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Phil Mercer

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Friday, February 28, 2014



Ed:  This is the second time I've had to write this post... never rely on Apps on your phone is the moral of the story! Anyway, lets see if I can remember what a wrote last time!

What a couple of weeks. I'm currently enjoying a day off in Christchurch having been working the last week on various stories. Hopefully I will get around to writing that up in a later post, but don't hold your hopes up!

It's nine years since I last visited here with Darren and the place is now so very different.

We took in all the sites, like good tourists. Climbed the cathedral spire to take in the view of the square, had coffee in one of the little parades of shops (just to along from where I am now in fact) and took a trip on the vintage trams. I remember thinking to myself what a quaint attempt at a european city, it felt really quite familiar. The architecture helped, but also the attitudes of the people we met.

There is very little to remind you of that now, although I wonder if there is a comparison to be drawn to the post blitz cities of the UK. Now the Cathedral stands with a gaping hole where the entrance once was and the spire is nowhere to be seen. As you look around there are empty spaces marking out the sites of buildings, most turned over to car parks, just left as they are or in some cases pieces of art have been places on them. Some buildings are still standing and very eery they look too. On my first walk around earlier this week it looked like they were all fine. The closer you get you soon realise they are boarded up or behind harris fencing. The signs are still on them and in some cases you can still see shelves... but stock has now been taken away. 

Some buildings still have the marks sprayed on them by the search and rescue teams as they carefully checked through them, right by my hotel an access ramp to an underground car park states that they have been unable to check inside as its flooded, but cars are still there. The job of clearing it out will come soon as it and all the other towers left standing are will soon be demolished. 
Interestingly it seems that new building were affected almost as much as older ones. Anything built of wood coped well, but stone building crumbled and the newer tall building didn't cope well. One of the lessons learnt was that due to the action of the quake anything over 7 stories was badly damaged although the floors below that often survided. A ripple up the buildings got worse the higher it went! New buildings are now mainly going to be kept below that height.

Darren and I visited the shiny new art gallery back in 2005 and it survived the quake well. None of the pains of glass in its stunning “wave” broke. Even though it is currently closed while some changes are made to it's structure so that it can cope with another one.

That all sounds very negative, but it is only three years since the disaster and there are signs that a new Christchurch is beginning to appear. I'm in a cafe at the Cathedral Junction right by my hotel. This is a newer complex and just about survived. It did need to have a complete refit internally but the structure was sound. Chatting to the manager of my hotel he told me (as I was checking out) that the seventh floor was a complete mess, the fact that I stayed on the sixth floor made me glad he didn't tell me till then! Similar and newer building are quickly being reopened or built all over the city. Shipping containers have been used in other areas to allow shops and businesses to return, but all have a temporary feel to them. The proper job of rebuilding is going to take much longer and already involves some wrangling.

The stricken St Peters Cathedral is a case in point. I had the privilege of meeting with the Right Rev'd Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch. She took me on a tour of her Transitional Cathedral, an amazing building constructed of cardboard. It's on the site of an old parish church that had to be demolished following the earthquake and for the next ten years will be home to the cathedral.

In the mean time the future of the old building is up for debate. Bishop Victoria told me how much of a challenge the old building had been to use as a space for worship and the others things that happen in a Cathedral. The church would like to build a new cathedral on the plot. Something that will serve them in future years, and be safe and earthquake ready.

The heritage lobby has a very different opinion. Over the week I heard how they feel the old city and its listed buildings are being torn down at an incredible rate and that needs to be stopped. The cathedral has become a focus for them with court cases now in play to try and force the diocese to rebuild it as was. It seems that the people with this opinion are of older generations – one guide called them “grey beards”. Younger people I've spoken to seem much more willing to embrace the idea of building a new better city, after all the idea of the original european settlers was to create a kind of utopia.

The battle seems to be proving rather nasty, with some very personal attacks on the Bishop, suggesting it is her personal idea. One person even said he didn't like her because she wasn't from here, originally coming from Canada. The fact that she has lived in Christchurch for over 20 years seemed to be lost on him. I did chuckle as the question about what makes someone a proper local seems to happen everywhere, not just in a typical English village.

Ultimately the future of the cathedral will be decided in the courts and what ever happens someone is going to be unhappy!

You can see all my photo's from Christchurch in 2005 and 2014 on my Flickr site.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014



I've arrived in Auckland and spent a couple of days swinging my body clock in to some kind of shape!

I remember so little of the last time it's been nice to get to know the place again.

Earlier I took the ferry out to Waikeke, a stunning island of bays and beaches about 40 minutes from the city centre. I set off for a 10k ish walk about. All very pretty although it was quite grey. The heat and humidity was hard work though. What's more the noise in the forest was incredible. The high pitch tsssss of crickets and other insects was almost enough to give me tinnitus! It definitely helped remind me I was somewhere far away from home!

This is the route I took

It's true to say that I have defaulted to travel mode and am haunting the take aways - I do hate eating alone! It's amazing the difference UK rules on how much salt should be in things have made! I find eating fries almost impossible here - they have so much on them. But I love fries! Argh!

I wonder if it really is improving our health - it's certainly affected the flavour. It will be interesting to see if the sugar police will be able to do the same!

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MotionX-GPS Track: Church Bay to Blackpool Beach (NZ)


Phil Mercer uses MotionX-GPS on the iPhone and is sharing with you the following track:
Name:Church Bay to Blackpool Beach (NZ)
Date:19 Feb 2014 12:46 pm
(valid until Aug 17, 2014)
View on Map
Distance:10.7 kilometers
Elapsed Time:3:01:54
Avg Speed:3.5 km/h
Max Speed:12.9 km/h
Avg Pace:17' 03" per km
Min Altitude:0 m
Max Altitude:116 m
Start Time:2014-02-18T23:46:49Z
Start Location:
Latitude:36º 46' 50" S
Longitude:174º 59' 33" E
End Location:
Latitude:36º 46' 57" S
Longitude:175º 00' 35" E
MotionX-GPS Commonly Asked Questions
  1. What is MotionX-GPS?
    MotionX-GPS is the essential GPS application for outdoor enthusiasts. It puts an easy-to-use, state-of-the-art handheld GPS on your iPhone.

  2. Can I use MotionX-GPS?
    Sure! MotionX-GPS can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.

  3. How can I display tracks in Google Earth?
    Follow the directions on the Google Earth web site to download and install the Google Earth program. Save the attached "Church Bay to Blackpool Beach NZ.kmz" file to your computer. Launch Google Earth, select File, Open, and open the saved "Church Bay to Blackpool Beach NZ.kmz" file.

  4. This email was forwarded to me. Where are the attachments?
    Some e-mail programs do not include the original attachments by default when forwarding an e-mail. In this case, the sender must reattach the original files for them to be included.
Please contact MotionX customer support with any comments or questions.
All the best,
The MotionX Team
US and Foreign Patents Granted and Pending. Fullpower® is a registered trademark of Fullpower Technologies, Inc. MotionX™ is a trademark of Fullpower Technologies, Inc. © Copyright 2003 - 2012 Fullpower Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved.
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