CTV site to be 'more welcoming'
Maan Alkaisi has just one request for the new temporary memorial on the Canterbury Television site where his wife died alongside 114 others: blue and white flowers.
Alkaisi joined Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief Roger Sutton and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel today to announce the interim plan to tidy up the site with the single largest death toll in the earthquake.
The CTV building collapsed catastrophically when the February 22, 2011 quake hit. Its remains have since been demolished and cleared.
The site will now be grassed, the high fences removed, planter boxes added and a sign installed.
Sutton said most of the carpark would be grassed, but some aspects of the site would be left as it was.
''At this stage we're leaving the foundations for the building where they are, a lot of the families want us to leave them there and they're being left there for the time being,'' he said.
Conversations would continue with victims' families about what they wanted to see at the site, Sutton said, but there would be an emphasis on making it more ''friendly and welcoming''.
The work would be complete in time for the quake commemoration on February 22 next year.
Alkaisi, who lost his wife Maysoon Abbas said he was ''very comfortable'' with plans for the site. He put forward a deputation to the Christchurch City Council earthquake recovery committee earlier this month, calling for a memorial to be installed at the site to explain "exactly what happened here".
He said at the time it looked like just another empty lot, bordered by wire fencing, and it bore no message explaining the horrors that occurred.
''This is probably the first time I've had such a prompt positive response from officials that we approached so far. So it's really pleasing for all the families to see [this] commitment,'' Alkaisi said.
He said the memorial was crucial for the many people who had a connection with the site, and residents of wider Christchurch to have a space to remember the tragedy.
''I lost my best friend, my wife, the person I love, so of course it's going to be a very special place.''
Other victims' families may also want to be involved in the design and implementation process, he said, but at the moment he would act as the group's advocate.
Alkaisi said personally he hoped there were ''lots of flowers'' in the design, specifically blue and white - his wife's favourite colours.
''I'm happy to be involved as much as I can here in providing information regarding what the families would like to see here and any other help in preparation or design,'' he said.
''Personally, I'll make sure that some flowers are blue and white here,'' he said.
Dalziel publicly acknowledged and thanked Alkaisi for his ''passion'' and being a driving force behind the concept.
''It gives us an opportunity to really respect the loss of life that occurred in this site.''
City Care would donate time and machinery, and would work with Cera to complete the work, ahead of any longer term plans for the Crown-owned site.
"In the longer term, we have committed to ensuring this special site remains a place in the new East Frame that people can visit and reflect on what occurred there,'' Sutton said.
Discussions around the official Earthquake Memorial were ongoing, but the CTV, PGC and other areas were all being discussed as options.
''For many of the families they're actually not ready to talk about that, it's still too raw . . . this site is a good first step,'' Sutton said.