June 24, 2011

Days after

Today was a day after for many others in Christchurch: the long-anticipated release of the government's assessment of quake-damaged land came yesterday. Home owners learnt if their houses are in the green zone (fine), orange zone (more investigation needed) or red (considered no longer viable). Our house is in the green zone, but there are splashes of orange near us in St Martins and Opawa. Above: the St Martins Community Library, looking worse than it did after the big shake in February (see this entry for a comparison), and liquefaction on St Martins Road. That section above is within the orange zone.

There is a familiar feeling to days after a quake in Christchurch, a subdued mood. People are quieter, cars drive a little slower. Streets seem emptier. Today, the day after bad news for many, felt like one of those days.

The St Martins New World has been demolished, along with a cluster of neighbourhood shops (chemist, hairdresser, cafe, bookseller) that stood near it.

The furniture shop Mr Mod is being emptied out. The army is here digging new silt out of backyards, again within the orange zone. On Wilsons Road, I talk to an elderly couple who do not know which zone they are in. No computer, the woman mimes. And they must go out to read the newspaper. The house is barely liveable, she says, and will be demolished and a new house built. "But we're not as badly off as those poor people in Bexley." And while the damaged house is cold, "summer's coming" (yes, in six months).

There used to be streams all through here before European settlement, she adds, streams submerged by building and roading, that have erupted since February. That big pile of liquefaction? There was a creek there once. Someone showed her an old map. The post-quake city's secret knowledge.

What are all these mysterious markings? Future generations will wonder. Above, in Hansen Park, Opawa.

Again, those rivers: so far, the red zone seems to be entirely around the estuary end of the Avon river. The lovely riverside suburb of Avonside will be largely abandoned, part of the city's history vanishing. Opawa is reminiscent of Avonside, a similar age, similar style of houses, built around a river. But there are only patches of orange here, again by the river. There are 5000 houses in the red zone in total. Another 9000 in the orange zone.

Above: marking one of Opawa's creeks (Opawaho being the Maori name for the Heathcote river). Above that: a historical home and attached land (Fifield homestead) is for sale. It was last on the market in 1890. Below: damaged roads and bridge on Fifield Terrace, Opawa. Again, this is the orange zone.

Risingholme on Cholmondeley Avenue is another grand Opawa home, built in 1864. The council bought it in 1943; its lands are now a park, the house is a community centre. But there are no cars in the carpark, no lights on in the home. All of its activities have been shifted elsewhere -- see the notices on the red door. A shy cat hides under the house as I approach. One of Opawa's streams runs quietly next to the home. The city's rivers reassert themselves.