Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bexley - A Christchurch Suburb Without a Future

When I revisited the Christchurch suburb of Bexley about three weeks ago, it was like a ghost town. I think you get a sense of that in the image above - barren streets, sagging, disconnected powerlines, overgrown gardens and berms. Like a number of Christchurch suburbs, it has been declared part of the Red Zone and the soul has been sucked out of it.
We all knew the demolition was going to happen once homeowners accepted the Government offers of a buy-out, but yesterday, when it was announced that work had started on demolishing the first eleven homes in the area, the reactions were swift. Everything about the earthquake damage - both commercial and residential - is fraught and highly-charged and when reality bites, it's just too much for some. Seeing their homes smashed to pieces by giant machinery must be heartbreaking. And as you can see, many of the homes are almost brand new.
When I visited in early January, liquefaction had once again taken over the streets and gardens in the aftermath of the December 23 earthquakes. The place was a shambles.
Some of the remaining residents had piled it high in the street so they could access their properties; others had left it to dry into giant, cracked slabs of 'crazy paving.'
For many of us in Christchurch, the zoning of our land has brought with it, uncertainty and frustration. We wonder on a daily basis, when our turn will come, when EQC, Fletchers and/or CERA will deign us with their presence and make concrete decisions about our properties so we can begin repairs and move on, mentally and emotionally - or even physically. A horrible sense of uncertainty pervades everything we do. But when I walk around places like Bexley, I wonder what I am complaining about.
There's just something so incredibly forlorn about peoples' belongings being consigned to the sidewalks and left to languish in the long grass of their once manicured gardens. It doesn't matter that they're not the latest, stylish sofas - they were once central to a family's daily life, they were party to quiet, intimate, restful times, to the making of family histories.
And while my own house is cracked and misshapen, with sloping floors, torn paintwork, broken windows and sagging ceilings, it is at least secure, dry and liveable. In this place, at this time, that's a lot to be thankful for.
I joke about how I wish it would fall down, about how I'd like to leave my own gardens to grow long and dishevelled but if it really happened, I'm not sure how I would feel. Probably just as devastated and dislocated as the people of Bexley I expect.

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