At 1pm on 22 February 2014, Graeme Gordon and a party of tourists on Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) rolled into Christchurch’s central Cathedral Square to observe one minute silence and show their respects to the 185 people killed during the February 2011 earthquake.
Three years previously, the square and surrounding CBD took the brunt of a violent, magnitude 6.3 earthquake that caused so such structural damage to the city that almost every tall building has had to be demolished. Thousands of residential homes were condemned by this second quake that compounded damage caused by a magnitude 7.1 shock that hit the city six months earlier. A further large, damaging shock occurred in June 2011.
The economic and fiscal damage to Christchurch and to New Zealand as a whole has been significant. Treasury estimated the cost of the rebuild to be more than 10% of GDP in December 2011 (for comparison, the cost of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan is estimated at 3% of GDP). Since then estimates for the rebuild have risen from $30 billion to $40 billion.
Christchurch Segway Tours has been operating since 2005, but the earthquake stopped tourism in its tracks. Not only were thousands of hotel beds lost in an instant, tourists arriving into the international airport were unwilling to stay in the city as aftershocks continued to shake the city for more than a year afterwards. Even today cruise liners are still unable to dock at the damaged port.
To combat these difficulties, Graeme Gordon came up with innovated ideas to attract tourists to take Segway Tours of the ‘Red Zone’ and surrounds. The New Zealand Herald rates Graeme’s tours very highly and USA Today recommends this as the best way to see the quake-damaged city.
Christchurch Segway Tours currently rates as the #5 Attraction in the city on TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com).
Reconstruction is now underway, and Christchurch has an incredible opportunity to recreate itself with a city constructed around brand new infrastructure. Planning for the new city will be able to integrate the very best concepts of modern urban planning. Confidence amongst ‘Cantabrians’ rises every day as the first new major buildings rise up, and domestic dwellings are repaired.