Like people all over the world, I thought the good folk in Canterbury had shown admirable and remarkable resilience in not only surviving but overcoming the devastation from the 2011 earthquake. After all the suffering, the region was finally beginning to see the light of day – homes being rebuilt, the return of infrastructure, a stronger heartbeat in the regional economy.
In fact, if you’ll forgive me for being fanciful, I imagined the story in this issue about the restoration of a famous, 150-year old Christchurch telescope encapsulated that turnaround. A telescope that so nearly became part of the detritus of history after being crushed in the 2011 earthquake – but which is now being lovingly and painstakingly restored. It will, once again, allow viewers to peer into and ponder the heavens. And then this. I’ve no doubt the Cantabrians will again rise to the challenge but, dear God, it’s a monumental challenge. They will need all the help they can get – and draw on all their reserves of steely determination – to start all over again.
At the risk of sounding misguided and obsessed with my privileged, narrow world view, I’ve also begun to assess the impact of the earthquake on the region’s boating – commercial and recreational.
How, for example, will Kaikoura’s famous whale-watching industry function if visitors cannot get into the area? How does the absence of a rail/road freight infrastructure affect tourism? What is a New Zealand coastline without anglers? What kind of activity will the magnificent Marlborough Sounds enjoy this summer, if trailer boaties cannot get into the region? Is the Clarence River likely to be off-limits to rafters and kayakers until further notice?
Inevitably, a lot of people (including me) will be asking: why? I’ve listened to the seismologists and scanned over the reports about the simultaneous lateral and vertical shifts in the earth’s crust. All perfectly lucid and logical – but it nevertheless seems a little unfair that Fate has selected the region twice in fairly short order.
After the circus that masqueraded as the US presidential election, I suspect a lot of people will now begin blaming Mexico wall-builder Trump for a lot of the world’s woes. Drawing a line between Trump in the White House and a smashed Cantabrian landscape is beyond the farthest realms of rational thought, but hey, if it makes you feel better about explaining life’s cruelties, why not?
While you sit around with family and friends this Christmas and reflect on your station in life – whether it’s good, bad or indifferent – spare a thought for the poor souls in North Canterbury.
Lawrence Schäffler Editor