Earthquake recovery pledge books go missing

17:00, Jun 28 2013
Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Lucy Balfour, who signed The Pledge in New Brighton.
STILL ON MY MIND: Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Lucy Balfour, who signed The Pledge in New Brighton.

Signatures and comments of 12,000 Christchurch people who made an emotional pledge to back the city after the February 22 earthquake have been lost.

The signatures were collated and bound in five or six ceremonial volumes. They were supposed to be handed to the city council to be kept as an important part of the city's quake history.

But now no-one knows where they have gone.

Rainbow Print, in the Christchurch suburb of Wigram, was storing the volumes. Director John Boyle said staff had hunted "high and low" over the plant but couldn't find the volumes.

He also said his dispatch staff member believed they had been sent to or collected by someone, but the staff member couldn't remember who or when.

Campaign organiser and city lawyer Garth Gallaway said he was mortified that the volumes had gone missing.


"It seems extraordinary that the volumes could have gone missing and I sincerely hope that they are recovered quickly."

The only people authorised to take the volumes would be Gallaway, and possibly former Press editor Andrew Holden and Press marketing manager Grant Torrie, on behalf of the newspaper, which backed the campaign.

All three said they didn't get the volumes and had never even seen the completed bound volumes.

The signatures were collected in a campaign that swept Christchurch in the months after the February 22, 2011 earthquake.

Signing stations were set up throughout the city and employees at businesses and organisations signed en masse. At the top of each page were the words: "I pledge my commitment to Canterbury and the rebuild of Christchurch".

The first signatures were made at the public launch at 12.51pm on March 22, 2011. They were by high-profile quake survivors Sue Spiegel (cathedral) and Clemency Mutze (CTV building).

Thousands more added names in the following weeks. Many put heartwarming comments, writing of their hopes for the city's future and their determination to stay and face the challenges.

The campaign received national media coverage with TV news clips, dedicated Facebook and web pages, and even a T-shirt.

Rainbow Print was the collection point. The company supported the campaign by collating and organising the binding of the sheets of signatures in hardcover volumes for free.

The binding work was done by Matthew Hinman, of Cover to Cover, which is now The Bindery.

He said the bound volumes were finished on March 12 last year. They were put in a cardboard box and taken away by Boyle.

Signees were told the volumes would eventually go to the Christchurch City Council.

Gallaway said he believed the volumes were stored safely at Rainbow Print and was waiting for an appropriate time to hand them to the city council for a permanent home.

He had discussed with Boyle how it felt wrong to do it at the first anniversary because things were "too raw".

The loss was discovered when The Press approached Gallaway to see the volumes for a follow-up story. He said they could be viewed at Rainbow Print.

Boyle said usual paperwork records of delivery and dispatch weren't kept because the job was "a freebie".

Gallaway said The Pledge was "always about giving people a chance to be able to say that they loved Christchurch and to make an emotional commitment which would, in some small way, give them strength".

He said the volumes were "wonderfully poignant; sad but full of hope and courage. They are, in some ways, a unique record".

One collection of signatures has survived. The Christchurch City Council has one of the preliminary signing books - book No 46 - in its archives, which apparently didn't make it to Rainbow Print to be bound with the others. It has about 100 signatures and comments from people mainly in the Woolston, Linwood and Dallington areas.


The volumes are in Canterbury colours of black fabric covering with red lettering of The Pledge on the front, plus a logo of the Port Hills. If you can help find The Pledge volumes, please contact The Press on (03) 379 8464.

The Press