History need not define our post-quake city centre

19:43, Feb 10 2013
The Victoria Clock Tower is likely to be restored to full working order.
FROZEN IN TIME: The Victoria Clock Tower is likely to be restored to full working order.

So the quake-damaged Victoria Clock Tower is going to resume its tick-tocking with the decision made by the Christchurch City Council not to keep even one face of it frozen permanently at 12.51pm, the time of the February 22, 2011 earthquake.

What a shame. In Hiatus City, where time seems to have stood still for the past two years with the landscape flattened, the Victoria Clock Tower, which stopped-short-never-to-go-again, was a dramatic reminder of the most tragic moment in this city's history.

The decision to move the clock forward was made because it was thought by keeping it permanently fixed at 12.51pm, it would alter the clock's purpose as a memorial to Queen Victoria's jubilee.

What a very Christchurch decision to bow completely to our colonial past rather than honour the tragic seismic moment when in a heartbeat, the clock changed from being a decorative Victorian time piece and turned into a powerful work of art that so precisely recorded recent history. Sure, the clock should be allowed to resume its practical time-keeping business, but like the inhabitants of this city, there are many faces to us and one of those faces should reflect the February quake.

The never-ending infrastructural works on the roads surrounding the Victoria Clock Tower give travellers wanting to drive north plenty of time to observe the clock because it's impossible to move forward. Drivers hover like jockeys at the starting gate for a green light to turn quickly right before oncoming traffic.

To actually go north, one has to move in the manner of the knight piece in a chess game, plus have the added complication and frustration of finding a two-way, or a one-way street that travels north. There are similar scenarios taking place all over the gouged mess of the metropolis, and if taking a taxi, it is advisable to interview the driver before they start the clock to make sure they know the current, ever-changing lie of the land.


Trying to explain to out-of-towners how to get to their destination is a hair-tearing experience for both parties. The permanent inhabitant pictures a road route, then continually alters the mind map due to demolition and work on the pipes, while the bewildered visitor looks nervous and aghast, till you cave in and offer to drive.

The road works are utterly necessary to get the city back on its feet, but surely it would have been sensible in the early days of the quake to have issued the decree that henceforth, all one-way roads were to be changed into two- way traffic. The decision to keep some of the main arterial roads in the CBD one-way is old fashioned and out of step with current overseas trends where the one-way system has been abandoned as it was seen as being the major assassin in the slow death of the inner core.

Fast flowing one-way traffic is not good for businesses situated on those roads, and isn't in keeping with the spirit of the plan for the rebuild where citizens expressly stated a desire for the new CBD to be pedestrian and cycle friendly. The inner city needs to be a place where people can enjoy working and shopping at a human pace in an attractive environment rather than being swept along a teeming tide to the ugly destination of a multi-level car park, or a prohibitively expensive roadside parking space patrolled by council- appointed ticket Nazis.

Speaking of shopping, how chivalrous of John Key to take 150 boat people off Julia Gillard's fair hands in return for an easy gate at Australian customs where Kiwis, clutching fistfuls of inferior currency, are fast tracked through so they can blow a few bucks in their shopping precincts and enjoy the watering holes before returning home maxed out on the plastic.

No quarter was given to dearly departed Kiwis wanting welfare assistance in the lucky country, and when an Australian journalist asked if Key was going to follow suit and return the favour by ceasing welfare payments to our Aussie cuzzies resident in Godzone, he replied that such a response would be "spiteful". Who does he think he is - Gentleman Jack?

The Press