The more things change…

Posted on March 7, 2011 by

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With all the rumours currently floating around about the future of the CBD, and the realisation that, while many of these rumours aren’t true, or are gross exaggerations and slightly irrational knee-jerk reactions, it does press home that, regardless, Christchurch is going to change and have a slightly different feel to it over the next few years.

However, I started to think about it a couple of different ways. First, how much has Christchurch changed in recent years due to human interference anyway? Looking back at old photos of the city, even as recent as the 1980’s, shows a city with a very different character to the one I have seen in recent years. The fact is, we have bowled over many buildings and transformed many parts of the CBD making it a very different beast over a rather short period. The CBD from my childhood was very different from the CBD immediately prior to the earthquakes.

Cathedral Square in the 1950's

 It’s also interesting to take a look at how much the city might have changed had things happened differently, and how close the city has come in the past to undergoing significant changes of character. If it wasn’t for the sharemarket crash in 1987, it’s possible many more heritage buildings may have been demolished to make way for more office blocks. Perhaps most relevant, to this blog at least, are the plans for a system of motorways that never eventuated in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. Had these gone ahead as originally planned (as, pending post quake infrastructure funding reviews, parts of the plan are going pretty much being reinstated) then Christchurch would already be a city with a very different look and feel to it. For example, a significant part of the plan was a motorway through Hagley Park!

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that while things will change, they always have done and Christchurch is certainly no exception. It’s just that in this particular case it has been foisted upon us in one go! I can’t say for certain what will or won’t happen to the CBD, or the whole city, in the crucial months and years ahead. What I will say though, is that the extent of change probably won’t be quite as grand and all-encompassing as many imagine. If buildings are strong, can be repaired and re-inhabited easily, they will probably remain, tall or not. It’s likely to be essential to make as much of the CBD safe and open for business as quickly as possible so, again I can’t imagine authorities knocking down buildings due to fears they are ‘too tall’ or ‘that we must completely start over’. For the same reason, I can’t see them shifting the CBD anywhere else, as some have suggested. Such a scheme would cost a lot of money, have a lot of knock on effects, and really there is no logic behind it other than being a knee-jerk reaction due to the initial stigma of a ‘ruined, dangerous CBD’.

Change will come, things will be very different and as a result we have some huge opportunities and big decisions to make. However, it does pay to stand back and put things in perspective a bit, and cast aside the rumours and scaremongering and remember that things always used to be different!

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