The Christchurch Rebuild

Posted by on 4 November 2016

Since the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 the city of Christchurch and itsBuilding rubble surrounding suburbs have been in a prolonged rebuild and recovery mode.  Demolition sites, vacant lots and the tumbling ruins of homes, commercial and historic buildings have become the new normal, along with some rather uneven stretches of road. 

Controversially the rebuild process hasn’t necessarily been about returning the city to its original state but more the unparalleled opportunity to build a smarter more resilient city up out of the ruins.

Which Heritage Buildings Were Lost As A Result Of The Earthquakes?

The ChristChurch Cathedral remains are perhaps a timely reminder of just how far the city has yet to go on its rebuild journey.  The Cathedral was badly damaged by the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011 along with many other historic landmarks built long before modern building codes were introduced. 

Some of the more memorable buildings lost were The Carlton Hotel, the Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, the Anglican Holy Trinity Church, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions Convent, The Press building and St Mary's Church to name a few, the Heritage New Zealand website holds an extensive list of buildings demolished during the rebuild.

Which Christchurch Suburbs Were The Worst Affected By The Earthquakes?

As a result of the earthquakes the Port Hills have risen by nearly half a metre and nearly ninety percent of the land across the central and eastern areas of Christchurch has experienced some subsidence, with some areas sinking more than a metre.

Homes near the Avon River in the suburbs of Avondale, Horseshoe Lake, Bexley, Burwood, Dallington, Avonside and coastal suburbs like Lyttelton, Sumner and New Brighton were some of the worst affected, all experiencing significant drops in elevation along with extensive liquefaction.  Some of these areas have now been completely cleared out leaving behind a strange emptiness and parcels of crown owned land no one seems to know what to do with.

Which Areas Are Most Popular For New Builds?

With much of the central city initially cordoned off and many central and eastern suburbs adjusting to the resulting subsidence, increased chance of flooding and in some cases forced evacuation, the city has experienced an understandable migration towards more solid ground in the west.  An explosion of residential and commercial building activity has occurred in places like Hornby, Lincoln, Prebbleton, Rolleston and West Melton.

Along with the residential building boom in these areas, commercial businesses are also experiencing huge growth.  A huge extension to the shopping mall situated at Hornby, new shopping centres planned for Rolleston and West Melton, the continued expansion of the Rolleston business hub known as Izone, as well as a huge inland port complex which will see Rolleston become a significant regional hub for importing, exporting and logistics and the Christchurch Southern Motorway extension are just some of the leading growth indicators.

What Does This Mean When Looking To Build In Christchurch?

Prior to the earthquakes not much attention was paid to the likelihood of this kind of disaster, the structural integrity of a building was taken for granted and houses were built more with design features in mind than safety precautions. 

Since the quakes the residential construction industry has seen a dramatic increase in activity, as well as an influx of workers.  Tens of thousands of new houses have been and are expected to be constructed in the greater Christchurch region over the coming years.  Building codes have been intensively examined and improved, there is more interest in incorporating the structural elements of a building into its visual design, providing occupants with visible peace of mind and greater understanding of ground stability is sought prior to construction. 

What Does The Future Hold For The City Of Christchurch?

Understandably rebuilding almost an entire city after such a destructive natural disaster is a complicated, time consuming, financially draining process, however a new city is gradually emerging from the rubble - a compact sustainable city with the promise of increased focus on safety, environmental impact, greener spaces and greater accessibility.

The central city rebuild is now focussed around several major anchor projects, including a new bus interchange, Convention Centre, an “East Frame” residential area in the heart of the city, and the “South Frame” people friendly green spaces, along with several precincts designed to cater for specific industry sectors including Retail, Performing Arts, Health and a one-stop Justice and Emergency Services Precinct. 

The new look Christchurch is also said to include a proposed light rail network, wide open pedestrian boardwalks and isolated cycle lanes to encourage the use of these more environmentally friendly modes of transport. 

Even though the focus is now on the new face of Christchurch, the resilience, strength and heart-warming acts of kindness displayed during the aftermath will never be forgotten by those who experienced them first-hand. This Campbell Live video shows exactly what the rebuild means to one home owner.   

With rebuild activity expected to continue for many years, local knowledge of Christchurch suburbs and their history will become a valuable asset.  If you are thinking about building in the Christchurch area look for Christchurch based builders who have lived and worked in the region over the earthquake years.