News - February 25, 2016

Meanwhile in... New Zealand

Koen Guiking

In the news: Christchurch was hit by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake last week. The quake came almost exactly five years after the big earthquake that destroyed many buildings and killed 185 people in the largest city on New Zealand’s south island.

Commentary by Alexandra Dickson, exchange student from Massey University

‘My grandmother lives in Christchurch. Her house was damaged severely in 2011. She now lives in an area on the other side of the city and this time she wasn’t affected too much by the quake. It has obviously unnerved her and the other residents of Christchurch, but it hasn’t demoralized them. There were no casualties and the most damage was done to buildings that were already unstable because of the last earthquake.

This new earthquake came in the wake of the fifth anniversary of the big earthquake, on 22 February 2011. Because of that anniversary media have been reporting on the survivors of that disaster for weeks. Beautiful stories can be found on

There are people who left Christchurch after the big earthquake five years ago, like friends of my father, who emigrated to Australia, but most residents are determined to rebuild the city and make it better than it was. The central business district had lots of work done on it recently. Shipping containers are used as shops and there is lots of artwork on the damaged, half demolished buildings. Other buildings were completely taken down and turned into parks. You could say that the vibe is quite positive in Christchurch.

My grandmother’s old neighbourhood is also empty now. All the houses were condemned and they were demolished two years ago – except for one, because the owner didn’t have insurance. It is now a field with wild flowers. It looks quite nice, actually. That is what’s happening everywhere in Christchurch: areas that were hit hard were left behind and people are building new houses in other, less affected areas.’