Local Good News/Christchurch
‘Dear Christchurch, you are incredible’ – by Steve Carter
The American writer Anatole Broyard said, “In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.” I like to think he would be heartened by the recent correspondence received in Christchurch from two visitors from his own country.
There has been some concern that tourists have been staying away from Christchurch, or simply moving swiftly elsewhere after flying into the Garden City’s swish new airport. The picture that may have been received overseas is one of a city of devastation with little to offer the international visitor, but far from being a tourist-free wasteland with no hope or potential, Christchurch is now very much back on the map for international visitors.
The Lonely Planet calls us one of New Zealand’s most exciting cities, saying: “If you’re heading to the South Island … definitely spend a few days in the city. There’s still plenty to do, and you’ll be supporting the new businesses inspiring Christchurch’s renaissance.”
Some of our overseas guests have even been so inspired by our resilience and innovative responses to our situation that they have been moved to write letters of support.
Just last week, an anonymous letter was found in the Re:Start pop-up container mall in Cashel Street. The handwritten letter was wedged under some stones and addressed simply “To Christchurch”. Dave Case, who found the letter, thought it was important enough to share with everyone so he scanned it and sent it to The Press, who posted it on their website.
The next day, The Press received another letter which had been found by Re:Start manager Paul Lonsdale at the container mall. Lonsdale had held onto the letter but was prompted to send it on to The Press on reading the original find.
Both letters acknowledge the devastation and the challenges faced by the Shaky City but both also speak of being inspired by the sides of the city the correspondents had been exposed to. The first (anonymous) letter refers to Gap Filler projects and their “incredible” work … “not just to help people who have lost things but to boost people’s attitudes.” The writer, from the US, speaks of coming away “with a greater appreciation for helping out,” and shares a desire to get involved in non-profit and giving work on their return to the States.
The letter tells the people of Christchurch they are, “amazing for giving their time without expecting anything in return and courageous for staying here throughout all the troubles they’ve faced.” It ends, simply and beautifully: “Know that your city has made an impact on someone’s life and everything you all are doing here is incredible.”
Such sentiments are echoed in the second letter, from Logan Butler, USA. He starts, “I came to your city expecting to see a fair amount of damage but what I saw shocked me … it seemed so depressing and lifeless.”
But he goes on to say that it was meeting local people that changed his mind and made him see the city differently. He writes, “I was impressed by some of the actions the people of Christchurch are taking to rebuild and bring hope to the area.”
He tells the people of Christchurch his letter is shared for “hope and rebirth” and that, “Wounds will heal. You will heal. This place will heal.”
So, more than a year on, we can all feel proud of the work we have done, individually and together, to help each other through this toughest of experiences. We stand shoulder to shoulder, surrounded by bizarre mini golf holes, funky container stores and road cones decorated with flowers. We know that we are winning.
My own open letter to CERA says simply this: “Dear CERA. Please continue to support and enable the people of Christchurch to share all their individual and unique expressions of creativity and desires for the future. Please continue to let us all be involved in making this great city even greater.”
After all, the tourists love it.