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Christchurch re-growing from the rubble

travel Updated: Feb 23, 2012 16:44 IST
AFP
AFP
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Tourism officials in Christchurch have described a sense of optimism in the city, as it commemorates the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake which hit in February 2011. 

More than 20,000 people filled Hagley Park in the city February 22 to remember the 185 people killed in the earthquake exactly a year earlier, which measured 6.3 on the richter scale and devastated much of the town.

Despite the carnage left behind, Christchurch tourism chief Tim Hunter revealed ahead of the commemorations that Christchurch and the broader Canterbury region has continued to welcome a surprising number of visitors -- 47 percent of all visitors spent a night in Canterbury as part of their stay in New Zealand in 2011, he confirmed, compared to 56 percent a year before.

New Zealand posted record tourism figures for 2011 overall and by the end of the year, numbers to the Canterbury region were recovering, so Christchurch now has its eye firmly on the future.

From the rubble, some surprising structures have emerged to lure the tourists back, such as pop-up mall Re:Start, where 27 stores including high street brands and department stores are housed in shipping containers, and several city parks set up on empty sites as part of the 'Greening the Rubble' initiative.

Perhaps the most ambitious project is the plan to replace the Christchurch Cathedral with a 'cardboard cathedral' capable of housing 700 people, constructed by placing cardboard tubes over a foundation of shipping containers.

The efforts are being catalogued on Pop Up City Christchurch, a website dedicated to tracking the recovery of the city.

Given the scale of the disaster, it's perhaps unsurprising that there are still difficulties, not least with accommodation -- hotel rooms are still in short supply, although this year will see several new openings, including the Rendezvous Hotel Christchurch next month, and properties from Ibis and Novotel, with a further four expected to open or reopen in 2013.