PRINZ Conference 2013 blog 5 – Red Zone Tour

Craig Tiriana, Communications, Public Relations and Alumni Manager at Waiariki Institute of Technology

As Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said in opening the 2013 PRINZ Conference, this is an “extraordinary opportunity” to rebuild a city for the future.

Taking the Red Zone Tour later that day, the enormity of the shift in Christchurch was obvious with empty land parcels awaiting new buildings while many vacant houses along a lumpy River Road remained desolate and unkempt, awaiting their fate.

There had been some 13000 shakes recorded in Christchurch since 2010 and some 1500 buildings had been demolished following February 2011 with about 300 still to be dealt with. About 90% of the building materials have been recycled so far and the former Red Zone of approximately 40ha is now just 4ha.

The Christchurch Press building and the neighbouring Warners Hotel, a frequent haunt of Christchurch-based and visiting journalists, are both gone while the Cathedral remains rubble.

I stood near this spot just days before 22 February 2011, marvelling at how Christchurch appeared to be returning to normal following the 2010 shake, while waiting on a mate from Rotorua who wanted to take a look in the Cathedral – just in case he never got back to Christchurch again.

It’s much easier to see progress when you’ve been away for some time. It’s far harder when you’re walking past the same derelict site, pothole or public toilet each day.

And with that in mind, welcome to one of the everyday challenges of communications professionals operating in the Christchurch region.

One thousand days on from the earthquake which shook the city’s well established foundations, opened the ground and stole life from 185 people, Christchurch has moved from crisis to clean-up and demolition and into creation.

The first two steps are relatively visual for all to see. They happen rather quickly and the role of communications focuses largely on what to do, where to go or not and who can help.

During 2013 the messaging has shifted towards the rebuild, what is happening and where, with milestones of any nature used to keep reinforcing the messages of change and progress.

It’s easy for the public to see the progress in the first and second year but it gets a bit harder now the planning is happening and infrastructure like piping goes underground with little visual effect.

But the city is starting to bubble. People and events are returning while children and families are being encouraged to reconnect to the CBD. It’s safe and fun, come and work and play in Christchurch.

Much of this reconnection is a result of the campaigning and information sharing of our Red Zone guides and Christchurch communicators Michael Flatman and Linda Paterson and the teams of people they work with at the Christchurch City Council and CERA respectively.

Extraordinary people contributing to this “extraordinary opportunity”.

PRINZ and Tandem Studios spoke to representatives of enduring businesses and communities who have their own stories of enduring relationships since the Christchurch earthquakes. View these video on the PRINZ Youtube channel:

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