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Memorial to 185 quake victims ?a real landmark for Christchurch

Opinion Piece

A fitting memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquake will help the grieving and recovery process for Cantabrians and the many foreign families who lost loved ones, but it is clouded by remaining questions over the CTV building collapse and the fact rebuilding of the city continues to be slower than planned.

The unveiling of the memorial yesterday was a real landmark. Designed by Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak, it includes the names of the 185 people killed in the quake and is appropriately located alongside the Avon river.

Seen from afar it seems to be tasteful and understated, in contrast to memorials of the past. Prime Minister Bill English described it as a place of peace and solace.

Families of the 115 people killed in the CTV building collapse are still seeking justice six years on from the earthquake, though. The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission found the building did not meet construction standards, and police completed a criminal investigation into its collapse late last year — but have yet to decide if there will be prosecutions.

Many Cantabrians also remain frustrated at the speed of the rebuild, which still has far to go.

One major issue has been the way private developers say they have been driven away from the central business district into what is colloquially known as the donut on the fringes.

The minister in charge of the earthquake recovery Gerry Brownlee, himself a Cantabrian, has been a centre of controversy since the rebuild started and his long-term reputation will depend on its success. He will be relieved at the announcement by Otakaro Ltd, the government-established body overseeing the rebuild, that a new Olympic-size swimming pool and the convention centre will both be ready within three years — leaving only a new stadium on the major items to-do list.

There is a sad irony in the fact this disaster was officially remembered in the wake of the Port Hills fires, which claimed homes and a life and threatened once again this troubled city that has the strong sympathy of the rest of the country.