Archives For Canterbury earthquake

Most of my strongest childhood memories are of free, unstructured play in wild places near my home—building huts out of fern fronds, playing explorers by wading down a stream in the Kaimais, collecting tadpoles, and waving toi toi flags.

A stream in the Kaimais. Photo: Dennis Kuhn/flickr (cc)

Childhood memories of exploring streams in the Kaimais. Photo: Dennis Kuhn

These experiences were a huge influence on the adult I am today—someone who believes conservation is vital.

I’m trying to do the same for my own kids—but in this increasingly urban and tech-driven world it’s getting pretty hard. There are less “wild places” in cities. I’m competing with the TV, the computer, gaming devices… for their attention—and not always winning. Homework, sports and structured extra-curricular activities makes for busy lives.

We need to help families that are struggling to find time to reconnect with these wild places. Here in Christchurch DOC has partnered with the Greening the Rubble Trust to create a nature-play park in central Christchurch.

A small Greening the rubble garden in Christchurch.

Greening the rubble in Christchurch. Photo: Christchurch City Libraries

The park will encourage families to discover—through free play—what is special about Canterbury plants and wildlife, and how they can make conservation part of their urban lives as they recover from the devastating earthquakes.

It will be interactive and exploratory, allowing for fun and learning. It will be a key drawcard to engage children and young families within Christchurch’s regenerating CBD.

We hope the site will be well-visited and part of any trip to Central Christchurch, and we plan to run several events and activities here over the coming year—starting with an opening ceremony as part of the Open Streets event on Saturday 29 September.

Greening the rubble site. Photo: Fiona Oliphant.

Turning the sod at the new nature-play park. Photo: Fiona Oliphant

We have a lot of work ahead of us to create this space, and it’s projects like this that make you realise that it’s people that bring the magic. Without a whole lot of people happy to help and donate time or materials, this park will not happen. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in!

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All is not lost – we are keeping some of Christchurch’s historic stone buildings! One of my favourite places to visit is the Sign of the Packhorse Hut and I was really happy to hear that it had survived the latest Christchurch earthquake

Sign of the Packhorse Hut

It’s a beautiful old stone hut in a great location; perched on a saddle offering a grand view of Lyttelton Harbour below and the curve of the Port Hills sweeping around its edges.

Happy memories are attached to that place – my daughter’s first overnight stay in a hut aged only two! The friends we took with us who had also never been tramping before. The bottle of wine we hauled up the hill to drink with our pasta meal, celebrating a new year’s arrival as the sun set. Staying up all night as the kids played up and took turns to keep their parents awake, finally dropping off at dawn for an hour or two of sleep.

Happy memories – my daughter’s first overnight stay in a hut

Sign of the Packhorse Hut lost its chimney and suffered some cracks in the September 4 quake, but it seems to have held it all together OK this time. Its open again to walkers coming from Kaituna valley or Gebbies Pass, but the track to Mount Herbert is closed pending a geotechnical survey.

This historic nine-bunk stone hut was built as part of a planned series of rest houses by Harry Ell for a proposed summit route from Christchurch to Akaroa. Only four houses were ever built, all from locally quarried volcanic stone.

Making memories

Fort Jervois on Ripapa Island has also survived but has suffered some damage and remains closed for now. 

Ōtamahua / Quail Island is safe and open again, another great place for families to go and have an adventure, forgetting about troubles for a while. Most of the reserves on Banks Peninsula are also now open, but reserves on the Port Hills stay closed due to the risks of rock fall.  Godley Head too, is closed – all tracks and even the road is a risky place to be until rock hazards can be managed so stay clear. 

While we keep getting large aftershocks, rock fall danger is very real, so please, keep safe and keep out of closed areas. Updates on track and facilities can be found on the DOC website.

But there’s nothing like getting back to nature to shake off the stresses of every day living – especially in a town that keeps trembling – so get out and about and make some memories of your own.

The Department of Conservation is back to business in Christchurch.

Yes things have changed since that fateful day Tuesday 22 February when the world bucked like a wild bronco at a rodeo show. We have no city visitor centre. Our inner city offices are cordoned off and will be for some time to come. Some of our tracks and special places are closed. Down town looks a bit like a new and alien world – as Captain Kirk said ‘It’s life Jim but not as we know it’.

Parking is no longer so great outside DOC's Kilmore Street office

Torrens House in the background appears fairly unscathed behind the rubble of neighbouring buildings – but it is off limits for at least six months

But we have picked ourselves up, dusted off our khaki pants and are ready to get back into it.

Want to know about our tracks and huts? Or perhaps get a hunting permit? You can check out the DOC website – we’re working to keep that right up-to-date. There’s even a special section on the earthquake.

Want to talk to us or ask a question? You can email us. You can ring the usual numbers – someone will answer. If you want to face up to a real person, you can call into our two closest area offices at 31 Nga Mahi Road, Sockburn or 32 River Road, Rangiora. The rangers at our two national park visitor centres in Arthur’s Pass and Aoraki / Mt Cook are very helpful and knowledgeable people too. Give them a call or visit – both are great places to get away from the stresses of the city – but not necessarily from quakes as they both sit on the Alpine Fault!

Things may not be quite as convenient or as fast as before – remember all our files are in a building that only guys in hard hats can enter. And while we are a government agency, we are people too, and we were all affected in many ways by the earthquake. Some of us lost homes. All of us are as tired and as stinky as the rest of Christchurch as we deal with aftershocks that disrupt our sleep and water supplies that are not quite back to normal.

My son, William Webb, outside his school in Heathcote – closed for three weeks while they cleaned up the rubble of those buildings that didn’t stand the test of 6.3.

But we believe in the value of conservation and we are back in business. Even if we have to do it in our own backyards.