Editorial: Another challenge

After the devastation of the big quakes came the freeze of the big snow yesterday.

Some Canterbury roads and Christchurch International Airport were closed, public transport suspended and many employees were told to stay at home if at all possible because of the snowdrifts. Many outside the region might imagine that this would be the final straw which would destroy the morale of Canterbury residents, already battered by the earthquakes. But the experience of the 10 months since last September gives confidence that this will not be the case.

The cold snap was undoubtedly inconvenient for many residents and struggling businesses, especially in Christchurch and other coastal areas which had not received such a dumping of snow for well over a decade. The fact that the snow fell during the school holidays did help reduce the potential disruption.

Yet for those living in earthquake-damaged homes with limited heating options, notably the vulnerable elderly and families with young children, the snow will have been particularly trying or downright miserable for residents still forced to make nocturnal treks to portaloos.

Cantabrians, however, have shown that they are resilient and have a healthy ability to keep the problems they face in perspective and confront them with a positive attitude.This will be as true of their response to the big snow and any future winter weather bombs, as it has been in the manner in which they have dealt with the quake impact.

What quickly emerged after September 4, Boxing Day, February 22 and June 13 was a resolve by residents not to be daunted by the quakes, even if their cherished homes were damaged. This has also been shown that the number of people who have fled Christchurch has been less than some initial estimates.

The strength of the communities which make up and help to define Christchurch and the entire region quickly became apparent. City residents showed a commendable commitment to being part of the recovery process by participating in the "share an idea" project and demonstrated a determination to help rebuild hard-hit business precincts such as Sydenham and Lyttelton.

Alongside this strong community spirit has been a focus on finding innovative solutions to the damage wrought in the city.

With AMI Stadium out of action, Rugby Park was pressed into service as the Canterbury team's home ground for the ITM Cup. And although the result on Saturday afternoon against Southland was disappointing, and the ground obviously has a limited spectator capacity, the intimacy of Rugby Park, not to mention the afternoon timing of the games, is appealing.

Many businesses and their employees whose premises were badly damaged or destroyed have also been impressive in their improvisation of offices and workshops, whether this has entailed finding temporary accommodation in the suburbs and open areas of the inner city or simply working from their own home or that of a boss.

One example of this is the proposal from displaced technology firms to construct, if the Christchurch City Council agrees, a new IT hub on the Para Rubber site in the central city.

So too, several schools which suffered quake damage have successfully been able to double-up with other education institutions. This has created logistics challenges, in terms of timetables and transport but the manner in which schools have pulled together in the interest of their students' education is a credit to all those involved.

But the innovation and the adaptation have not ended there. The Gap Filler projects and other initiatives have also been inspirational in their use of now-empty spaces and the provision of alternative venues for arts and culture.

Whether it be music, including in temporary facilities at Hagley Park and other new venues, coconuts being bowled at a makeshift tenpin alley, or the Think Differently Book Exchange based in a refrigerator, these developments have reinforced the fact that there is an enthusiasm for the life of the city going on despite the quakes.

The big snow has added to the challenges created by the natural disasters which have rocked the region, but the indomitable spirit of community support, adaptation and determination will continue to prevail.

The Press