Down beside the Avon river there used to be genteel houses set among lush gardens. I used to think that if I lived in Christchurch, I would like to live in one of these old houses. Now look. The houses are gone.
The river is still there, flowing peacefully in summer. What used to be suburban houses in established gardens are now lumpy fields containing grasses, flowers, weeds, flowering bushes and trees. Wilderness is taking over.
It is just impossible not to look, open-mouthed, at the transformation. Whole suburbs, damaged by the 2010 earthquake and then decimated by the following 2011 quakes, were eventually demolished. What I show is just a minuscule area of “Crown Clearance Zone”; huge tracts of land proved to be too dangerous for people to inhabit, now owned by the Crown. The thing is, these spaces are kind of beautiful. If you didn’t look too closely, you’d think you were driving through parkland.
Every time I visit Christchurch I end up singing to myself the Talking Heads song “Nothing but Flowers“. Here are a few lyrics, “This used to be real estate / now its only fields and trees / Where, where is the town? / Now it’s nothing but flowers…”
“Don’t leave me stranded here / I can’t get used to this lifestyle.”
Five years after the most major quake, much of Christchurch is thriving. But some areas, such as this piece of Dallington, won’t be populated by people any more. Birds sing and the odd cat stalks through the undergrowth…