Christchurch pauses to remember

Last updated 15:42 22/02/2014

Christchurch paused today to reflect on the earthquake that devastated the city on February 22, 2011.

Photo: Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Public Memorial Service held in the Botanic Gardens on the third anniversary of the Christchurch Earthquake. Families place flowers on the memorial after the service.

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Thousands of people have turned out for the third anniversary service of Christchurch's February 22, 2011 earthquake.

The ceremony at the city's Botanical Gardens was opened with a welcome from a representative from Ngai Tahu followed by the singing of the national anthem.

Wreaths were laid at the base of a temporary memorial and the names of the 185 people who died as a direct result of the earthquake were read out.

There was a moment of silence at 12.51pm - the time the earthquake struck. A piper played.

Speaking at the service, Mayor Lianne Dalziel asked those who had "moved on" to reach out to people still struggling.

"We have been through a lot as a city and there is still much healing to be done. This is why I wanted this commemoration to be away from the scenes of devastation that haunt our city. I wanted us to be surrounded by beauty," Dalziel said.

Families of the quake's Japanese victims had travelled for the occasion, and yesterday laid stones and flowers at the site of the CTV building collapse in which 115 people died. A total of 185 people died as a direct result of the earthquake.

Dalziel spoke of the connection between Christchurch's Peace Bell, gifted by a Japanese Mayor to the United Nations and then gifted to Christchurch fifty years ago, and Japan's Peace Sculpture in Nagasaki Park. Both monuments contain matching pounamu stones.

"I believe that today the chiming of this Bell will resonate in Japan."

She spoke of the complexities of trauma and healing, and how people had different experiences and responses following the event.

"We must be respectful of the reality that not everyone is able to 'move on', which has become the phrase we use to describe those who have resolved or at least accepted their situation.

"Others cannot move on right now for a variety of reasons - for some it is unanswered questions, or the lack of resolution of their claim, for others it is the ongoing impacts of serious injuries, or the disruption to their lives and the loss of a sense of power or control over what has happened."

Dalziel shared fond memories of the sense of togetherness that pervaded the city immediately after the quakes.

"Ordinary people" became heroes, she said.

"Nothing will ever compare with the sight of hundreds of students pouring down my street in Bexley - it made me feel so proud - and it continues to give me inspiration for the future."

By continuing this can-do attitude and working together, she said: "We will get through."

"Let us claim our future - remembering our past, honouring those whose lives were lost or changed forever, acknowledging the significance of Christchurch being the final resting place of many from overseas and what that means for their families, respecting all who make Christchurch their home and creating for ourselves a sense of place where we all belong."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee read a letter from the Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambride.

Also present were the mayors of Hurunui and Waimakariri, Winston Dally and David Ayers, and the previous Christchurch Mayor Sir Bob Parker.

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