February 18th 2013

Christchurch - Before and After
 
by Ellen Barone
 
 
After a devastating series of earthquakes and aftershocks destroyed much of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2010 and 2011, extraordinary Kiwi resilience and visionary planning is fueling an exciting revival that is bringing back welcomed visitors and garnering global recognition.
 
Lonely Planet selected the city as one of their ‘Top 10 Cities for 2013 and imaginative recovery efforts are helping to create an exciting new array of restaurants, cafés, public green spaces, galleries and shopping areas.
 
This is good news for Christchurch resident Pat Allard-Knox, Wayfarers’ Logistics Manager in New Zealand.
 
'We’ve been through an incredibly difficult two and a quarter years,' Pat reports. 'But Christchurch people are in good heart. The amazing progress after the quakes is clearly visible around the city. New buildings are popping up everywhere and people know that they are safe,' she says.
 
Despite a cordoned off ‘red zone’ in the central business district which remains off-limits, there is plenty to do in and around Christchurch as it emerges from the rubble with ingenuity and creative recovery programs.
 
The Re:Start shopping area, a temporary pedestrian shopping mall made from brightly coloured shipping containers fitted out as high-end shops and cafes, is hugely popular, as are the Pop Up City bars, and Gap Filler projects that serve to beautify demolished building sites with community vegetable gardens, libraries, dance floors, and performance art venues until reconstruction begins.
 
For great music, public talks, twilight vintage markets and an eclectic events lineup, Pat recommends the Pallet Pavilionon Kilmore Street, 'a Gap Filler program run by the Ministry of Awesome, a young, vibrant group of people dedicated to keeping Christchurch an exciting place.'
 
 
'Victoria Street is another hotspot for fashion boutiques and restaurants,' Pat says. 'The rebuild there is happening quickly with designer stores like Jane Danielsand Lynn Woods and popular restaurants such as King of Snakeand Saggio de Vinos leading the way.'
 
'Remaining must-sees are the fabulous Botanic Gardens and our beautiful Canterbury Museumthe only neo-Gothic heritage building in Christchurch that survived the earthquakes in good condition,' Pat says. 'Or, for a lovely coastal beach walk, Sumner by the Sea is only 15 minutes from the central business district.'
 
For a community that’s been rattled to its core, the love of a good party remains unshaken, resulting in an annual calendar packed with cultural events, festivals and concerts.
Pat & John Knox
 
'Perennial favorites,' Pat says, 'include the World Buskers Festival, the Festival of Flowers, the Ellerslie International Flower Show, Classical Sparks, a free evening concert with fabulous firework displays, Christmas in the Park, which brings free music, dance and singing to the stage at Hagley Park, and the Wine and Food Festival.'
 
Enormous challenges still lie ahead for the community as it transforms itself into an exciting, safe and sustainable place to live and visit.
 
'The rebuild is going to cost an estimated 50 billion dollars,' Pat says. 'But we are committed to our city. Already the new buildings are creating a fabulous new look and the blue-print for the future is bold and innovative with lots of green areas.'
 
For Pat and her husband, Wayfarers Walk Leader John Knox (Allard and Knox were married in December 2012), the experience has brought a sense of immense gratitude.
 
'Out of all this,' she says, 'we celebrate the fact that most of us survived.'
 
 
For complete Christchurch traveller information and vacation planning, visit www.christchurchnz.com.
 
Ellen Barone is a consumer travel journalist, and five-time Wayfarers alumni, who shares travel advice, vacation tips, gear reviews and inspiration on her website EllenBarone.com.
 

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