Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Letter from Christchurch: We're still here, you know [updated]

Another guest post from my Christchurch correspondent, complete with pictures taken over the last few days.

Let me make a plea for Christchurch. And for good journalism.

Watching the media coverage of the Christchurch earthquake, one could understandably conclude that the entire city had been razed to the ground, all the city’s buildings, roads and houses reduced to rubble, and the entire population is now reduced to boiling up stones for soup while dodging falling masonry.  Not so.

TramWhy wouldn't they believe that trope, however, when the media are acting as paid doom-mongers and unpaid promoters of pessimism.  Right from the very first morning, when the media erupted into print with reports of looting (reports that surprised friends in the city who saw shops with open doors but never any looters, not one) they have continued using emotionally charged but wildly inaccurate phrases to describe our still lovely town as an “earthquake ravaged city”—even when they’re only writing a story about an All Black test!

Does this look like a ravaged city to you?

City Mall2Ravishing, conceivably, but ravaged? City Mall 1

Such headlines are better for attracting readers and viewers than they are at representing the facts. And in point of fact, they radically misrepresent the true condition of the city of Christchurch (causing even further difficulties for Christchurch businesses already struggling with recession and with a council fixated so much on “preservation” of older building stock that it only makes the city’s reconstruction harder). Christchurch businesswoman Janice Burnett, for example, offers evidence of the effect of bad reporting on her own business, saying 

_Quote businesses like McDonalds and Subway, to whom she supplies, were looking to Australia for their gherkins under the assumption that her business had been destroyed in the earthquake. Burnett said they had no idea that some of Christchurch was still standing.

And it’s not just other businesses who are reading the bad reporting.  Tourists are looking to delay or cancel holidays to Christchurch fearing, after seeing the coverage of the disaster, that their destination lies in ruins. Yesterday, for example, I reassured an Aucklander who was about to cancel their trip that contrary to reports of our demise the vast majority of the city is in good working order and open for business.  They were relieved to hear that they could continue their trip as planned.

Old BuildingThis is not to belie the disaster or ignore the tragedy, nor the significant structural damage that the earthquake has caused and continues to cause. However, as these photos can only hint at, this is not a city on its knees. It has had a severe shake, but this is not Pakistan or Port au Prince. The vast majority of  Christchurch weathered the earthquake extremely well, thank you very much, and our garden city is as beautiful as ever and is open for business.

Don’t believe half of what you hear. Come down and see for yourself!

UPDATE: More up-to-the-minute photos below of the “quake ravaged city,” courtesy Christchurch photographer Kurt Langer. (And just quietly, he and his fully-equipped studio would appreciate a commission or two at the moment, since much of the work he did have on has now disappeared. Contact him at mail@kurtlanger.com  with your commissions, or for permission to republish.)






























  1. This morning was the first time I walked right through the centre of the city. (I usually work from home.)

    There is lots of visible damage but the only part of the city that looks utterly devastated is the corner of Manchester and Worcester Sts - the collapsed building that formed the backdrop to a week's worth of One News.

    All the pictures on the news were close in shots that showed damage but no surroundings. The reason you've seen no aerial shots of a destroyed city is because from the air Christchurch looks quite like an undestroyed city.

    That's not to say that there aren't parts of the city and hinterland that fared badly and people who lost everything - there are - but for most people it's business as usual.

  2. "Come down and see for yourself!"

    I'd love to but your mayor has told the public in no uncertain terms that rubber necking earthquake tourists are not welcome.

    Thank your mayor for the decline in visitors. They are effectively insulted and told not to come to Christchurch.

  3. You need to become Very Important. Then when you wander the streets gorping at the ruins you'll be "showing solidarity" instead of "rubbernecking".

  4. PC: Thanks for pointing to the pickle story. I'd always assumed that McD's imported their dills because I've never ever seen a domestically produced kosher-style garlic dill. The only ones I can here get are imported Canadian ones that don't hold up well under transport. And your sweet NZ ones are, in short, wholly and utterly inadequate - just as your sickly sweet tomato paste is a wholly inadequate substitute for ketchup.

    I've contacted the company in hopes that they sell a nice vinegary garlic kosher-style dill. If they do, you'll have given me hundreds of utils for pointing them out to me.

    Many thanks.

    Oh - and Ira had great fun yesterday rubbernecking on Victoria Street. Two diggers demolishing a building up the street, two diggers demolishing another building down the street. Heaven for a two year old.

  5. How dare you call our dills inadequate. (Insert obvious jokes here.)

    Just another point in favour of enslaving Canadians.

  6. How dare you call our dills inadequate. (Insert obvious jokes here.)

    Just you wait when Dr Laura confirms we can enslave Canadians.

  7. So now Brownlee has an enabling ACT that Labour, the Greens, and the Maori party was stupid enough to vote for?

    What would you do with it?

    I can't think of a better option than to appoint Don Brash as minister pleinpotentiary into political corruption --- load up a special detachment of the armed offenders squad --- and wipe out labour, the unions, and their fellow travellers once and for all.

    After all: it's quite legal now!

  8. @Anonymous, aka Sinner: Please take your genocidal fantasies elsewhere, please. Permanently.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.