It is 10 years since the Christchurch earthquake that devastated
the city centre and cost 185 lives
At 4.35am on 4th September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was recorded at Darfield, 40km west of Christchurch. No deaths occurred that were directly related to the quake, there being few houses of unreinforced construction in the area, and at that time of the day few people were out and about.
However, just a few months later at 12.51pm on 22nd February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch city. The earthquake was centred only 6.7km from the city centre and at a depth of only 5km. The intense shaking resulted in the destruction of many residences and inner city buildings. In the ten years since, the city has been in recovery mode.
Though the Christchurch Recovery Plan is in no way complete, one of the innovations is the Te Ara Otakaro Avon RiverTrail , following the Avon River from the seaside suburb of New Brighton into Christchurch city centre. The trail passes through a green corridor, now a residential red zone where homes were demolished and removed because the land was so badly earthquake-damaged by the February earthquake. The land cannot be re-built on.
We walked this 12km trail on a Saturday morning when the Avon River corridor was buzzing with walkers, runners, cyclists, rowers and kayakers. We started in New Brighton. (Map source: riverside information board)
This is the transformed green corridor (residential red zone), where street lights, power poles, road names, unmaintained roads and remnants of household gardens remain, but eerily, the houses are gone.
This photo (above) on a riverside information board tells the story of John Taylor. This Avonside area of the red zone was once a thriving community of 1300 people. They were forced to leave after their earthquake-damaged homes were set for demolition. But a few, including John Taylor, fought to stay. He remained living in his house (lower left in the photo) until his death in 2017. The house has now been removed. His wish for the area to become a ‘riverway parkland’ is being realised.
Formerly an important pedestrian access across the river, the Medway Bridge was badly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake. It was subsequently cut into three pieces and stored, but due to public pressure one piece of the bridge was brought back to the area as a commemorative structure.
The twisted bridge was still in place (though not in use) when I photographed it in May 2012.
At the city end of the trail is the Margaret Mahy Playground, another post-earthquake innovation. Completed in 2015, it is said to be the largest playground in the Southern Hemisphere and is much loved by the children of Christchurch.
The meandering Avon River is an iconic part of Christchurch scenery, and a great centrepiece for the Te Ara Otakaro Avon River Trail.