My Monday morning walk today was to visit the local Wellington Masjid – three days after the terrible terrorism in Christchurch at the Al Noor Mosjid resulting in fifty deaths – and still, people, all over New Zealand, Kiwi are coming to pay respects, to offer help and leave flowers.
Al Noor, Christchurch
Masjid Al Noor
My Monday morning walk was to visit the local Wellington Masjid – three days after the terrible
terrorism in Christchurch – and still, people are coming to pay respects, to offer help and flowers. As we arrived a local boys’ school was performing a haka.
In 1850 swamp covered the beginnings of Christchurch and settlers had to walk through bog to get home after the market. Those early British settlers must have been sorely disillusioned when they first saw the soggy land which was to be their home on the other side of the world.
Between 1000 and 1500, Maori (who had arrived here from the Pacific) had a settlement in this area, called Puari. It stretched east from the Otakaro River and was home to around 800 Waitaha people who gathered eels, whitebait, native trout, ducks, and flounder.
Scaup .. a native diving duck
Curator’s Cottage. Botanic Gardens
Paradise shelduck – named the painted duck by Capt. James Cook
The Deans family renamed the river to Avvon – after a small Scottish river near their old home – later the spelling was changed to Avon by the new settlers who had followed the Scottish brothers. Now, the bog long drained, every weekend Cantabrians (we who live in Canterbury, New Zealand) and tourists go boating on the same river.
The centre of this fun is of course the historic Antigua Boat Sheds. One of many boat sheds which were established along the river in the 1870s/80s. Many generations of locals have spent time messing around in boats hired from them and, I too learnt to row in the gentle waters of this spring fed river.
The Antigua boat-sheds were built by a couple of boat builders and it is one of Christchurch’s oldest buildings. Open all year, and with a cafe full of home-cooked food attached, it makes a great setting for all sorts of events – from weddings and cocktail parties to children’s parties- as well as a family fun day in the park.
As well as canoes and paddle boats for hire and you can also have Welcome Aboardpunt you upstream, through the beauty of the botanic gardens, – perhaps even sipping champagne or tucking into a hamper of food which is optional. I once again enjoyed relaxing on a punt during my time in Christchurch earlier this year – it was as delightful as ever.
Thanks to Welcome Aboard for your hospitality on the punts, gondola,caterpillar, and trams.
About two months before the September 2010 quakes, a Christchurch mayoral candidate, Jim Anderton, said if he became mayor he would push for Christchurch to have World Heritage Status for the city’s unique Gothic Revival buildings. It appeared that no city in the world had a more complete collection of Gothic revival buildings of such high quality and so well-preserved.
I attended a meeting, in the Gothic Arts Centre, to hear about such a proposal. He said, “these Victorian buildings date back to the 1850s and, as a group, are of enormous international significance. They represent the outcome of the furthest migration of any group of people in human history.” Apparently, Canterbury was the last and most successful of the colonisation schemes of Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
Anderton continued, “They are more than bricks and mortar, they are at the heart of our city and remind us every day of those pioneers searching for a better world on the other side of the globe.” I left the meeting having decided to vote for Jim because of this proposal.
Early European settlers of course bought their values with them and expressed some of that in their architecture and appreciation of open spaces – which was also happening in New York where Central Park was just being established too. [interestingly, and nothing to do with the meeting or the Gothic buildings, I believe the land which became the Botanic Gardens was given to the city by the Scottish Deans brother’s – they wanted a barrier between them, and Riccarton, and the new English arrivals – I’m sure many of the local tangata whenua would have liked the same.]
Over three decades many Gothic revival buildings – built in local grey stone – and none of which were exact copies of the English versions . This and the scale as well as the use of timber, started a city with its own characteristics, not a replica of what they’d left.
The Canterbury quakes (2010/11) of course put this UNESCO proposal on the back burner, however, many of the proposed sites consist of the most significant 19th century public buildings associated with the founding of the city have not been demolished because of the quakes: these include Christchurch Cathedral, (although still under review) the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, (the only complete surviving examples of government buildings from the provincial period of colonial society in New Zealand) and the former Canterbury University, previously Canterbury College and now the Arts Centre, and both are now being restored and quake-proofed.
The Canterbury Museum had received a lot of quake strengthening work and it suffered minimal damage during the quakes.
The 1865 Council Chambers is internationally recognized as an outstanding example of High Victorian Gothic architecture, and on a personal level, is where my first book launch was held and is on the list to be restored, as is the old Presbyterian Trinity Church which for many years has been a restaurant.
St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (now at Rangi Ruru School), built in a simple, and wooden, Gothic style in the late 1800s: my parents, grandparents, and many more of my ancestors married in this church – a reminder that not all Christchurch settlers were English.
Other inner-city Gothic buildings surviving the quakes include Christ’s College, and sort of surviving, the facades post office in the square and the former A.J. White’s building in High Street.
Not in the city, but Gothic nevertheless, was a prosaic Gothic building, the old Addington Prison which is now backpacker accommodation known of course as the Jailhouse! Naturally, with my ‘colourful’ background, I have history here too – having picked up people there, who were no longer guests of the state, and have stayed in the backpackers.
One of the worlds queens of crime, Dame Ngaio Marsh was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and a while ago I wondered if her house had survived the quake: I’d assumed ‘yes’ given it’s wooden and is in a relatively unscathed part of my old city.
The “Ngaio Marsh house” suffered only minor damage during the 2010 /2011 quakes that rocked the city. Sited on the lower Cashmere Hills meant the damage to the area was less than other places the city and Canterbury – a chimney had been demolished and the sewerage pipe was broken but repairs have been made to both.
Their website said “The house was well shaken, creating a considerable mess with small items and books widely distributed over the floor. However, nothing of special significance was lost apart from a few pieces from Ngaio’s glass collection.”
So, the house remains basically as it was and is still open to visitors – as are most things in Christchurch. See what Wiki says about our beloved Christchurch treasure – Dame Ngaio Marsh
I took these photos during my last visit to the house in May 2010 – my first visit was for a fairly wild party in the early ’80s – not long after her death!
As a travel writer, I was puzzled as I walked through the historic centre of Warsaw, Poland just a few weeks ago. Why? Well, I’d read that during the Warsaw Uprising (August 1944) over 85% of Warsaw’s old centre was destroyed by Nazi troops, but my eyes could only see 13th to 20th century buildings.
Apparently after the war, a five-year reconstruction campaign began, resulting in the meticulous restoration of the Old Town which is what I could see.
According to the United Nations World Heritage website, “It is an outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century.”
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder as one of our clichés say, but for me, the beauty of European market places, churches and palaces is in their age. I kept looking at buildings wondering is that rebuilt or is it old; five hundred years or fifty? Actually, what I really was thinking ‘real or fake’; it felt Disney or Vegas-like. In fact, at the top of my mind was, ‘I’m so glad Christchurch is not doing that.’
Born, schooled, and living in Christchurch for most of my life, I have been devastated by the destruction of so many of our buildings, and much of my history. All my family arrived in Otautahi between 1862 and 1873 so our roots are deep in this flat, swampy, shaky region, and although I grieve for what was, I also welcome what will be.
During that fateful first quake (September 2010), lying in bed clutching my mattress so, if my 3rd floor apartment building collapsed I’d land on something soft, I had no idea what was to come. How relieved were my tweets and texts on that first day. It never entered my head we would eventually, like Warsaw, loose most of our inner city, my backyard. But we did – about 80% of our inner city.
And today I see on Facebook, that the beautiful Press building could be rebuilt, a replica on the same spot, for a hotel. That would be an asset to the city; it would give us back the appearance of still having one of our old buildings, but please make sure people know it’s a reproduction of a loved building. Don’t have tourists stand and wonder, real or fake, old or new?
Polish people are proud of how they defied the punishing German bombs by rebuilding exactly as it was, and the historic centre is full of tourists most of who love it as it is. However, for me, I’m just relieved my beloved Christchurch is, apart from key buildings that can thankfully be repaired, is arising as a new Christchurch: honouring the past, while welcoming the future.
(The Kiwi Travel Writer now lives in Wellington, but not as a quake survivor – she had begun apartment hunting some months before the quakes)
We Christchurch women are proud that Kate Shephard, a Christchurch woman, was the prime organiser of the 31,872-signature petition (collected over seven years) and annually we have gathered at the memorial (cnr Worcester Boulevard & Cambridge Terrace) which depicts those wonderful women and the wheelbarrow in which the petition was taken to Parliament in Wellington.
Suffrage day is often also called White Camellia day, as women who supported enfranchisement wore a white camellia, yesterday women both wore the flowers and lay them at the wonderful memorial. The memorial was unveiled at the 100 year anniversary and a new camellia verity was also created then and named ‘Kate Sheppard’. Today we celebrate 120 years of all NZ women being able to vote.
So far, from my research, it seems only one of my ancestors, my great-grandmother Elizabeth Rowe, (married Herbert Bunny) signed the petition and during that same year, 1893, her daughter, Mabel, my maternal grandmother was born.
One of the great things about the 1893 Electoral Bill was passed was that Maori women were given the vote too … not just women with land. Unfortunately Chinese women, in fact all Chinese people, did not get the vote until the early 1950s.
Don’t waste the courage and strength of those brave 19th century women – make sure you always vote.
Re-posting these photos on the 3rd anniversary of the 7.1 quake in my city … I’m happy to report that although much of our city centre (80%) was consequently demolished because of damage it is well on its way to recovery with inner city shops and hotels open and more on the way. See more about Christchurch on this blog.
Note, these photos were first published in under 3 hours of the quake.
As a frequent visitor to Christchurch, New Zealand, (last time only days ago) it’s good to see Lonely Planet’s new edition New Zealand Travel Guide, released today, pays tribute to the strength of New Zealand’s people in the wake of a series of challenges. It particularly gives a thumbs up to the city and its people.
“There’s no denying it,” the guidebook says, “New Zealand has had it tough over the last few years.” (p.638)
Reflecting on the past two years in which the country has endured the vagaries of the global economy, the Pike River coalmine explosion, the Rena oil spill, and two Christchurch earthquakes, the guide says “in the midst of all this … New Zealanders have soldiered on stoically, with the people of Christchurch proving remarkably resilient.” (p.639)
The new edition hails the energy and creativity on display in Christchurch, saying “nowhere in New Zealand is changing and developing as fast as post-earthquake Christchurch, and visiting the country’s second-largest city as it’s being rebuilt and reborn is both interesting and inspiring.” (p.480)
New Zealanders’ welcoming nature and eagerness for travellers to enjoy their visit is unchanged, and the guidebook says, “you might be surprised by the extent to which the average Kiwi will genuinely want you to have a really, really good time during your stay.” (p.639)
I note Lonely Planet also reports “that in December 2011, the influential United States magazine Foreign Policy nominated Christchurch one of the urban centres of the 21st century,opining that the ‘massive rebuilding effort is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form’. Draft plans for the city’s rebuilding over 20 years include a compact, low-rise city centre, neighbourhood green spaces, and parks and cycleways along the Avon River. Coupled with the endurance and energy of the people of Christchurch, the city’s future promises to be both interesting and innovative”.
Christchurch-born and educated (& now living in NZ’s capital) each time I return I’m both saddened and encouraged and I know visitors will be amazed at the regrowth already. I saw in the paper last week that the City Council has granted about 80 permits for new buildings, 17 within the “four Avenues’ which mark the centre of the city and where lived at the time of the September 2010 quake – see this blog for photos I took within hours of it, and many blogs written since.
If you are coming to NZ, make sure Christchurch is on your list, do a quake tour, tuck this latest guide-book under your arm, and note all the new things that will have popped up since the book was published (things are happening fast here) and, make sure you let LP know too for their next edition!
NOTE: New Zealand(16th edition) is the first of four new guidebooks to NZ that Lonely Planet is publishing in 2012. New Zealand’s North Island (2nd edition) and New Zealand’s South Island (3rd edition) will be available in October, with Discover New Zealand (2nd edition) following in November.
It’s been two years since I was shaken awake at 0435, 4th Sept 2010, to the 7.2 quake in my city: Christchurch. (see my quake photos from that first day – and do a search on this blog for ‘quake’ for more pics)
Here’s a little homage to ‘the square’, which was the centre of our city – these photos are pre-quake.
Here are some things that caught my eye as I travelled around Christchurch recently – they are in order of being taken and even if you can’t see it they show Christchurch rising and are presented here with love to the city of my birth and where I lived for most of my life!