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Christchurch slowly finding its feet two years on

By Ranjani Ponnuchetty

Published: 4:44AM Friday February 22, 2013 Source: ONE News

Today, New Zealand marks the second anniversary of the devastating magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Canterbury which killed 185 people and changed many lives forever.

Two years on, Cantabrians are looking to move on with their lives and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker paints an optimistic outlook for the city's future.

"Unemployment's going down, the number of opportunities for our people is rising every day and the economy is very very strong," he said. "Overall an incredible picture considering what we've been through."
 
But some residents are not so sure. One, Hannah McKnight, said: "I would recommend Christchurch as a place to visit but not a place to live yet."

In the badly affected eastern suburbs morale is not great. One resident there said the insurance nightmare surrounding her damaged home has left her feeling completely trapped.

"We are struggling to pay the rent and mortgage, its making me physically ill now. I just give up!"

She has been recently notified by her insurance company that they will not rebuild her home as foundation costs are too high.

Many say the focus is on the CBD and that the tens of thousands of residents who are badly affected elsewhere are being ignored and still face an uncertain future.

"They (CERA and the Christchurch City Council) have failed to do a recovery plan for the suburbs, the focus is on the CBD which has its blueprint plan, which has its 12 anchor projects all set out, ready to go," said Rev Mike Coleman, spokesman for the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan).  
  
Watch the whole memorial service OnDemand here

However the Earthquake Commission has started to asses more than 100 vulnerable cases a month, an increase on the amount originally planned.

Ngaire Jehle a Burwood red-zoned resident feels besieged as she deals with the stress of constantly battling insurers, the city council, CERA and building companies.

"I have to admit my husband and I last night discussed leaving Christchurch. At some point you just go this is not worth it. If there is anyway at all we'll simply leave."

The progress of the rebuild has been slowed down due to the constant seismic movement in Canterbury.  Christchurch has experienced over 11,000 earthquakes since February 22 2011.

The speed of the rebuild is causing some frustration as mundane tasks are made difficult even two years later.

McKnight, 24, who lives in central Christchurch, says it's still difficult to do what the rest of the country considers "normal and easy" like going out to dinner on a Friday night.

"You've got to have planned it on Monday to go out for dinner on Friday because all the good restaurants are booked out.

"I know that seems like a little thing but it's those kinds of things that are just frustrating because you want to be able to do normal stuff but you can't," McKnight said.

But this year Christchurch heads into the rebuilding phase which will see more bars, restaurants and cafes pop up in the next few months.

Already the rate of building consents being processed is significantly higher than last year, although insurance is still a problem for commercial buildings.

"Now we're into the rebuild, you're going to see a lot more businesses popping up and a lot more businesses growing faster than they ever expected to grow," said CEO of Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Peter Townsend.

Out of the 6000 businesses that were previously inside the four avenues, 90% of them have relocated.

Minute's silence

At 12.51pm this afternoon, the exact time the quake struck in 2011, a minute silence will be observed around the country.

"It's a chance to think about the many people we've lost, the people who've been injured and we've lost so much of our city in the landscape, although we are filled with optimism," Mayor Parker said.

"I'll be thinking of just how difficult it's been for many in our community, especially our elders."
 
However McKnight, who was in the CBD when the quake struck, says she's sick of paying attention to the issue.

"I'm kind of just over it," she said. "I'm just frustrated and sick of thinking about it."

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