Manchester City Council

Always look on the Bright Side...

Typing this in a semi-stupor having spent the last 36 hours travelling back from Christchurch in New Zealand. I'd spent the weekend there taking part in an international speakers series looking at Christchurch's draft plan to re-build their city centre after the devastating earthquakes they have suffered over the past twelve months. They are still experiencing regular after shocks, although nothing more severe than a 4.3 whilst I was there. The weekend was both stimulating and harrowing. The other speakers were varied and excellent, looking at, amongst other things, the aftermath of earthquakes in Haiti and Santa Cruz, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Victoria bush fires, as well as brown field development projects in Toronto, Melbourne and London.

The harrowing part of the weekend were seeing the impact on Christchurch. There are very few parts of the city unaffected, but some parts are worse than others. I went out to East Christchurch with local Member of Parliament, Lianne Dalziel, and Councillor Chrissie Williams. The streets are dotted with portaloos, pumps and tanks to empty chemical toilets, all as a consequence of a very badly damaged water and sewage system. You can see where roads have sunk by up to a metre and a half, buildings that have collapsed. What is less obviously visible is that thousands of homes, many still lived in, have been condemned, and thousands more residents still don't know whether they will have a home or not. Even home owners who have been green zoned face uncertainties like not knowing why their homes are apparently ok and the ones across the street aren't. These aren't wealthy neighbourhoods, so people here don't have the financial capacity to make other choices. What you have are communities living under phenomenal stress, and although there have been no major tremors since June, the awful situation they are in is likely to continue for some time.

The conference itself was very much focussed on the central business district but I very much hope that the speakers did make a real contribution to helping Christchurch get back to some form of normality as quickly as they can.

Talking of normality, it was impossible to avoid the riots whilst I was out there as they had received front page coverage and virtually everyone I spoke to wanted to know about them. I shared some of our 'I Love Manchester' images in both the formal presentations I did, but it gave me a very clear message that although the city has done a fantastic job of picking itself up locally, the reputational damage is across the world and it will take a little longer and some hard work to put that right.

There are 6 responses to “Always look on the Bright Side...”

  1. dj Says:

    never mind spending time in new zealand get the bins back on weekly collections!

  2. manclad Says:

    Its a bit worrying that news of the riots has spread so far. Think the City can recover though.

    This is obviously a worthy thing to do but can I just ask about the cost and whether it was paid for by the Council Tax. Thanks

  3. Dean Lester Says:

    Sir Richard, thank you for visiting Christchurch and sharing your experiences on recovery. I have been touched and motivated in many ways by your two presentations and the 4 Days. It was a privilege to work with you. My recovery will be helped by your visit. Thank you, Dean Lester

  4. REDSTEVE57 Says:

    I think it is important that we as a city share with people and cites around the globe, that have suffered disasters that are either natural or terrorists, that recovery is possible, even though in the immediate aftermath of a disaster it may seem to be impossible.
    Manchester has a wealth of experience, since the bomb in 1996, of how to rebuild a vibrant city with a worldwide reputation that is the envy of many. We have a duty to inspire and energise the citizens in places like Christchurch and to show them that there can be a silver lining to this dark cloud.
    Though the news coverage of the riots was global, I believe that the reputation of Manchester will survive untarnished and still be a destination of choice for visitors and tourists alike.
    The cost of the trip should be balanced against the confidence and hope that is given to Christchurch and it’s deserving people, PRICELESS.

  5. Dave Bishop Says:

    First, nothing that I'm going to write should be seen as any sort of attempt to belittle the terrible tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake or its aftermath. The people affected have my deepest sympathy.
    Nevertheless, these natural disasters do seem to be getting worse, don't they? The New Zealand earthquake, the Pakistani floods, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the 'Boxing Day' tsunami in South East Asia, New Orleans and Katrina, Haiti etc., etc., etc.
    I think, though, that the apparent increasing severity of these events is mainly a statistical phenomenon. At one time the planet's population was low and the effects of natural disasters were limited. But now we have crammed more and more people and more and more infrastructure into the path of each disaster and as a consequence more and more people are inevitably affected.
    Perhaps it's time we started thinking hard about the relationship of our species to the rest of the planet. In particular we need to examine the idea that exponential population growth and exponential economic growth are 'good' and inevitable.
    Leaving aside the looming disasters coming our way as the result of climate change what Nature has thrown at us so far may be 'chicken feed' - I'm thinking of really big disasters such as asteroid strikes, major volcanic/tectonic events etc. If one of those hits we'll really find out whether or not we're 'The Lords of Creation' we seem to think we are.

  6. Fred Karno Says:

    Who paid for this latest junket Richard? Was Sir Howie along for the ride too? Hang your heads in shame. Freeloaders!



The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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