Jo Nicholls-Parker’s Story
Before the Earthquakes:
Jo Nicholls-Parker is married to Mayor Bob Parker who became the Mayor of Christchurch City in 2007. Jo had previously studied drama in London. After finishing her undergraduate studies at the University of Canterbury as a mature student, aged 25 to 29, she auditioned for the lead female role in the Noel Coward play ‘Present Laughter’, directed by Elizabeth Moody. Bob was playing the lead male. As well as a professional relationship they started a private one and have now been together 12 years.
In her role as Mayoress, Jo, neither an employee nor an elected representative of the Council, does have a lot of involvement through association in the Civic Office affairs. The Mayor’s Office includes her where possible, her diary is optioned by the executive team and she copies agreed commitments to her personal database. Needless to say she has an office at the Christchurch City Council building. Besides her role as Mayoress, Jo maintains social media sites documenting the Mayor’s involvement in the community through imagery, is a photographer, and is writing a thesis on a cultural/religious topic at university.
Before the earthquakes Jo was approaching the end of her first term as Mayoress of Christchurch City. She found that she had had a lot to learn about civic events and duties, the organisation, and the historic relationship to the Mayor: “We were very busy in the first term primarily getting to know the organizations that the Civic Office is involved with (as Mayor Bob Parker transitions from Councillor to Mayor he is primarily heavily involved in the internal affairs of the organization), what they do, how they present to Council, where the funding needs were, why funding was required, and just how each functions really. A first term is always very much about understanding the implications of the information and how this translates in terms of the bigger picture”. It was a very interesting and transitory time for Jo, but then so much of her life is.
Bob and Jo worked together in their Mayoral roles where possible. Bob is 17 years Jo’s senior so she appreciated that he had a lot to teach her about community engagement, serving the public’s interests and the public body in general. But she has still brought her own skills and interests to the role of Mayoress, which has been controversial to some, as an independent and educated woman. She sees their relationship as “about a dynamism”, she is focused where their different interests complement each other. In spite of their shared work for the city, Jo and Bob are not always together. Particularly post earthquake. Today, “Bob’s time is taken up with long meetings that can go on for days, urban planning negotiations – what with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the Government, the business community and financial hearings absorbing a lot of the time in the short term.”
4 September 2010:
Jo had woken up two to five minutes prior to the September 4th 2010 earthquake and had decided to get out of bed and to go downstairs – she likes to wake up in a positive way and this was the option that morning. She was downstairs in the two level warehouse/studio in which they live in the inner city. Having been brought up in the Hawkes Bay region in the North Island Jo was familiar with earthquakes: “It occurred to me immediately: that this was an earthquake! I grabbed the flat screen television! – because I was standing right next to it, as it began swaying increasingly … It was one of those earthquakes that built … and 40 seconds is a long time in earthquake territory. So, by the time it really started to rattle I was thinking: “Maybe I’ll just get down between the coffee table and couch, it was a very sturdy marble topped table, which is what I did.”
Bob was upstairs and he yelled out: “We’ve got to get out of here!”. At first Jo didn’t want to move as she thought, “I’ve got a really good spot down here so yelled back, you should come down here!” The power went out and Jo could hear “Bob bashing around upstairs probably trying to find his clothes in the dark”. As the earthquake quietened she went up to join him and they “got out of the house as quickly as possible”.
The couple then had trouble getting off the property as their electric gates were made redundant with no power source. Jo recalled, “I had to run back into the studio and find a crow bar to lift the gates off their hinges, which was a bit of a drama because would that work? And where was the crow bar anyway, in the dark?”. At first, they questioned whether the earthquake was based in Christchurch or Wellington. In fact, Bob’s first thought was, “call Wellington!” because there were no known faults in Canterbury.
Jo and Bob got into their car and headed straight to the City Council building, a couple of minutes drive away. Alarms were going off all over the city and there was some rubble on the roads. But certainly, a “very eerie feeling – shadows of people ducking between buildings as they, I assumed, went to check their properties by night”. Jo and Bob ran up the City Council building fire escape stairs. “There was a little damage in the stair well; a bit of gibing had fallen off the walls, the concrete slabs superficially fractured under foot. The building had lit up like a beacon, everything else in the city had been thrown into darkness. It was because the civic building generates its own power … that you could see it from a mile away – it was the only thing lit”. Then, another aftershock came through. The building responded as if the shock were a fire, it “started to deploy an internal fire screen”. For me it was a ‘James Bond’ moment, Jo said. They were now on the 2nd floor where the screens were whirring as they steadily unfolded. Jo found herself having to recall the one and only emergency briefing she had had in the new City Council building to determine which side of the screens being deployed they needed to be on, in order to get out of the building.
Jo and Bob left the new City Council building got into the car and made their way toward the old City Council location. Just before the earthquake the City Council was in its final stages of logistically traversing between the two buildings, and as it happened emergency intelligence was still oriented to the old City Council building. On their way to the old City Council they noticed increasingly more rubble, police out on patrol, and a few individuals had already emerged with cameras. It was about this point that Bob’s phone started to go. This was “normal territory” for Jo, as the media would often call Bob for comments and information.
Back at the new City Council building, quite a few of the Civic Emergency Management team were beginning to gather. The Parker’s soon returned to the building also, it was not possible to approach Tuam Street the route they had taken. Back at the Civic Building one of the first things to be established was that the computers were not working efficiently. This was because the building had assumed fire and therefore the electricity supply had been considerably reduced to the building. General Manager Michael Aitkin made an early call to set–up in the Art Gallery across the road. Although the new civic premises had the potential to resume electricity supply, none of the actual Emergency Management systems were geared to this new building so there was little time lost by relocating, Jo explained. “The call to relocate to the Christchurch Art Gallery didn’t mean that a whole lot of systems had to be re–established. These were being set–up for the first time, and it was unclear at this point how long the new Civic Building would need to be closed for repairs. And the Art Gallery looked good; it had many open spaces … once the Emergency Management Operations team had located whiteboards, laptops, desks, satellite phones and other supplies in the Art Gallery the collation of information really gathered momentum – all this was established and comprehensive within the first two hours after the 4:35am earthquake.”
While Jo’s immediate family all live in the North Island, primarily Hawke’s Bay, Bob had elderly parents, a sister, a son and grandchildren in Canterbury. Bob couldn’t get in touch with his family until the end of that day to find out whether or not they were all safe.
In the first few hours after the earthquake, no one knew whether or not people were OK. By 8 o’clock in the morning, Bob, Jo, and key members of the Civic Emergency Management team went down to the Environment Canterbury building to look at the option for declaring a State of Emergency. A National State of Emergency was declared that morning. The Environment Canterbury bunker also had generators (later this building was declared unsafe to inhabit), it was there that Jo could see what the rest of New Zealand could see. Jo watched the information being broadcast from the television networks to the rest of the country and world, while the official meeting was convened. While in the meeting room the level of the emergency proceedings was being discussed Jo was able to establish from the TV1 News “that only three people had been hospitalised with cuts and bruising”. This was good news as everyone had feared much worse. But, not knowing what more would be discovered as the morning unfolded Bob continued to advise via the media that people needed to check on their neighbours.
Jo recalls the frequent and sometimes strong aftershocks that occurred as a result of that September earthquake, and how it set everyone on edge. Today, Jo contemplates how integral it is that the leaders of that time, politicians and bureaucrats alike, need to be recognised with their decisions anchored in the reality – the context – of the moment. “Decisions were consistently being made with good reason” she says. Jo witnessed first hand how everyone “worked so admirably”, how everyone remained calm and collected at all times. Later when good citizens stormed the city cordon, and were held back on good authority enforced by the NZ Defence Force, she saw this as representative of the trauma people had suffered.
Jo’s Role – the aftermath of the earthquake:
Jo feels that she was well suited to being able to cope with the earthquakes: “I think if anyone had to be thrown into the middle of this disaster it aught to have been me, because I am scarcely caught by life’s domesticity and therefore more often than not ready to respond to the unexpected. I don’t have children, for one. I do not live in a house I live in a studio/warehouse, which means that my experience adheres also to a commercial setting 24/7. And, I had already embraced the idea of transitioning the criteria of past mayoress’ to a more relevant orientation, to a civic environment dictated to – to a large degree – by on–line databases. My attitude was balanced more toward the future than the past when my husband came into office – which hasn’t always been the case. And, the role of mayoress naturally draws a historic perspective from the community, an attitude drawn from the past as a comparison, so for me there has always been a balance.” Jo didn’t get overly emotional though the earthquakes, she was a little more measured than some; rather she was able to communicate the message, the detail of what she’d seen and determine what she percieved the city needed.
During the emergency she stayed close to city leaders and was impressed by what she saw, they were “clear headed, they didn’t allow themselves to be cluttered by the chaos around them”. She stayed close to Bob, “so I continue to see what was going on, so that I was sure that I had the right information, the right take on the situation. It seemed important, at the time, to be able to pass on the correct detail.” She valued being able to access information at its source, being in a position to see the truth of the situation.
Jo was kept going by the “transience of the experience”, evoked by the transitions of people, place and purpose, the International support that descended, and being witness to the response from our people – all of whom bought order to these impactful times. Her brief to herself was to be as professional as possible. She remembers the Prime Minister visiting, “The Mayors’ call for the NZ Defence Force to help meant that structures were appropriate for the long haul, and he was then able to communicate this to the media as pressures from the gathering congregation increased – at its peak there were 1,200 journalists. As evening fell the Canterbury earthquake had made World News.
It was a very busy time. Jo recalls that she only found the time to tidy away the broken glass and bottles in their home, the main studio, a month after the earthquake. They didn’t have power for quite a long period because they lived close to the CBD which was shutdown, “commercial areas were a low priority on Orion’s agenda when re–establishing power to the city.” Instead, they stayed in a small part of their warehouse/studio but spent very little time at home anyway. They stayed at the Civic Emergency Management centre until 10.30pm most evenings in the early days, and would return at 5.30am each morning in time for Bob to be briefed on overnight developments and appear on the 6am News. Jo “stayed close” with Bob all that time.
Looking back on this time Jo has fond memories witnessing the human spirit at its best and the moments of high morale. The earthquake concert in Hagley Park was one such highlight: “We all just came together in a really good way”. People who had recently met their neighbours for the first time came together. “Even, with us, in the EOC (Earthquake Operations Centre) ... this beautiful little girl came in with her dad to offer 12 cup cakes, which she had baked for those working long hours – and there was just so much of that, a lot of really good will. The NZ Defence Force provided a great service to the Mayor’s Office – they allocated a Major to assist the Mayor where required. This meant we were able to get out into the community, to a different location each day, between 11am & 2pm. They supplied a LOV – a ‘Light Operational Vehicle’, a driver and a navigator, and we travelled with Auckland Press Secretary Glyn Jones whom Mayor Len Brown spared for our more intense recovery period. The Mayor’s Office received an overwhelming amount of gifts and money and was able to distribute all of this to the appropriate places.
Getting Back to Normal:
Jo felt that things had gone back to an element of normality as staff moved back into the Civic Office. This took place in January 2011. Bob and Jo, the whole team from the sixth floor of the City Council building, were able to return to their offices at this time. It was almost six months after the event and the international media crews had all gone home. Then, political arguments started to heat up. People would argue that there was an east–west divide. And, there were divisions opening up between the Chamber of Commerce – the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority not yet formerly established, the Earthquake Commission, the Defence Force and the Christchurch City Council. Meetings that were closed to the media and public were held to establish each organisations position and findings; the various organisations viewpoints were heard. At this time the media activity sidelined seconded the public, and encouraged complaints all of which signalled the return to normal bureaucratic bantering. But, this was not the reality beneath. Jo did not buy into issues such as the heritage campaign, the idea that the organization was inefficient or not doing its job; it was not her role to enter partisan politics. Rather she wanted to see local government in a position to prioritise as it saw fit, to run the events it commits to annually, and for private business to be in position to readjust as it saw fit. But, of course, the insurance issues had affected everyone.
22 February 2011:
Jo was in her office at the time of the February 22nd 2011 earthquake. Mayor Bob Parker was on the same floor on the balcony being briefed by his executive staff as to the activities of the day. Jo had assumed he was still on level two in a previous meeting, but it had closed early. Jo knew immediately it was a huge event, she was situated right in the heart of the city. She was shocked at how much the Brutalist designed bulk of a building moved. It felt very different to September: “It actually gathered an interesting momentum. There was this really weird feeling in it, and it was the Gs. We were all in free fall for a while there – it was the dropping, which in hindsight was found to be really quite unique in an urban environment, which was unusual. It wasn’t only the horizontal movement we were dealing with there; there was the vertical movement as well. That falling was quite pressurizing … I felt the pressure on my skull, the downward pull, like when I was riding the Gravitron at the A&P show grounds as a child in the Bay – except then it effected my solar plexus and left me feeling ill for hours afterwards. We were in free fall for a moment, I know because I didn’t try to move from my desk, I stayed relatively still”. Her office cabinet doors fell off their hinges and Jo grabbed on to her desk primarily because her chair was on wheels. “Luckily everything on my desk, including my computer, flew in the opposite direction to me before hitting the ground.”
She stayed in her office for a few seconds after the earthquake subsided and then walked into the Mayor’s Lounge hoping to find Bob, and did. People in the building were screaming and heading for the exit. Bob had fallen over on the balcony because he had tried to get inside the building during the earthquake. As Jo, Bob, and his office executive manager Sarah made their way downstairs Jo chatted to council staff, and found that those in wheelchairs had to wait in the stairwells before being evacuated by appointed staff. She noticed less superficial mess (probably due to pot plants etc having been fixed to the floor after the September event) but the building seemed in essence more damaged, this perception was mainly formulated as a result of what she witnessed as she got to the ground floor and exited the building.
Outside water was coming up through the road which Jo immediately translated to mean the Civic Building basement was probably being filled with water. Jo wanted to retrieve their car from the basement but when Bob went there he felt it was too dangerous. A few hours past and reports were that the City Council basement was accessible, and a gentlemen staff member took several of the Council management teams keys and retrieved all the vehicles from there. Jo, like so many others in the city, wanted to retrieve her belongings to know where everything was. Jo and Bob then walked to the Emergency Operations Centre previously established at the Christchurch Art Gallery in September. Dust was still rising from the city but the screaming and noise was subsiding by this time: “There was some serious chaos though, the roads were jammed with cars along Montreal Street … it was obvious we were in some serious territory this time with so many people in the city”.
Jo felt that the actual sensation of the February earthquake was part in parcel with the reason people were so traumatised. “Aside from the actual trauma of the fatalities, and those directly effected by the loss of 185 lives, in the heart of the city we had experienced a gravitational force of up to 2.2 Gs impacting the core of our beings. This made the outward trauma of broken homes and the inner trauma of the aftershocks just that bit more shocking. I think essentially people had been changed by the event and were trying somehow to re–centre. It was like your inner world, your inner being, had been transitioned by the event and that from that collective moment we each had a fresh choice as to how we would approach the next moment, the future, with new and varied circumstance.”
Inside the City Cordon:
Jo was able to enter the cordon and observe what was happening in the central city. She was present for the last rescue from the PGC building. She stayed with Graham Bodkin, who was waiting for his wife Ann Bodkin, trapped inside a small concrete space. Jo found it difficult to remain patient as she knew that the nearby Grand Chancellor was in great danger of collapse, of potentially compromising the rescue. She was very pleased to see Ann emerge alive: “That was a very special moment”.
Jo knew access to the central city was, at that time, a privilege. She was patron of the Christchurch Women’s Refuge (2007-2011), and had received several calls from this organisation asking for their historical records to be salvaged. When Bob was allocated a truck to enable him to move more freely about the city, Jo took some action. Jo gathered together several engineers, five in total, from the EOC to help her enter the Christchurch Womens’ Refuge building. The safe, where the files were located, was on their premise above the Whitcoulls building on Cashel Mall. Jo found the safe, as described by the Refuge Councillor on her mobile as they entered the building, and was able to access the safe with the engineers guidance – torches, hard hats and a little comradeship. And, some time later they had the files out of the building. The quantity of the material retrieved filled the back of the truck/ute and an additional trailer of a similar size. The content was then delivered that afternoon to the Refuge Safe House. Jo understood that it was very difficult to get through to anyone with the authority to enter the Red Zone and respected their persistence and tried to help when she could. The many small enquiries made on the time of the authorities, when life and death scenarios were still being played out, was a frustration felt and yet handled by all.
Jo visited Latimer Square: “The whole of Latimer Square was filled with tents and industry. I remember going with Bob when he was invited to meet with the Urban Search And Rescue teams, to speak with specific people, or just to see the facilities down there. This is where the teams who worked night and day for the people of our city, who had come from all around the world to help, lived and worked.
Jo and Bob also visited the morgue and observed the forensic teams work. This helped with understanding the time pressures, “why so often they appeared to take too long for the families of victims but in actual fact had an incredibly intricate job to attend to. They were literally piecing together the reality of the situation for the short term, and the long term, with enquiries still being held in the Courts today”. Of course there were lessons learnt along the way but Jo mostly witnessed everyone working as expediently as possible, “we would all do things differently with the knowledge of hindsight, but let us hope we never have to go through anything like this again”.
At the same time Jo “didn’t want to be in anyone’s way. I didn’t want to be less professional in a professional environment, so that was my brief to myself, to act professionally. There was work to be done. The attitude I took with me throughout the earthquake experience was that by merely conducting myself professionally would mean that I would be advised by professionals, and this was the case. I witnessed the work of those who gave directives efficiently, and who are efficient with their information.”
Personally, Jo has found that her role as Mayoress after the earthquakes has been challenging at times, but nothing out of the ordinary. Jo has had to deal with on–going negative comments from bloggers and senior journalists alike. Recently, the International Relations Department at the City Council placed a request for the Mayor and Mayoress to attend to Sister City Relationships, 40 years in the making, by visiting the various cities around the globe, in a public agenda going to Council – though subsequently pulled for more detail to be added. The media immediately jumped on this assuming the travel event was about to take place, instead the request had merely been placed in the agenda to go to Council for deliberation, but Jo would endure several days of negative publicity about the expenses she would incur by attending to her sister city obligations anyway. Jo has rationalized these kinds of criticisms and sees it as a kind of return to normality. “It is unfortunate: but I’m thinking: ‘Well, if we’ve got time to criticize others, and for things they’re not yet committed to, then the most environmentally effecting difficulties due to the earthquake must be subsiding – order must be resumed to an adequate extent in the lives of the naysayers in the community if politicking is raising it’s head again. The last thing a natural disaster inspires is a taste for politics.”
Jo continues her work as Mayoress, she doesn’t see her personal life as separate from her public life. Bob’s work as Mayor is 24/7 and she wants to live a life in support of him. She will support her husband if he seeks re-election because it will be an opportunity to grow into the new opportunities the city will be presented with, to learn new interests, and a chance to deepen ones appreciation of the important truths learnt relating to place and purpose. Jo has come to understand that “no matter how brilliantly you may – or may not – be able to conduct yourself in public life it will never be enough.” That instead the most important thing is “to contribute through your own truth of experience”.
Jo is committed to Christchurch. After the major earthquakes she remembers “the fear, of going to sleep at night wondering what might happen”, she, like so many others, had to work to transform that fear. She reflected “once you’ve done that work why would you want to leave. It’s work done.” So, when her family in Hawke’s Bay reminded her that she could escape to the family bach in Taupo, if she wanted out, she refused: “It seemed an absurd idea at the time because we were almost through it”. She concludes: “Now, I just really want to be part the Christchurch journey, into the future. I’m more drawn to the South than ever”. Jo understands if people feel the need to leave Christchurch, “life is not supposed to be a marathon and for some people it still is,” but hopes that these people will return with new ideas and skills in the future.
Jo thinks that Christchurch has great potential, both in terms of its economic and lifestyle opportunities. The question around what the city centre will look like in the future “is one that we’re all concerned with, it is an issue we all aught to give voice to”. She hopes that the rebuild will do more than replace what was. She hopes that Cantabrians will make good choices, will make the most of the economic and environmental opportunity. Jo hopes that the new Christchurch will not just reflect the external construct of a society but will also reflect the spirit of the South: “The New Zealander of today is not simply a reflection of cultures from other places, a collection of identity fragments from around the world. Kiwis, because of their place on the planet have a unique resonance. We do however need to decide exactly what that looks like in uber architectural terms, and today would be a good time to do this.”
Jo believes that the rebuild of Christchurch is “as much about the arts as it is about sciences: The spiritual fabric of this place has been revealed and therefore, in my view, the Arts is assured a place in the transition to the future.” And, Jo has great admiration for “the people who actually physically build and understand structural engineering, they are the ones who listen to the conceptually formulated ideas, manage the application, and apply it to the fabric of the city. But, what if the bureaucratic and political landscape known to western society, that established democratic model, finds itself estranged, who in the future will effect some change here? What if a merger between the arts and the sciences is simply not going to be enough, this time?”
Before the Earthquakes:
“I got married to Bob Parker in 2007. We’ve actually been together for 12 years. He became the Mayor of Banks Peninsula way back in 2001, I met him in 1999 right at the end of the year. And at the time we were performing in a Noel Coward play. We met in the theatre”.
“My husband had his initiation to the mayoralty as Mayor of Banks Peninsula, a position he won and was sworn to in 2001. When we moved to the city there was, of course, a vast change of consideration in that thought alone. The mayoralty went from an electorate orientation of a small population with a vast and very beautiful land mass, to quite the opposite, a city of 350,000 people with satellite suburbs and Councils contributing to the GDP – gross indictor profit, of the entire region of Canterbury. The greater Christchurch region was then almost half a million people. For me, as Mayor and Mayoress of Christchurch City, there was a substantial social obligation, and the affiliated work to be attended to. There was a lot of demand on our time to attend events, to be out in the public arena. Organizations that had worked long and hard to establish themselves in the city, in the historic cultural and educational climate, understandably wished to address the Mayor and Mayoress in specific but varied ways. So, in the first term, we were very busy in the sense that we were getting to know the organizations, what they did, how they presented to Council, where the funding needs arose, and just how everyone fitted in, and functioned, really. This is typical of a first term in a government body, the first term is always very much about getting to know whether what people tell you is balanced, and how this translates to the bigger picture. I had learnt a lot about what it meant to be a part of a Civic Office environment before the earthquakes. It was a very transitory time, and a very interesting time.”
“I haven’t been your typical Mayoress, as of the past … the partnership [the inclusion of the Mayoress] exists only because there are beneficial and complimentary roles to be played out, and when done well the community at large benefits – for a multitude of different reasons. Where the role used to more about family and children, today it is more about industry and technology because today technology is as much about our home life as it is our work life. I’m in the Arts, my husband is in politics. So, how does this translate to our environment? For me this question is an important one to address, it needs to be asked on a regular basis and in a variety of formats in order that we/society remain relevant.”
“There is always more that could be done. The Mayor’s Office is made up of six individuals. Managers from other departments in the organisation then brief the Mayor and his staff, either in person or via the intranet. The most regular person to person visitors [to the Mayors Office] are the Communication, International Relations, Public Relations and Democracy Services managers – apart from the Councillors. I have an office on the 6th floor of the Civic building so I personally know all who visit, in so far as I meet them either in the office or on affiliated business. All other meetings scheduled concerning the Mayor, go through the Mayor’s office manager. I’m a part of the organization only in so far as the Mayor has invited me. I’m neither an elected member or an employee, but I welcome the opportunity that in essence has been driven by the traditions of a Civic Office answerable to the Crown – as opposed to Parliament. I grow and learn through the constructs made available to me. By the time the question of securing a third term becomes a reality, believe you me, I will be fully versed in yet another Civic Office environment given the transitions that have taken place due to the recent earthquakes.”
4 September 2010:
“I had just woken up two, maybe five, minutes prior to the earthquake… around that time I was waking and getting up in order to say with that first positive thought for the day…. I had got out of bed and gone downstairs – we’ve got a two level warehouse/studio in the inner city – so really I was on a very solid industrial concrete floor when the earthquake hit, preferable to Bob’s upstairs bedroom experience as it turned out.”
“Bob yelled to me: ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’, I thought he was saying come up here. I thought, I’ve got a really good spot down here and called back. ‘You come down here, it’s safe down here!’ I stayed there until the earthquake was over. I realised the power was out as I heard Bob bashing about upstairs, probably trying to find clothes and put them on mid earthquake, in the dark. Eventually I decided to run upstairs to find some clothing myself, and we got out of the house as quickly as possible.”
During the earthquake I, initially, held the flat screen television, which had begun to sway. I didn’t have the lights on downstairs so hadn’t noticed the power outage. Then, as the earthquake didn’t show any sign of subsiding I decided to get down between a very heavy marble coffee table and the couch. On trying to recall what I was thinking – what that thought process was that I was engaged in, in order to make the decision to move from one place to another – I found that I had scanned the room to see how my surrounds were being effected by the earthquake and when I saw a better spot than the one I was in, the move was frankly the most efficient option.”
“When we were outside, the first thing we realized was that the electric gates wouldn’t be working without power. So that was entertaining! I had to grab a bit of courage and run back inside to find a sort of crow bar type thing, something to lift the gates off their hinges, which was a bit of a drama because ‘would that work? And where was the crow bar in the dark anyway? I immediately found it in the big warehouse space, much to my relief. There was another way out, which I had suspected Bob would be looking into, the keys to disengage the hydraulics on the gates were somewhere out in that courtyard. But, perhaps, I was the only one who knew, generally, of there whereabouts. Anyway the crow bar option worked, and we were off the property in a few minutes – all the while anxious to move away from confined spaces and power–lines. I carried that feeling throughout the seismic period to follow, unbeknown to the people of Christchurch that morning, this was to be the new normal for the next two years.”
“We didn’t really know whether the earthquake was based in Christchurch. Could it have been centred in Wellington? Actually, that was my husband’s thought, which he verbalized, ‘Call Wellington! Christchurch is not typically an earthquake zone. I’m from Hawkes Bay, a reasonably active seismic area, so Wellington – south of Hawkes Bay – was feasible.”
“The first thing we did was get into the car and head for the Civic building, to see what had happened to the city, to see if anything had fallen or if fire was a threat. There was an awful lot of noise in the city, alarms were going off everywhere: All the car alarms and the building alarms in the vicinity were activated. There was an eerie feeling also. There were shadows of people ducking between buildings as they come out to check on their premise by night, people standing in clusters down Montreal St after having exited apartment buildings – I didn’t know that so many people lived in that area!”
“We came to the Civic building, swiped ourselves in and ran up the fire escape stairs, Bob first! – he was on a mission striding up the stairs. I was more interested in questioning the sensibilities of walking over cracked concrete, but in the decision not to slow him I followed on. There was a little damage here and there; a bit of gibing had fallen in the stairwells… the building was now lit up like a beacon especially since everything else in the city had been thrown into darkness. The Civic building generates its own power and all the lighting is designed to respond to movement, the earthquake that morning had triggered every single light. You could see it a mile away. And, of course, entering a building after a major earthquake probably wasn’t the wisest thing. But, entering the Civic building did help me transition – in those adrenaline filled moments – from a sense of uncertainty to making a commitment to the situation at hand, which was much more amicable.”
“Once we were in the building, and we had reached the top floor, there was another reasonable sized earthquake, an aftershock. Immediately we weighed up the practicalities of making a speedy exit: ‘We’d better get out!’ When we got down to the second floor via another stairwell there was an unusual whirring sound. It was the building having made the decision to respond to fire. There was however no fire. It had decided to prepare by reducing the power supply to the building, all the lights began to dim and a fire screen was being deployed – that was the whirring sound. This was a bit of drama in itself, inspired by my imagined mischievousness, a momentary James Bond moment: ‘Which side of the fire screen should we be on? Would we make the right decision? Were we going to be trapped inside the building?”
Once on the street we got into the car: “We headed toward the older part of the city, toward Tuam St actually, but soon ended up back-tracking to the Civic building on Hereford St. We had heard via mobile that staff were beginning to gather there. Quite a lot of the Civic Emergency Management team had gathered within the first hour of the earthquake. This was the first I’d ever seen of a Civic Emergency Management setting-up.”
“The emergency plan and all the subsequent documentation was still oriented around the old Civic building at Tuam St, because we were still in the process of transferring staff and files from one premise to the other. But, we couldn’t actually get to Tuam St as it turned out, even if we’d wanted to. Our brief excursion showed that police were already out in that area. A lot more rubble had fallen from the old brick buildings. Facades had fallen onto the road. We had confirmation that this was a wide spread situation as the radio stations began to call Mayor Parker’s mobile. We entered the Hereford St Civic building as soon as we were released from this first wave of media enquiries.”
“Initially we found that there wasn’t a lot we could do with the Civic building, at Hereford St. The computer networks weren’t connecting efficiently because the power supply had been significantly reduced, in the case of fire, though people [staff] kept arriving to help. Very early in the piece Michael Aitken, the first emergency management controller on the job – the first appointed general manager to task – made the call to set–up over the road in the Art Gallery. In normal circumstances the director of the Art Gallery, Jenny Harper, reports to the general manager, Michael Aitken, so he knew the building and the systems over at the Art Gallery well. It is a part of the Council organization.”
“Within the first hour we were setting–up the EOC – Emergency Operations Centre, at the Art Gallery. There were white boards, satellite phones, maps, tables chairs, pens and paper all being sourced and deployed to the available spaces. Then, as things unfolded, as the reality of our situation occurred, we took over the whole downstairs of the Art Gallery space. Then, we took over the whole first floor. Then, gallery staff; curators and management were seen to move higher up in the building – eventually to the third floor. As the day went on, as days went by, weeks, months, curators discretely began to remove the artworks from the gallery walls. Only a few pieces had been superficially damaged in the initial 7.1 earthquake, it would have been nice to see these artworks stay to add to the morale of the people thrown into that gallery space that morning, but the artworks were expensive and allegedly destined for the security of storage. The call to move to the Art Gallery didn’t mean that a whole lot of systems had to be moved. These were being set up for the first time. And, the Art Gallery always felt good to me. It had a lot of large open spaces, which was refreshing in a seismic zone.”
“Bob has family in Christchurch. He has elderly parents, a son and three grandchildren. And, in Kaiapoi north of the city, a sister and her family, nieces and nephews. My family are all in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. So, historically I’m on my own in Christchurch – and have lived here for fifteen years now. Eleven of which I have spent in the company of Mayor Bob Parker – who has been Mayor ten out of those eleven years. On the day of the earthquake he wasn’t able to get through to any of his family until late that afternoon, his sister managed to get through to say that everyone was with her in Kaiapoi.”
“In the first few hours after that first earthquake no one knew how people had feared – whether or not people were OK.”
“When we headed down to officially declared a State of Emergency in the Environment Canterbury building, around 8am, I was able to see the footage of our city for the first on the national television news. With the official meeting convened, I established that only three people had been admitted to hospital with cuts and bruising – incredible! At that point there are many others around me in the Environment Canterbury building, mostly administrators running errands for those in the meeting room, they must have seen it all before because I was the only one watching the broadcast. Mostly people were busy on the phones… I knew the Mayor would be comforted by what I had seen on the news. That was one key bit of critical information amongst so many questions, that would be good to receive after declaring a State of Emergency I thought.”
Jo’s Role – the aftermath of the earthquake:
“I think if anyone should have been thrown into the middle of something like this disaster, it should have been me. I’m not caught up in a lot of life’s domesticities. I don’t have children for one. And, I was already committed to a very transient path as Mayoress, which has provoked a bit of attitude on a variety of levels from the community. So, being removed from another’s opinion was already on my agenda before the earthquakes, I had accepted this as part of my journey. As it turned out transience was perfect for dealing with the unknown. On a personal level I didn’t have to change a thing.”
“I know a lot of people so what happened to me in the hours and days immediately after the earthquake, not being an official in any capacity but having access to the officials, was why my phone started to ring. I had Ministers, High Commissioners and company Chief Executives on the phone because of course they knew me from social engagements in the mayoralty context – of course they really wanted to speak with Mayor Parker but were wise enough to know I was the next best thing – they knew he would be tied up beyond reason. What they needed, as it turned out, was information about how best to utilise the systems being set–up. And this I could deliver. I was in a position to report on exactly what was going on around me and more. I could tell them where response teams were headed first, and when they could expect assistance, by monitoring the ever growing situation report and the delegation systems as they were being formed. Then, a few people would call to alert me to urgent requirements, at which point controller Jane Parfaitt, another general manager from Council, delegated one of her administrative staff to follow–up for me when necessary. Although, I was able to access the detail I needed and place requests myself within the EOC environment, when I was out in the community I could not so this staff member was a great asset.”
“The Mayors’ assessment of the situation immediately after the earthquake was, in my view, astute. He announced the State of Emergency early, yet in a timely workable way, which is what was required. It amazes me how he was able to perceive the big picture situation without any visuals in those first few hours. Of course he was fully briefed and had individuals within the organization and others organizations that he trusted and who inform him well, but we weren’t able to see for ourselves the reality of the situation around the city for some time.”
“During the emergency I found myself immensely impressed and immersed in the skills and efficiency of the people around me. They were the people who stayed really clear headed, who didn’t allow themselves to be cluttered by others pain and demands. I felt it was valuable to stay close with these people, to the Mayor, and to see what was going on so that I could report succinctly to anyone who contacted me for information. I felt that I needed to know the truth of the situation, and to stay close with those set on establishing what mattered.”
“The brief I gave myself was: The best way to get through this is to be as professional as possible, as this was admirable to witness in others. One prime example of this was when Mayor Parker called for the assistance of our Defence Force. He felt it was important to keep order and peace in a society that had become the subject of new controls and conditions, a society with newly enforced cordons and curfews. This was accepted as the right call, but a few hours later negotiations in Wellington almost vetoed the idea. To counter this the Mayor addressed the Prime Minister in public and the bureaucrats in Wellington were overruled, the Defence Force were in place before night fell. And, then, the Mayor began to show his support for the Defence Force publically: ‘Who better to help us when in need than our own Defence Force, he would ask… We need our young people on the ground at this time…. We need people who we can trust, people we know will follow an order until told otherwise.”
“The Emergency Operations Centre… A beautiful little girl came in with her father and presented 12 cupcakes that she had baked – they were for the people who were working long hours, and there was just so much of that, really good will.”
“The Mayor’s Office had to set–up a Mayors Fund for the many donations, this worked alongside the Red Cross and the Prime Ministers Fund to receive and distribute the funds raised. A former colleague from Central Hawkes Bay contacted me – along with PlaceMakers in Christchurch – they were salvaging wood and building cabins. Their aim was to keep the people of Christchurch warm at night. Mostly I had these delivered to the Defence Force who manned the cordons by night – subsequently they were tasked with redistributing them to households and parks.”
“There was also a lot of merchandise received, and gifts (everything from carefully made quilts to messages of support from school children, as far afield as the Australian School in Singapore). This part of the response became a full time job for at least two members of the Mayors Office, and for several months. The Public Relations department general manager, Lydia Aydon, invited her husband to put in long hours writing letters of thanks also.”
Getting Back to Normal:
“In the first few weeks we stayed at the EOC – Emergency Operations Centre, at the Art Gallery until 10:30pm at night, the late News was the last the Mayor fronted for the day. Then there was the 6am News. We were at the EOC 5:30am most mornings, first we would source some coffee then the overnight communications team for a briefing. Sometimes we would arrive to see a staff member whom we had said good-night to when we left the night before – many worked throughout the night. Urban Search and Rescue teams would head into the city at 11pm and return at 5:30am, when we arrived. Mayor Bob knew he needed to front–up to the 6 o’clock News. Consistency was the one thing he knew he could provide for the people of the city; a consistent voice, consistent support, and consistent report updates building on what had previously been broadcast – his attention was undivided on this. Later we heard from many, those sleeping in their cars or who had moved the entire family into one room of an otherwise broken house, that they waited for these updates as it was from these they drew their own conclusions and decide what to do next. But, as it turned out, this was just training. 12:51 on the 22 February 2011 asked for much more of us all. Media crews outside the Art Gallery peaked at 1200 journalists. They were not permitted to enter the Art Gallery building, but swarmed whenever the Mayor exited, I walked this walk with him – they too had audiences that wanted answers. Needless to say I got to know quite a few of the members of those crews, we were all in it together.”
“We’ve had a lot of aftershocks – over 11,000 to date (30.08.12). And, we’ve all been on the edge for a million different reasons through this time. I think this is important to remember! If you go back and look at the different calls the various politicians and leaders made it is wise to remember the context we were in. There was a lot of fear in the people both after the 4 September 2010 and the 22 February 2011 earthquakes, and therefore a lot of pressure. There was also a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unknown territory ahead, for everyone”.
“I remember back to the time when people started to get really frustrated about not being able to access their city premise, all they wanted was to retrieve their belongings – hard drives were of greatest concern. People wanted to get into the CBD – central business district! It was cordoned off immediately after each of the major earthquakes, but also a 5.5 magnitude earthquake on the richter scale would trigger a response. It meant that all buildings, both inside and outside the cordon, needed to be checked and reported on by engineers. Some buildings weren’t broken while others were, and this meant that no one was allowed to enter what has become known as the red zone, unless with good reason and a pass was attained. I’ve heard many stories of night commando-type raids into the city, by otherwise law abiding citizens – breaking the cordon by night to retrieve their merchandise. On the other hand I’ve heard many stories from the Defence Force who in their LAV’s – Light Armour Vehicles, by night, watched the commando-type raids on their sonar radars unbeknown to the otherwise law abiding citizens. But, then, a little more boisterously – shall we say – we had some pretty dark days. Incensed and enraged citizens stormed the cordon at one point, this was a public display of outrage; a railing against the restrictions placed upon them. This was a city in chaos! People had become really traumatized by their pending financial ruin due to what they now perceive as mere bureaucracy, instead of a natural disaster – livelihoods were at stake. Herein lie the real reason I stayed close from the beginning with those calling the shots, when conflicted people unleash their worst it is better to be well clear, yet well informed. In the past I haven’t always been patience. In fact by nature I’m a pretty impatient individual, frustrated by small talk and those who skirt around the real issues, so I’m pleased that I wasn’t one of those enraged people that day – and yet I could have been given different circumstance.”
22 February 2011:
“We all know it was a huge event, and I don’t remember the September 4 experience being quite so profound.”
“I was in my office 12:51pm on the 22 February 2011 in the Civic building, sixth floor. The Civic building is a big bulk of a building; a big piece of concrete really. So, I felt if anything was going to go terribly wrong – something you get to contemplate in a seismic zone – the building would crumble rather than implode or fall over. So, when the February 22 earthquake hit I was quite shocked at how much the building did move as one cumbersome entity.”
“My office has very few furnishings. I have cabinets attached to one wall, desk, a couple of paintings, a computer terminal and a printer, that’s about it really. The earthquake gathered momentum, and an interesting momentum at that. There was this really weird feeling to it, it was the G.’s. The whole city dropped and then rose again, [pre-emptive maybe] which was subsequently found to be really quite unique in an urban environment. It wasn’t only the more typical horizontal movement that we were confronted with, there was a vertical movement as well. That falling was quite pressurizing… I really felt there was something pulling at my internal being and yet I was quite centred and comparatively unfettered by the event, so actually I really did observe the experience. We were in a kind of freefall and then, on the point of return, the roofs of buildings around the city and especially on the port hills imploded. At the same time in another area water was thrust up through the alluvial soils, because it doesn’t compact, and in another area the speed of gravity impacting the bedrock caused buildings to ricochet – especially effective on rocky surfaces. There was no way that building materials could have absorbed that amount of energy, and most didn’t.”
“At the point at which I was released from the downward pressure I grabbed onto my desk, to hold myself in one position; my desk is about a metre wide and L’ shaped. My chair was on wheels so at a certain point I had to hold something, the earthquake was trying to throw me against the wall beside me… It was then that my terminal, the computer screen on my desk – the actual computer thankfully under my desk, and everything else slid off in the opposite direction to me and onto the floor, fortunately. So, really, I was fine compared to most but rather perplexed at ones inability to counter the force of the G.’s – which we assume we can counter in all imaginings. Its fiction that a human form can counter the force of an earthquake of this magnitude, with individual strength – it simply cannot happen. Here we were, under the same pressure as the infrastructure and all imagined plans of escape futile – ultimately we were to paralyzed to perform.”
“After it was over, I stayed where I was for a couple of seconds then got up to go and see where the Mayor was. I walked past fallen cabinets and shelving, and was pleased not to have run into these spaces during the event. I headed straight into the Mayor’s Lounge… because I’d waited those few seconds a lot of the people that were screaming were already exiting the building, or were already gone. I was more content because I had made my own choice to enter this building on September 4 – most others would not have had to consider a major earthquake in this cumbersome building as I had. I had entered the building with the fear of September 4 still with me, but now that had paled against this new event, and yet I was fine.”
“I found Mayor Parker when I entered the Mayor’s Lounge, he was on the balcony. He had been in the process of re-scheduling his afternoon with his office manager before the earthquake hit, having left a committee room meeting on level 2 early. I was pleasantly surprised to have found him there. He had fallen over during the earthquake and was just climbing to his feet, just getting up off the balcony floor, when I sighted him. He then rushed straight to the balcony to look over at the rising dust and noise coming from the city below before he saw me. The reason he fell was, apparently, because he had tried to get inside the building, off the canter leaver type [attached] balcony, and into the heart of the building during the earthquake.”
“We made our way downstairs in our own time. We found that the people who were in wheelchairs had to sit and wait in stairwells, appointed staff would attend to their needs after everyone who could walk the stairs was out. So it was nice to talk with them on the way down, to engage in brief chats, to infuse a little normality where possible. The building was less superficially damaged in the stairwell area due to repairs after the first earthquake but I felt it had been more structurally imposed upon. After the first earthquake a lot of the pot plants inside the building, that had fallen over and made a huge mess, were now secured to the floor. So, there was less superficial chaos this time. But, I felt that this earthquake had been more significant, and on many fronts. This was evident as we exited the building and saw water rushing up from under the ground into the street, and into the building.”
“I looked toward the basement and considered the possibility of a quick dash to retrieve the car. Mayor Parker went to have a look at this option, and I followed the crowd away from the shadow of the building. Interestingly, he came back and joined me without the car, he considered it too dangerous to enter the basement at that point. But, a few hours later we did have it retrieved by a staff member who had offered to assist several of the car owners with cars in the basement that day.”
“The first thing we saw was dust rising from the city, the first thing we heard was screaming, and then there was just quite simply a lot of noise – alarms mainly. There was some serious chaos in this place at that time. It felt really quite different from September 4 with so many people in the city, we just knew we were in some serious territory this time… and this is the story that the loss of life told.”
“That gravity, that dropping was later reported as being a force of 2.2 G’s. That’s more than the force of gravity by a significant margin… the central core of our being had been impacted by forces rarely experienced. Perhaps this had altered us in some way? – time will tell. All the aftershocks felt that little bit more shocking from this point on, they grabbed at your inner experience some how.”
Inside the City Cordon:
“The Prime Minister was on his way and we were in the red zone, Graham Bodkin was waiting for the last survivor to be pulled out of the PGC building – his wife Ann Bodkin had been entombed there by concrete for 26 hours. Graham had been unable to find her on any lists so he was overwhelmed to receive word of her whereabouts. That Ann had managed fortuitously to alert a passing media person to her location. Ann had been trapped in this very small enclosure over night, and today says that she remained claim throughout – amazing! I stood with Graham… awaiting Ann’s release yet all the while very concerned. There was one significant issue, the Grand Chancellor was moving on the other side of the city – it had moved almost a metre in the previous last hour. There was fear it would collapse. I feared the ground movement from a clasp would cause an aftershock and potentially compromise Ann’s rescue. It was an intense time. Even without this looming threat it was an intense time. The rescue was slow, the rescuers were taking great care not to cause the PGC building to move further. But, what if the Grand Chancellor fell? Was everyone clear of the Grand Chancellor? Mayor Bob went to check. I stayed at the PGC site with Graham. Graham was of course vulnerable, and in a precarious situation, nothing was certain at that point. The rescuers were taking what seemed like an eternity to free Ann! They were cutting concrete and had been making their way inch by inch to Ann’s location, and this process had been underway long before we arrived – intermittently all the machinery was turned off and we would listen for Ann’s voice, for her instruction.”
“Finally, Ann was freed! And, now, telling this story has become Ann’s therapy. Graham was a little slower to embrace the celebrity, but he got onboard as the benefits occurred and he felt ready – probably for Ann’s sake. Later I heard Graham’s story, quite incredible: He had run through streets, day and night, looking for Ann – any clue to her whereabouts. Without permission to the red zone he made sojourns to areas where he could jump the cordon undetected. He checked hospital lists, he walked miles home several times in case she had returned, roads blocked by traffic had made it impossible to use transport. He went through so much uncertainty, and on top of this had friends visiting who were equally concerned and unsure of Grahams whereabouts, as he pressed on with his search. Today, Ann is known for being the last survivor pulled from the rubble.”
“I was relieved to see that fire engine ladder retract with Ann and stretcher strapped onboard. Ann had been in the dark so long that the first thing her rescuers did was to place sun glasses over her eyes. That was a special moment, but I wasn’t happy until Ann was completely clear of the PGC building – the fire engine ladder retracted some metres from that massive pile of debris. Ann appeared to be in good spirits and health, and the Mayor and I were able to retreat.”
“Being able to access the city: “I felt was a privilege, though it was never discussed. No one ever said ‘no’ to me, or that I was unable to enter the cordon but I was checked in and out by officials. I was able to do what I saw fit. The Women’s Refuge was above the Whitcoulls building, which has since been demolished. It was very broken at the time I entered. I had been contacted several times by a concerned Refuge councillor, the Refuge files were in the safe on their premise and they wanted them salvaged. The files represented historic data, the detail of individuals cases, the raw Refuge material going back many many years – probably since its inception. Christchurch Women Refuge had pioneered the movement nationally. I know this because I was their Patron at the time, under CEO Annette Gillespie. I entered the Whitcoulls building and made my way up to the Refuge premises on the 1st and 2nd floor, I was accompanied by five engineers.”
“We managed to find the safe with torches, and to access the safe with instructions from a Refuge councillor on my mobile. Then, we filled the back of a truck/ute and a trailer with the files. It occurred to me a couple of times that that building was a really crazy place to be – ceilings had fallen in and it was necessary for the Engineers to make us a pathway to follow in and out of the building, the least dangerous route known. Once we had emptied the safe I thanked the Engineers for their help, and headed down to the Refuge Safe House where refuge councillors and I unloaded the pile of files – where they subsequently found the space to store them I do not know.”
“The whole of Latimer square was full of tents and industry. I remember Bob and me, having been invited to go down to speak with the Urban Search and Rescue teams, being introduced to the American teams and their specialized equipment, the temporary morgue and personnel there. I saw the work they were doing. I met the forensic teams there, and then again later down at the Burnham Military Camp site and base.”
“There are people that hate the fact that I have access to so much and that they do not: the injustices of life. This was especially evident before the earthquakes, and may now have subsided due to the impact of the earthquakes. The unique thing about a significant earthquake is that it makes everyone equal, equally relevant to the outcomes being established. My access to the cordon was on par with the guy checking on his neighbours or business colleagues. Fundamentally we were all doing the same thing, gathering perspective. Adding pieces of information to the big picture so that slowly but surely we all arrived at the same realization, that we would not be returning to what was.”
“Everyone’s personal agenda in Christchurch was to find a way to add value anew. If not in their own lives, then in the lives of their colleagues. If not in the lives of their colleagues, then in the terms of the bigger picture. There was no space allocated for judgement or criticism, just for rationalizing strategies. So, when criticism did appear it was shameful. We were forced to consider how this had happened: I cynically thought, ‘well, we must be getting clear of the horror of our situation if people have time to criticize others’. But, in actual fact, it was more about people having been made redundant due to no fault of their own. Individuals livelihoods in terms of their business, their residence, their friends, their colleagues were all altered by the earthquake and then continued to be altered by bureaucracy, which was unsettling.”
“I don’t see my personal life as separate from the role of Mayoress – the affairs of the Civic Office. The mayoralty is a 24/7 job for the Mayor, and I have been invited to partake in that both by the Mayor and in advertently by the traditions of a Civic Office. In terms of the latter I’m a trustee of several charitable organizations, and I am patron and co-patron to several organizations as well. So, to me, it is necessary to learn to play to new tunes, to find new ways to suit the agenda of which one is affiliated. It’s about bringing something new to the situation, and its about growing with the benefit of that new knowledge, what makes me relevant is only that I follow my truth – everyone’s fine with that because that is what we’re all doing here, equally it is what we our leaders do.”
“My family in Hawke’s Bay reminded me that the holiday bach in Taupo was available, if I wanted it. But, I felt that at the very least we were almost through the worst of it in Christchurch – though the thought of another massive earthquake did encroach upon my downtime, like many others. I was thankful to be around a lot of people and able to keep busy day after day without much consideration for what it was that I would be doing – there was plenty to get on with. The Civic Emergency Operations Centre remained active until we returned to our Civic Office in January 2012. For days, and days, I would crack–on with whoever was up for it – mostly Mayor Parker, some weeks were filled with community meetings in the greenfields around the city informed by the police, the electricity company, fire department, earthquake commission, Council and others. At 10am and 3pm media conferences were held at the EOC. Then, politics found its own reform, Mayor Parker became entrenched in long meetings at the Art Gallery, and I began to retreat to my laptop on one project or other where slowly but surely I accessed that old adage normality.”
“Three or four aftershocks a night was quite exhausting in those early days – the constant reinvention of my escape plan was always inspired by twicking the reruns throughout those restless nights. Now, with the luxury of hindsight, I believe that once you’ve made the necessary adjustments you wouldn’t want to leave Christchurch, what we’ve been through is work done: ‘We’ve built in the stamina and the myth to maintain it, the personality and the people to entertain it, the enterprise and the place to revive it, why would you want to leave now?’ As a community we’ve sold risk and bought a future, which to me looks more prosperous than the past.”
“The Prince of Wales: When he spoke of the Queen, his Grandmother, and delivered her message about hardships won and loves lost, when he said ‘Kia Kaha Christchurch Be Strong!’, this moved me beyond where I was prepared to go. I had had the privilege of travelling with the Prince in a Mercedes Van with Mayor Parker and several others, from the International Christchurch Airport to the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, and for me this opportunity to share a few words paled in comparison to the moment he delivered his speech to the people of Christchurch. I know this because I can’t actually say ‘Kia Kaha Be Strong’ – having tried it several times – without getting so full of emotion that I can barely speak afterwards. He spoke to the human spirit that day, and I know just how difficult that is to do. He did a fabulous job, perfectly dispassionate but true to the heart.”
“If people need to leave Christchurch in order to get on with their lives, then, I believe that is what they should do. Maybe they’ll come back in the future, maybe they won’t. But, right now, we need people who want to be here, so that we can go about creating a future in the right way. Apparently, Napier decided to invest in Art Deco after its destructive earthquake in 1931, simply because it could – because they decided that they needed to buy an identity for their future. Today, I’m not so sure that this is possible. I think that because we’ve been concerned with the integrity of a place; the landscape, the architectural forms, and in our own right have translated those conversations to acknowledge the organic and holistic attributes, that our urban settings are richer than they once were. Today, we’ve reached the energy efficient and structural engineering concerns by attending to our experiences and adhering to the lessons learned. Today, I believe we’ll find beauty in rare and unexpected places, that the kiwi–ana resonance has been cultivated and is fully formed within all of us. We’re no longer people from other places. And, we owe it to ourselves to come together in planning our city for the future.”
“I think it’s about the arts and engineering at this time, and that all of a sudden we have a huge amount of time for the spiritual fabric of a society and therefore can choose to support these industries.”