‘Healing takes time’: New Zealanders mark a decade since devastating Christchurch quake

The Queen and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have led tributes for the 185 who lost their lives 10 years ago in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

On Monday, hundreds crammed into a riverside memorial site in the heart of the city, where responders and loved ones read the names of the dead at a moving service.

Underscoring the scale of the loss, reading the names took several minutes.

A minute’s silence was observed at 12.51pm – marking a decade precisely since the devastating quake – both in Christchurch and across Aotearoa.

Quake Families Trust representative Maan Alkaisi, who lost his wife Maysoon in the CTV Building where 115 people died, said 95 per cent of deaths were avoidable.

“It has been 10 years of injustice and mistreatment,” he said.

Ms Ardern said the event and deaths “by rights should not occur in anyone’s lifetime”.

“To all those who may still feel overwhelmed, uncertain, sad, tired or anxious … I hope you find the space to be kind to yourself as you’ve no doubt been to others who you knew were carrying the same burden,” she said.

“It’s the Kiwi way to be stoic. Sometimes the pressure to be okay or to have moved on with the passage of time can feel very pronounced.

“But healing takes time.”

Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy read a message from the Queen, who said Cantabrians “showed great fortitude in the face of sudden overwhelming loss”.

NZ Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy read a letter from the Queen. Photo: AAP

The commemoration has led many to reflect on their experience on the day.

Then-prime minister John Key told The AM Show the quake was his “toughest day” during his eight-year stint as the nation’s leader.

Personal battles with physical and mental injury, insurance claims, repairs or lost loved ones still linger.

Speaking to Christchurch newspaper The Press, Mairehe Tankersley remembered her experience falling from the fifth storey of the CTV Building.

Ms Tankersley and her daughter Te Aowharepapa, who was eight months old, somehow survived as they fell through the crumpling building and onto the street.

Ms Tankersely suffered broken ribs and major bruising, and still carries trauma that remains to this day.

She has suffered insomnia and horrific visions of death but also describes the hope her daughter brings.

“That’s the enduring thing. Every day I have this beautiful soul in my life,” she said.

“She is the light of my life. Even on hard days I think about that the most. I am so grateful to be here.”

Christchurch’s stately cathedral was reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds. Photo: AAP

With so many properties and livelihoods ruined, many left Christchurch in the aftermath of the earthquake.

It was not until 2017 that the population returned to pre-quake levels.

The city’s physical recovery is also slow.

A report released last week showed nearly a fifth of Christchurch’s central land remained vacant, leaving a gap in the heart of South Island’s biggest city.

The Earthquake Commission, the primary recovery agency, continues to hear stories of those battling for insurance payouts or recovery work.

While no Australians were killed, visiting T20 cricket captain Aaron Finch was one of many to lay wreaths of remembrance.


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