I have been back in Christchurch with my daughter. We spent most of the time on the “edges” – Governors Bay, the rubbish transfer station at Bromley, South City Shopping Centre. But on our last Saturday, we travelled into the heart of the city – something that had not been possible for me on my previous trips. Everywhere we went there were dusty, shingle filled lots, where buildings used to stand.
The first thing the lots revealed to me was just how fake the city I grew up in was. Behind many of those those imposing Victorian facades were simple structures, sheds really. I had always been aware that little towns like Ashburton were built like stage sets for some antipodean western, but I really had no idea that Christchurch was the same.
The second revelation lay at my feet – river shingle, and lots of it. The bed of the Waimakariri river was only inches under the skin of the city. I remembered seeing maps many years ago plotting the course of streams in pre-European times. The river then sometimes ran through Christchurch and it could change its course back at any time.
So all is not what it seems and never will be again.