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CHRISTCHURCH: SHOCK! Seeing this New Zealand city for the first time since the 2011 earthquake

CHRISTCHURCH: SHOCK! Seeing this New Zealand city for the first time since the 2011 earthquake

I’ve just spent a couple of nights in Christchurch, New Zealand. I haven’t been here for quite a few years. I can’t find the precise date in my digital diary, which means it must be before 2007, definitely before the earthquake.

The devastation it has caused to the city is dramatic, even more than 10 years later.

a construction site with cranes and a building
New entertainment centre being constructed on this ‘vacant’ site. [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

I went on a long walk yesterday around the area in the city centre where we last stayed. The collection of commercial and government buildings tracing the decades is essentially no longer. The shattered Cathedral, so iconic in the centre of the square, is still devastated. It is shrouded in scaffolding and heavy earthquake-protecting steelwork and translucent panels. 12 years on, it looks a long way from reconstruction.

a stone steps outside a building
A closed building still with some signs of the earthquake, cnr Peterborough and Montreal. [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Devastation and rejuvenation

I am at once struck by the extent of the devastation the earthquake caused. In the main the rubble has gone. The gaps in the city allow us to see the skeletal wounds. A vacant block of land tells a story through its silence among the new buildings. This is where something once stood, was destroyed to rubble, and has since been erased. Ready for rebirth. Ready for more signs of the city’s resilience.

a sign with text on it
The former site of the CTV site where many people died in the earthquake. [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

Arresting sight

The most arresting sight was a small well kept garden. It looked beautiful amongst the other empty sites. I went over to some slightly dilapidated interpretive signage. Reading it was shocking and humbling. It was the site of the CTV building, which collapsed in the earthquake killing many. It was heartbreaking.

a street with traffic cones and a sculpture
The Christchurch Chalice Sculpture [Schuetz/2PAXfly]


Christchurch is a patchwork, a jigsaw puzzle still with many missing pieces. A surviving building here, a vacant lot there where once something stood, and a building site next door with the triangular bracing that says ‘earthquake proof’.

It still has a long way to go before the majority of signs of the earthquake will be erased, if ever. But it is a city full of life. A resilient city. Christchurch has always been a garden city. It is this natural landscape that remains, apparently untouched. With the banks of the Avon river full of spring daffodils, and magnolia’s in flower across the city, nature caries on in defiance of the built environments destruction and renewal.

a building under construction with a building behind it
Christchurch Cathedral to be restored as a public space for all by 2027 [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

2PAXfly Takeout

Revisiting Christchurch was bitter-sweet. To visit is to see the true effect of the earthquake across the city. Much more powerful than any news coverage at the time. But it is also to see a cities ability to regroup and recover. New buildings everywhere. Gabled roofs without eaves and a preponderance of colourbond and zinc roofing seem to be the forms and materials of choice. Everything seems new, or very old.

a building with a triangular shaped roof
Christchurch transitional Cathedral – the ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

My trip was to take advantage of the double status credit promotion to kick start my quest to re-qualify for Qantas Platinum status for another year. To revisit the Qantas Sydney First Lounge so soon after my first time at the Melbourne First Lounge was a bonus.

a close up of a device
Extra points for anyone who can identify which seat, and which airline this is. [Schuetz/2PAXfly]

The real highlight of my visit for an avgeek was the return flight to Sydney in one of the worlds most iconic First Class cabins. If you know, you know. Otherwise, you will need to wait for the review for all to be revealed


  1. Mark

    In NZ again already Surely that’s an Emirates arm rest!

  2. AA56

    The residents of Christchurch are resilient and will rebuild their majestic city.


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