every so often shows that your not wasting your Internet time uploading photos where you could in fact be watching cat videos.


The after shock

My first encounter to Christchurch was fellow kiwis telling me it was a building site and that they had cafes and shops in shipping containers. I thought this was New Zealand laughing at the second biggest city for not getting themselves back on track as after all it has been three years.

I was always looking forward to ChCh, the English city as it was known. Streets named after towns and counties in the UK. As I arrived along state highway one, pass the airport I encountered roadworks which at the time I thought was normal for a large city. I would later find out that they were having to rebuild the roads with large foundations due to liquefaction. If you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up, or remember back to your earthquake lesson in geography.

As I approached the city the true state of devastation grew. Roads closed, which again I would find out would change daily. It was like a bomb had gone off, large areas of ground with moulds of rumble, diggers, cranes, hi-viz jackets everywhere. Why had it taken so long, surly they could have rebuilt by now.

The following day with my camera in hand I set about ready to become a post quake tourist. Snapping waste ground, after waste ground. Looking at buildings that only have there front being propped up with shipping containers. Streets fenced off, roads only suitable for walkers. Buildings that had laid vacant for 3 years which nature had started to reclaim with bushes and trees where windows and chimneys use to be, every so often would be a functioning building.

It had only been a couple of weeks before that they had reopened the red zone, the main area which suffered the worse damage. I find out that the reason the rebuild is taking so long is paperwork. Insurance not want to pay, landlords wanting to sell, people not wanting to buy the land. Half the buildings still standing need to be demolished, even those that survived the quake like the town hall and art gallery will need to go due to the fact the ground underneath is not safe. Some buildings like the world famous cathedral could be saved, but the city and residents have decided against due to the reconstruction cost over €150,000,000 and taking up to 30 years to bring it back to its picturesque wonder.

So the building site was correct, but what about the shipping containers. Sure as I have said I have seen the containers stacked 5 stories high against buildings to stop them falling, but as I wandered off Manchester street onto Cashell street I was confronted with container city. Shipping containers, with glass sides, stacked in zigzag formations housing shops, bistros, coffee houses. Smaller ones being used to hold toilets, or cash machines and temporary art displays that has used the quake and post quake as stimulus, including an exhibition of the quake and aftermath.

I decided to have a look around the quake experience to fully understand the days events and the weeks after the 6.5 quake. Videos of people reliving the nightmare. Those stuck in rumble, or running into the city to find there kids school only to fear the worse. Stories of being reunited, people walking through dust clouds as their city collapsed around them. This was evoked by a piece of public art I saw on the way into the city. 185 white chairs opposite the once CTV building that tumbled during the quake and aftershocks. Each chair representing a life that was lost on that day.

As I stood looking, reading the description inviting me to sit in a chair I was was surrounded by empty plots of land some that had been cleared others that still had concrete blocks with steel poles that were twisted and doubled back on themselves. As I sat watching the Christchurch traffic flow by on Hereford street the thought that this city looked like the quake had only happened last week, but the reality that the strong will of the citizens to get themselves back up and carry on as normal is a true sign to the determination and shows the love that these people hold for there city. Business, culture, shopping, entertainment and day to day living is happening as if nothing happened.

You wouldn’t think that people had to dig holes in the garden for toilets, and had to rebuild there homes, burial there loved ones and rebuild there business’s and lives.

The idea for the rebirth is too have several areas, and to open the city up. Some of the old buildings will remain but the majority will be a new Christchurch for a new start. As I walked around and talked to people, the true horror of being in a quake with the stunned aftermath of surviving when you thought the world was coming to the end came through, but even stronger was survival and can do attitude. The state of emergency in the ten weeks following the quake helped to kick start the inspiration and adrenalin of this city into the re-start that is continuing and will carry on even when the last cranes have been removed.

The rebuild has consulted everyone on what the new Christchurch should look like and contain. After 3 years they have a long way to go, but they are on the path to recovery and I look forward to seeing it when complete.

By the end of my time, I had stopped taking photos and the backdrop of building sites, of a desolate barren post apocalypse landscape had transformed into just a very unique town getting on with it life.