One more memorial in quake-city can't hurt

JANE BOWRON
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2013

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OPINION: I agree with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's recent statement that there are enough temporary memorial sites around Christchurch.

But the remark, made in relation to a request from some of the families of those who died in the CTV building to erect a temporary memorial site where the building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake killing 115 people, was insensitive.

Brownlee is bang on the money that the city has been over-indulged with temporary sites, not to mention the so-called council initiated "vibrant new streetscapes" where road surfaces and planter boxes have been painted in splashes of bright licorice allsorts colours, which months down the track require maintenance to chipped and faded paint.

And I get it that the last thing Brownlee wants in the central city is another stoush over the occupation, temporary or otherwise, of land designated for the rebuild under the design of the blueprint.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel has called the former CTV site in Madras St a disgrace, wanting it cleaned up in readiness for the third anniversary of the February 2011 devastation and is appealing to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority for action.

Maan Alkaisi, whose wife, Maysoon Abbas, died in the CTV collapse, says the state of the site is disrespectful and rightfully points out there is not even an interpretation panel to explain the tragedy that occurred there.

When vandals recently tagged the site, one of the culprits said he did not know the significance of the area and offered the cold comfort that he would not have left his crude and callous calling card there if he had been any the wiser.

Brownlee wants to focus on a "proper memorial" down the track while Alkaisi says he does not want anything expensive erected at the present site, just some sort of humble but pertinent recognition of the area where the families can go to pay their respects.

Any visitor from out of town I have taken for tours of the broken city, who have asked to see the site, have been taken aback at the apparent nothingness of it and how it lacks any empathy. Wire fences laced with the occasional floral tribute with accompanying messages and written-on stones is all there is to show that this is in fact a sacred site to many.

The expanse of cleared ground and wasteland emptiness of the land backing on to the Les Mills gym, and a strip club further along, does not sit well with the meaning of what happened there.

What is desperately needed is a small area with possibly some grass and seating and a temporary memorial so that families of the departed can visit and pay their respects with dignity rather than stand and hover at the wire.

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Defining the area, giving it a focus, is essential so people from all over the world can know what happened there and understand the tragedy. It is not enough to say the brilliant 185 Chairs installation across the road says it all and represents the deaths of the 115.

With so many temporary sites granted to provide entertainment, it seems churlish to say the least - bloody-minded even - of the minister not to allow the families of the dead an area that acknowledges their loss.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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