Christchurch remembers devastating earthquake six years on

Cantabrians are pausing on Wednesday to remember those killed in the February 2011 earthquake.

It's the sixth anniversary of the disaster which claimed 185 lives and they'll be remembered with the unveiling of a memorial on the banks of the Avon River at midday.

The names of the dead will be read out at the service, in an order reflecting their arrangement on the Memorial Wall, the central element of the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

The wall will be unveiled by first responders in recognition of their rescue and recovery efforts during the disaster.

  • 185 people died in the magnitude 6.3 earthquake which rocked the city at 12.51pm, Feb 22, 2011
  • Up to 100,000 buildings were damaged and around 10,000 needed to be demolished
  • $7b has been spent on commercial buildings and nearly $3b on underground infrastructure
  • By the end of 2017, reconstruction will be about 75 percent complete. This includes commercial buildings, housing and underground infrastructure
  • Empowered Christchurch, a community group supporting insurance claimants, says 83 percent of claims had been settled by the end of 2016
  • The Government currently estimates the rebuild will be completely finished by 2026

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says the day will be an opportunity for people to come together and quietly reflect.

"The impacts of the quakes went right through the country and around the world for those who lost loved ones in our city on this day six years ago," she says.

"It is a time to reflect on our shared sense of loss and also to give thanks for the incredible work that emergency services did in our city after the quakes.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend the day will never be easy, but having the memorial wil bring closure for a lot of people.

He says after what was New Zealand's biggest disaster in economic terms, Christchurch has recovered well. 

"We're in good shape. Every economic indicator will show the Christchurch economy is running ahead of the rest of New Zealand," he told the AM Show.

"We're probably only about halfway through the total recovery, I mean we're still talking $45-50 billion damage in the city and we've spent about $35 billion so far. So a long way to go.

"The economy's always been here. We had some wonderful interventions for business post-earthquake, that meant we had very little business attrition. The population of the central city is higher than it was before the earthquake."

He acknowledged the recovery has been slow and there's been a lot of frustration, but he believes the development of Christchurch this year will outweigh the negative sentiment.

With the cricket and the memorial unveiling on Wednesday, "You'll find Christchurch jam-packed all day," he says.

On Tuesday night Bruce Springsteen rocked Christchurch's AMI Stadium before 30,000 fans.

The Boss told the crowd it had taken a while, but he was glad he was finally able to perform for them. He dedicated 'My City of Ruins' - a popular Christchurch song after the quake - to the crowd.

At 12:51pm on Wednesday, the time when the 6.3-magnitude quake struck on February 22, 2011, there will be a minute's silence.

Newshub's Hamish Clark told The AM Show the feeling of raw emotion still lingers.

"There are still people dealing with their houses being fixed, believe it or not. We've still got a reminder in the square every day with the cathedral that still is in ruins," he says.

Protests are also planned for Wednesday afternoon. The community group Empowered Christchurch is organising a silent rally in Cathedral Square for "unheard and unsettled EQC and insurance claimants".

The action has been set down for 2pm so as not to clash with the dedication of the earthquake memorial beginning at noon.

A year ago, the group also held a protest, which ended with buckets of chalk being handed out for people to express their frustrations by writing a word.

Empowered Christchurch says that, in the intervening period, it has made submissions on relevant legislation and highlighted injustices in the recovery process.

It has also "engaged in endless and, unfortunately, largely fruitless correspondence with the different local and national authorities and politicians from the various parties".

But it says there has been no substantial progress over the 12 months for claimants, a growing number of whom are heading to the High Court.

The group produced a summary of the status quo 72 months on from the quake, including:

  • 2000 properties with no land remediation solutions (EQC statistic);
  • $861 million in declared claims in earthquake cases before the High Court, with no amount declared for about 25 percent of cases;
  • Land claims against the EQC in preparation;
  • Over 10,000 botched EQC repairs, with many claimants heading to court;
  • Large number of as-is properties posing a risk in future seismic events.

Newshub. / NZN

Chch memorial wall