Undaunted, we came back
It was the holiday of a lifetime. More than just a holiday, in fact; we were two Brits with a view to moving to New Zealand for a while as a sort-of OE. We were coming to the end of our three weeks mad dash around NZ. It was February 22nd; we had checked out of our motel room in Dunedin and were driving back to Christchurch, for a job interview on the 23rd followed by an evening flight home.
When the quake struck, we were on the road somewhere near Oamaru; we didn't feel it. There was a newsflash on the radio, followed by increasingly worsening reports and Bob Parker declaring the CBD cordon. Somewhat foolhardily we pressed on against a raging tide of people leaving town. It was an interesting evening. Our pre-booked accommodation was inside the cordon, so when we did reach town we just drove around a bit looking for ideas. Just as we were thinking about finding somewhere to park up and hunker down in the car for the night, we passed the Blue Skies centre in Kaiapoi, who had some beds available which we eagerly accepted.
Our day ended in the centre's TV room, boggling at the destruction, swapping tales with our fellow displaced souls staying there that night, and to the tune of the aftershocks. The next evening we flew home as planned - major kudos to the airport crews and to Air NZ for getting the show back on the road so quickly and managing the relief flights.
And us? We came back. As of July, we now live here. You might well ask why!
Well, that job interview didn't really happen. I exchanged cards and had a brief chat with one of the few staffers who were on-site. The real interview happened a few weeks later, over Skype. The result was positive: they would have me, if I would have them and (more importantly) if we would have Christchurch.
My partner and I had a good long think about, well, everything.
It's difficult to describe how we feel about what we saw back in February. The local-level emergency planning, the response that swung into action, but most of all ordinary Kiwis helping each other out and just trying to get on with life as best they could - all this was extremely heartening, more so than I can find the words for. It's like the Blitz spirit, but we don't really foresee it happening to the same extent in modern day London - that's a different place to 70 years ago.
Yes, we acknowledge there is a risk that this quake sequence may still have a sting in its tail. The two of us joined the 6.0 club back in December; small beer compared with what most of you have been through. Who knows if there will be more? If there are, well, while Christchurch was severely tested back in February, it was not found wanting. We got through. We'll do it again if we have to. Frankly, we think Christchurch is one of the safest places in the world to be. We are already starting to feel at home here and we plan to sign up to CDEM in due course once we are a bit more settled.
As the rebuild swings into action, it's an exciting time for the city. The centre of a city, in a first world nation, to be rebuilt more or less from scratch. Who knows quite what will emerge and what opportunities will arise? We are proud to be here, proud to be contributing to the economy, proud to take part in the next chapter of the Christchurch journey. We stand - and occasionally cower under our desks - with you now. Kia kaha!
- BY ROSS YOUNGER