Tourism after the Christchurch earthquake

16 Mar

The impacts of Christchurch’s massive earthquake have been immense.  Like many facets of life in the city, tourism is being seriously affected.  There is so much that I could discuss – the Rugby World Cup, the economic impacts, the role (and future) of Christchurch as a hub for South Island tourism.  Most of it is bad.

Christchurch earthquake - totally sick

Gerry Brownlee (the Minister for knocking down Christchurch) has indicated that he intends to live up to his portfolio and knock down much of Christchurch’s heritage buildings – a process that appears to be underway.

Some of Christchurch’s appeal to (especially international) tourists is its pleasant cityscape – ahh, the meandering river, drooping willows, tranquil gardens… and heritage buildings.  Will Minister Brownlee’s efforts to purge old buildings from the city center have an impact on this appeal?  Certainly.  How much impact is difficult to say.

But, always one to look on the bright side, I have been thinking of another city in New Zealand for which large-scale destruction by earthquake was the source of its greatest point of difference as a tourist destination.

That’s right – Napier. (Good on you for paying attention).

For the many international followers of my blog (I have wordpress stats…I know who you are), Napier is an otherwise unremarkable town* that had its central city destroyed by a fire following a large earthquake in the 1930s.  The town was completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style that was popular with finger-snapping architects at the time.  What has been left behind is the one of the world’s most impressive and cohesive collections of flat-roofed, sunrise motifed buildings, rivaled only by Palm Beach Florida (where they filmed a lot of ‘Scarface’ with Al Pacino).

Napier nights resemble a lost episode of Back to the Future

Napier hosts an annual Art Deco festival, and on any given Friday night flappers can be easily accosted in the street and dragged into the nearest speakeasy.

So here’s the rub…What if Christchurch was rebuilt in the latest style, creating a legacy of architectural cohesion that would excite and tittilate visitors in coming decades?  This raises some difficult and interesting questions though…

What is the ‘latest style’?  I don’t know enough architecture to comment really.  It seems to be a mixture of glass, curvy lines and rock gardens.

Was there widespread dissention among residents of Napier as it was being rebuilt in the Art Deco style?  I can imagine a chorus of traditionalists crying out “this bloody art deco carry on is a fad and will look farking ridiculous in 80 years time.  We’ll be a laughing stock.  I’m off down the saloon.”

These are all important questions that need to be asked, I feel.

Although with the world seemingly falling down around us, I’m not sure if its a priority.

Christchurch Art Gallery - a model of the Bendymetal Lotsa Glass architectural style

*It should be noted that it also possesses New Zealand’s second loveliest test-cricket ground, McLean Park.


2 Responses to “Tourism after the Christchurch earthquake”

  1. Aphra March 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    Good point – in 50 years time we’ll be hauling out today’s clothes, feeling smug that we never threw them away, and wearing them as costumes to the annual Ultra-Mod festival weekend in Christchurch.

  2. kinawera March 21, 2011 at 3:26 am #

    It doesn’t necessarily take a natural disaster to spawn architectural precedents. There are many cities in the ‘rust belt’ that have been seriously hollowed out following the massive decline in manufacturing. Some have rebuilt their city centres poorly, featuring monuments to the human malaise represented in strip-mall format, where others have gone all out like Bilbao.
    Food for thought…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: