Touring New Zealand 2019 - part 2
South Island - Marlborough, Waipara and Banks Peninsula
The last part left us in Wellington boarding the ferry. We had a remarkable smooth cross bearing in mind how rough the previous day had been. We were virtually first off the ferry as we had been first on, having left the van at the front of the ferry lane at 0930 in the morning. It was then a quick 20km drive to Spring Creek, which is 9 km short of Blenheim.
Spring Creek Camp Site: We have used the Spring Creek Camp Site many times before. It is convenient and the cabins are reasonably priced - on occasion we have also put up a tent for the second and subsequent night. It is perfectly sited for the Marlborough vineyards. After we had finished eating we walked round the edge of the site by the creek and had a look at the eels which gather in one location where they know they will be fed. We have seen them before but never so many together. They were lying with their heads on the bank and mouths open almost on top of each other whilst ducks trampled them hoping to get to any bread first and a huge trout cruised back and forth. We came back in the morning hoping to get better pictures and with some bread but the ducks got so excited it was impossible to photograph through the disturbed water.
The next morning was crystal clear and hardly a cloud in the sky all day - just right for a day round Blenheim and the Marlborough vineyards. It was Pauline's turn to drive so Pete had some of the best of what of what New Zealand has to offer to choose from. We always start by looking for the AirNZ trophy wines, and this led us to Nautilus to taste and buy their Methode Champenoise NV White and Vintage Rose. Tasting other wines led to purchasing the Chardonnay too. On the opposite side of the road is Wairau River Winery whose Trophy Sauvignon Blanc we had already discovered in the supermarkets and had too many in stock to justify extra purchases. and Allan Scott for Lunch. These have mostly been covered in some detail in the past but some updates may will follow. We stopped briefly at Hunters because we were interested in their sparkling wines as Pauline had been given a bottle of their Miru Miru
Having eaten and drunk well it was time for some exercise and we had been told there were some interesting walks at Withers Hill in the information office at Blenheim and that it was very close to Blenheim. As an aside I should note that it is one of the better information offices and we also got a lot of information on the Molesworth Road from them.
Wither Hills Farm Park. Named after early landowner Charles Bigg Wither, this 1100 hectare tract of rolling hill country is administered by the Marlborough District Council. The creation of the walks began in the early 1970s when Blenheim South Rotary and the Council developed the walk to what is now known as Rotary Lookout, with a circuit down through Quail Stream. Today there are over 60 kilometres of walking and mountain biking tracks to enjoy on the 1,100ha working sheep and cattle farm just minutes from the centre of Blenheim. The Wither Hills provide an iconic backdrop to Blenheim and the Wairau Valley and there are a myriad of trails from tree filled valleys. There is a large mountain biking area and mountain bike and walking trails are thankfully kept completely separate and no sharing seems to be allowed.
We did a long circuit which gave super views over Blenheim, Omaka Airfield and Taylor's Dam. We started on the Rotary Lookout Track, then the Twin Tanks Walk continuing onto the Taylor View Track steadily gaining Height till we reach Annie's Seat from which we descended the steep Intersect Track to Quail Junction where we joined the Lower Quail Stream Walk back to the edge of the park and returned to the car park on the Forest Hills Track. Having seen Taylor's Dam in the distance we decided to go and find it.
Taylor Dam: Built in 1965 to control flooding within Blenheim, the dam reserve has become a sanctuary for teal, black swan, pukeko and duck. Most of the year, the Taylor River only has a modest flow, and even dries up over sections of its course, however it can rise very rapidly during heavy rain. As a result, Blenheim was flooded in numerous occasions, and this contributed to the town originally being named The Beaver.
In March 1963 the Marlborough Catchment Board began planning for the construction of the Taylor Dam and work took place between 1964-1965 as flood protection for Blenheim. Land was purchased from Meadowbank Station to provide materials. It is the largest earth flood protection dam in New Zealand. The dam itself is constructed of compacted earth and rock, however a concrete outlet provides controlled release of water while limiting peak flow. An earth and rock spillway also exists to provide a channel for overflow in the extremely unlikely event of the dam becoming full.
Behind the dam, a small lake has formed, and provides an important habitat for waterfowl, with black swans, coots, mallard ducks, pukeko, paradise ducks, shags and other species present. Around the lake, other bird species include piwakawaka (fantails), welcome swallows, and the occasional harrier hawk (kāhu). Eels are also present in the lake, and brown trout have been released in the past. A large variety of invertebrates inhabit either the lake itself or surrounding vegetation including dragonflies, damselflies, and several butterfly species.
Wairau Bar Pilot House: In the afternoon we looked at a map to see what other locations we had missed in the area and we recalled there was an old pilot house down at the Wairau Bar. We found the old pilot station still existed and was being looked after by the Historic Places Trust. It was not open but many of the old items were visible including the kerosene lamps, a pilots boat and an old buoy. The house was built in 1860. We then drove down to the end of the training wall where one had a view of the bar. There were seals on the beach and we saw our first Spoonbills this holiday on the way back.
We left Marlborough to go to Waipara via the coast road (SH1) which is still undergoing major repairs after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake. We stopped to look at one of the originl bridges on the road which was double level for the road and railway
Kaikoura 2016 Earthquake: There was a huge magnitude 7.8 earthquake 60 km south-west of of Kaikoura and 95 km from Christchurch at a depth of approximately 15 km in November 2016.The magnitude was second only in New Zealand to the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake of magnitude 8.2 since European settlement of the country. In absolute terms it was a big quake, there are on average less than 2 quakes of magnitudes of 8 and higher per year world wide. There were however only two deaths. Ruptures occurred on multiple faults and the earthquake has been described as the "most complex earthquake ever studied". The majority of the damage was not at the epicentre as ruptures ripped northwards at a speed of 2 km per second, over a distance of 200 km. The largest amount of energy released was 100 km to the north of the epicentre near Seddon. Detailed studies confirmed ruptures on twenty-five faults. In simplistic terms the fault areas were "unzipping" along an approximately 180km length of the northeast coast of the South Island. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=133&v=1DybzjUsjN0 for a fascinating simulation. Cape Campbell, at the north-eastern tip of the South Island, moved to the north-northeast by more than two metres putting it that much closer to the North Island and rose almost one metre. Kaikoura moved to the northeast by nearly one metre, and rose seventy centimetres. The east coast of the North Island moved west by up to five centimetres, and the Wellington region moved two to six centimetres to the north. Christchurch moved two centimetres to the south. The tsunami that followed the Kaikoura earthquake reached a peak height of about 7 metres.
Kaikoura was cut off and 1000 people were evacuated by HMNZS Canterbury in the first week and helicopters ferried in essential emergency supplies to the most-severely affected areas around Kaikoura. There was significant damage in Wellington - buildings were damaged, several had to be demolished. Damage to docks briefly halted ferry traffic across the Cook Strait and, more significantly, container shipping did not resume for over ten months. Two thirds of the value of insurance claims were from Wellington. Christchurch seems to have escaped any further damage.
We expected some delays but had not appreciated the magnitude of the repairs which had been required to reopen the SH1 and the main railway line and how much work was still ongoing after two years. We stopped at Kay's Cray's and bought a Crayfish for tea.
Waipara Sleeper: Waipara Sleepers is a campsite which also has a number of cabins built into old railway carriages. We found there was still one of the old guards van available for a night. There are three vans, sitting in a neat row, each on a short length of railway track. Two were already booked,including the one we had in 2012 which had a brass double bed, a seating area with three original red upholstered railway seats, and an additional balcony built on the side with table and chairs. Our van very similar but with a double bed.
Tiromoana Bush Walk: We noticed on an old map in the kitchen at Waipara Sleepers that there was a nearby walk shown which went towards the coast and we set out to find it. In the event it turned out that the area had changed considerably and the access road was now part of a new restoration project run by Transwaste for the Tiromoana Bush in exchange for a Landfill site. Tiromoana Bush is now the largest conservation area in coastal North Canterbury protecting a rare regenerating lowland forest. There are now several tracks in the Tiromoana Bush It is still possible to reach the coast from the access point but it is now an hour and a half return and is usually part of the 3.5 hour (10.4 km) Tiromoana Bush Walkway loop track descending 260 metres to the coast. This was a longer walk than we really wanted as we would have had to abandon our plans to go to Pegasus Winery for lunch so we did a shorter loop track (5.2 km / 2 hr) to Kate Pond via the Te Ara Tawhai track which starts at the Barbara’s Lookout Track junction and connects to the main walkway on the floor of Kate Valley. One then turns right to reach the picnic area at Kate Pond (5 minutes.) Retracing ones steps one then continues on the main walkway as it climbs towards the ridgeline, passing through the deer fence gate and turning left to follow the 4WD track back to the car park.
A deer fence protects the Tiromoana Bush restoration project from grazing animals. One needs to climb through several small gate holes at waist height in this fence on the walks. The first was on the way from the car park to Barbara's Lookout which is only a few minutes walk from the car park and has spectacular views across the Tiromoana Bush restoration project to the coast. The descent to Kate pond was through what is currently open grass and regenerating bush with a few sheep. We stopped for a snack at the Kate Pond then climbed back up to with the end section on what is now a 4WD track which used to from part of the beach access that we had been looking for originally. Overall a pleasant if not spectacular 2 hour walk. We are not sure if the full Tiromoana Walkway would offer much more apart from access to a remote beach.
Pegasus Winery: After we had completed the walk we drove across to Pegasus Winery where we have tried (and bought) many excellent wines in the past and had some equally excellent lunches. When we got part way down the no exit road to the winery we found a huge tree had come down blocking the road and extending well into the field the other side. We were thinking of turning when we were waved into a gate into a field along the edge and out of another gate! However when we reached Pegasus and went into the dining room we got a very offhand reception and were told they had not opened for lunch as they were busy preparing for a big evening function and why didn't we go and have a wine tasting instead. We did not bother as we already know their wines. In the old days it was very much a family firm with all aspects run by the family - I think the family would be horrified at the reception we got and the attitude of the staff even if they were busy which smacked of bad planning. On the website and even at the entry to the winery there was nothing to indicate the restaurant was closed.
Waipara Hills Winery and Restaurant: In many ways it was fortunate for us as we looked for other winery restaurants in the area and stopped at Waipara Hills. The meals they had available at lunch were much simpler than Pegasus used to serve and not quite what we were looking for this time although they did look very good and everyone seemed very happy. We did have a wine tasting and discovered that they had won a double Trophy in the New Zealand Wine Awards for their Waipara Hills Pinot Noir Rose Waipara valley 2018 both for the 'Best Open Red Wine' and as the 'Best Wine - Canterbury 2018' - an outstanding achievement for a Rose. We bought many of them during our time in South Island, unfortunately stocks in the Supermarkets quickly ran out.
Waikari Plane Table and Maori Rock Drawings Walks: In the afternoon we set out to try to find some Maori Rock Drawings we had again seen marked on the map in the camp site kitchens. They were sited close to Waikari but we could not find many details on our first quick internet search so we drove to Waikari in search of further information. When we got to Waikari we found that there was a new short walk to a lookout up past a water storage tank to a Plane Table which we did for the views and near the bottom (off the SH7 coming into Waikari opposite the current terminus of Weka Pass Railway) there was a nearly hidden board with a map which showed other walks round Waikari which indicated that the entry to the walk to the Maori Rock Drawings could be reached by following the walk along the old railway line for about 700 metres to a turn off. We followed that walk (parallel to Princes Street) as far as the well signed turn off onto a track up over a hill. It was too late in the day to complete another 2 hours of walk but we now know where to go and have found the tracks etc and marked them on the GPS on the phone - we use the Portable Maps option (uses OpenStreetMap) under GPS Essentials to mark waypoints. We have subsequently found some further information on the internet ( https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/weka-pass-historic-reserve/ ) and they do seem worth the two hour round trip walk over what appears to be a steep rough track over private land to the DOC Reserve. In summary what we found was:
The Weka Pass Historic Reserve was established in 1969 largely to protect a large limestone overhang shelter, containing fine examples of rock art. Māori first explored the Weka Pass area about 1000 years ago. The area was originally forested, and Māori would visit the area on their seasonal round for mahinga kai - food gathering. Birds were abundant, and included the now extinct moa and koreke / quail, as well as weka, kererū, kākā, kiwi in the forest, and a variety of waterfowl and freshwater fish in the streams. Māori used the large overhanging limestone shelter as a temporary overnight camp. The drawings cover a 25m section of a limestone overhang and were done with charcoal and red ochre. The subjects of their drawings are largely simple human figures, fish and dogs. Some drawings are more imaginative; others are little more than scribbles. In 1929, at the instigation of the director of the Dominion Museum, these were over painted in red and black house paint to make them more visible. This was a tragedy, as it completely covered up many of the original figures, destroying their scientific and historic value. Even so, the site is regarded as one of the finest examples of ancient rock art on public land.
One of the claims of the Waipara Sleepers site is that one wakes up every morning to the smell of fresh hot bread baking which is “ to just to help you kick start your day and it's free first in first served.” - there are “fresh eggs at the chickens convenience.”. We couldn't miss the opportunity, on the basis that if no-one eats it then there will be no bread making next time, so we were up early and secured lots of the lovely crisp white bread to go with it before we left for Christchurch. We left early to seek out a cabin or tent site close to Christchurch as we wanted to go to Lyttelton to see how restoration after the earthquake was progress, in particular we wanted to see what the Historic Places Trust had achieved in restoring the Timeball. We found a camp site we had not previously used at New Brighton on the coast just outside Christchurch in the direction of Ferrymead and where we were allocated a tent slot up against a big hedge offering good shelter and we put up the tent for the first time this year. It was not quite waterfront but was close to the Esplanade. We achieved that quite quickly meaning we were at Lyttelton by 1100.
Lyttelton Town: Lyttelton itself was badly damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake and was at the epicentre. Fortunately the tunnel remained intact although the buildings at the portal were damaged. Lyttelton itself suffered and many houses on the hillside are still insecure or falling and buildings in the centre are damaged or demolished. The stone built Holy Trinity Church, the oldest known church in Canterbury, was damaged and the tower fell so we were pleased to see on our last visit that a replacement church (an old wooden one) had been moved to the site. It is the church of Saint Saviours and incorporates the porch and two pews from Holy Trinity, and has been turned around so that the altar is at the opposite side to its previous design and also includes some of the original stained glass from Holy Trinity. The top of the bell tower sits as a sculpture in the garden adjacent. The vicarage is still standing next door and seemed to be in use. There are now few commercial buildings housed in containers and it is all very much better than when we came in 2012, 2014 and 2016. There is a great spirit in the town and little parks have sprung up.
Lyttelton Timeball Station: A major loss has been the Timeball one of the properties owned by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust that we joined many years ago - it has reciprocal rights with the UK National Trust which we find useful in the UK. Accurate timekeeping is an essential part of navigation and finding the Longitude was not solved fully until the invention of the chronometer in the latter half of the 18th century. The accuracy of the chronometers was essential to navigation (1 second error corresponds to about 460m at the equator) so they had to be checked whenever possible and visual signals became an important feature of many ports. The visual signal was often a large spherical ball, the Timeball, which was dropped at a known time. The first Timeball station was built at Greenwich in 1833 and gradually others were built around the world. The Lyttelton Timeball, built in 1876, was the third in New Zealand and is now once more the only survivor. It is one of only a small number still operational in the world. The Lyttelton Timeball Station is unusual in that it has a dedicated castle like building built of Oamaru limestone and local Scoria (volcanic stone) sited so it was visible from all of the port and most of the town. From 1876 to 1934 a ball dropped from the mast at 1300 (sometimes 1530). The mechanism was from the German firm Siemens Bros. and the astronomical clock was from Edward Dent and Co of London. The operational use was discontinued in 1934 when it was replaced by radio although the use of flags form the same site used for notifying the arrival of ships continued till later. The tower itself was severely damaged and much fell to the ground - the remainder was being dismantled stone by stone. The mechanism was relatively unscathed although the building was damaged. Most of the Timeball Station has now been rebuilt brick by brick including the whole tower but not the associated house. Unfortunately there are some ugly reinforcements when one looks closely but much of that could be hidden if they rebuild the remaining buildings.-->
Ferrymead Heritage Park: From there we went to Ferrymead Heritage Park - it is mostly a loose federation of small bands of enthusiasts and clubs who have restored or maintained various areas of important or unique New Zealand heritage. It contains a complete village mainly set in the early 1900s as well as the specialist areas. One of our main interests was the work by the Aeronautical Society by Dave Newman who is restoring and preserving a De Havilland Mosquito, or more correctly to make use of the parts from 2 ex RNZAF Mosquito aircraft to build one for display. They were part of a fleet of war surplus aircraft purchased from the RAF, the majority of which were stored, the rest active in 75 squadron. The two at Ferrymead were owned by farmers in Pigeon Bay and Oamaru and used for storage. We visited on a Friday, and we know there is more to see at the weekend when many of the enthusiasts and volunteers are on site. Without someone to open the buildings they stay closed.
We have talked at length in the past with Dave Newman from the Aeronautical Society who spent several hours showing us the progress in restoring and preserving a De Havilland Mosquito, or more correctly to make use of the parts from 2 ex RNZAF Mosquito aircraft to build one for display. They were part of a fleet of war surplus aircraft purchased from the RAF, the majority of which were stored, the rest active in 75 squadron. The two at Ferrymead were owned by farmers in Pigeon Bay and Oamaru and used for storage. They are in surprisingly good condition after being in the open for many decades.
The tram was running and we have previously had a short guided tour of the a the tram museum including the newly restored steam tram and the double decker tram - the coachwork was exceptional, some of the best woodwork we have seen using American Ash, Oak, Mahogany with Maple veneers to name a few. We also saw the new sheds for the trams for downtown - they were leased to Christchurch Council who let out the franchise for maintenance back to the group. Their nine trams including Steam trams, ex horse drawn trams now serving as trailers, most however are electric driven using 600 volt motors of 25 - 90 HP. The trams originate from Christchurch, Dunedin and Melbourne. The power units have been rebuilt and wheels re-tyred.
It was fascinating to be able to see how the Mosquito had been constructed - the fuselage is a plywood and balsa laminate, overall about an inch thick. Parts of the airframe were water or otherwise damaged so one could see all the details of how the laminations were laid up with the ply at 45 degrees to the balsa. The wings again used laminated skins, in this case with plywood either side of approximately 1 inch square spruce stringers separated by about 2 inches. There were also more major spars in spruce. Interestingly the ply skins were screwed at 2 inch spacing to the spruce - they obviously did not want to entirely depend on the glue or perhaps it was to aid fabrication. Both the wings and fuselage were finally covered with doped canvas. We spent several hours round the rest of the site, there is still a lot to see, and eventually dragged ourselves away go back to the camp site at new Brighton and our tent.
Our next destination was the Banks Peninsula. There are two possible routes onwards : the first was to return through the tunnel and then travel along the main road whereas the more interesting alternative was to take the scenic coast road, passing above the Torpedo Boat Museum and then through Governors Bay to Teddington before crossing Gebbies Pass to join the main road. It is almost 20kms shorter but much slower but the views are excellent. This time we were short of time because of everything we had already done during the day so we were starting late.so we selected the quicker 'main' road. The 'main' road to the Peninsula to Akaroa is still very winding and has lovely views - one needs to allow a good hour and a half for the 80 kms, even without photo stops or a stop at Barry's Bay cheese factory where we have stocked up in the past - this time we had plenty from Karikaas already so we just looked as it is quite expensive although very good. We did not stay in Akaroa itself but stopped 10 km short at the Duvauchelle Holiday Park which has fabulous views across the harbour and some excellent cabins - last time we had one which had started life as the changing rooms for the adjacent tennis court so we had a toilet but no shower and basic cooking facilities. It caught the evening sun on the front and in the morning we could move to a sun trap in front of the tennis courts. This time it was already booked for one of the days we were staying so with good weather we put the tent up again for the two nights - the pitch had good views and some shelter but we did worry a bit about the wind coming up. There was just time for the short drive into Akaroa to purchase some local smoked salmon from La Boucherie du Village - it is farmed in the sea but has a richer red colour than we have seen previously. The store often has an impressive collection of French and European foods including pheasant but at $69 each we decided to pass and keep to the local specialties instead and also bought some Akaroa lamb as a vac packed butterfly cut for the BBQ. It gave Pauline the chance to practice her french with the butcher.
The Banks Peninsula is a very self contained area with a rugged coastline to the south-east of Christchurch. It has a lot of associated history and was originally a French colony, having been purchased by a whaling captain in 1838. The French had sent a couple of ships intending to raise the flag there and claim the whole of South Island for France but were delayed by repairs after a storm and after the French sailors were indiscreet the repairs went slow and there was time for a British frigate to get there a couple of days ahead and raise the union Jack in 1840 shortly just before the French settlers arrived – despite considerable disappointment they decided to continue their plans for the settlement. The permanent population is only 550 but there are many holiday homes. In the past there was a train service as far as Little River Camp, and it is still a useful place for coffee and the camping ground and with its eclectic collection of old huts, a communal tepee, native habitat and even mud slides. Now there is a new accommodation option at the silo-hotel which is also a place for renting bicycles.
The next day we decided to take the high road round the Banks Peninsula looking down on Akaroa harbour from all sides of the old crater walls before descending to Akaroa itself. The scenic drives are the highlight with the many side roads to small ports to explore. It takes a almost a full day to do do justice to the round trip. The views all the way round are excellent and we stopped many times and did all the side trips down to the major East coast bays namely Pigeon Bay with its wharf and the start of the Pigeon Bay Walk which takes 5 hours return along the side of the bay to visit the point, then Little Akaloa and across then on the back road to Okains bay where there is yellow sands and rocks covered in Mussels - we picked enough for a starter. There is a tourist trip which visits the eastern bays using a mail run so the post is delivered at the same time as making money using the seats in the bright red postal van. The van was parked at Little Akaroa which seemed to be the preferred stop for a sandwich and drink; we then saw it again at Okains Bay outside the general store where there were scoop ice creams. Our final stop was down to Le Bons Bay, which again had yellow sands. We nearly got out our chairs but it was getting a bit windy by then. We were then only 3kms from Akaroa so spent the afternoon there.
Akaroa, butcher and Lighthouse itself has a small but interesting museum covering the French background and also Whaling, the original activity in the area. Many of the exhibits are in store at present but although old their video shown in the old courthouse gave a good introduction to the area. Other than the museum we found the French influence disappointing little in evidence. Akaroa is the departure point for a number of Dolphin watching and Whale watching trips which need to be booked well in advance. In 2013 when we visited Akaroa on the Queen Mary 2 we had enjoyed a sailing cruise on a vintage yacht, the 47ft classic A-Class keeler Manutara. The hull was one of many designed in 1946 by Jock Muir, from Tasmania. This example was built by Salthouse and Logan in Auckland in 1962, and is a mixture of Australian hardwood, Kauri and Teak. The yacht was moored at the wharf where the owner was busy doing minor repairs to his sail. He was happy to chat and we discussed possibilities for sailing the following day. Suddenly he noticed dark shadows under the jetty and pointed out a group of very large eagle rays who live in the bay and we suppose the jetty gives them shade in the heat of the day. It was very warm.
The old town still has a French influence. Jewellery made of the unusual and expensive Blue Pearl is sold at the wharf and there are many craft shops and souvenir shops, as well as pavement cafés and fish-and-chip shops. The two craft markets were both busy as they always set up when there is a cruise ship in port. The cafes and restaurants were also doing well and we directed many people from the wharf along the shore to the supermarket and main shops. Local seafood, fish, cheeses, beers and wines are delicious. Although very close to Christchurch, which is just over the hill, there had been little structural damage from the earthquakes although some of the public and historic buildings were still closed, awaiting structural checks. The Coronation Library has however reopened and we spent some time in there talking to the curator.
Akaroa Lighthouse: A highlight in Akaroa is to the Lighthouse. This imposing, six-sided, wooden lighthouse is one of the last of the "standard" design of wooden lighthouses particular to New Zealand.The lighthouse was first built on a rugged headland at the entrance to Akaroa Harbour, more than 80 metres above sea level. The site was chosen in 1875 and the lighthouse built in 1878-79, to a design that was developed by an engineer, John Blackett, for New Zealand conditions. The materials were brought in by ship to a landing in Haylocks Bay, near the site, and hauled up a specially built road to the top of the headland. A road from Haylocks Bay was constructed first to allow building supplies into site. The road, 500 metre long was dynamited out of solid rock for nearly its entire length and took 10 months to complete. The lighthouse frame was kauri with a double skin, the bottom half of which was filled with ballast to hold it down after a southerly storm completely demolished the first framework during construction. It was a rugged and bleak site - Mr William Black, overseer of the construction work, died of exposure while traveling from the site to Akaroa Town in 1879.
The light first shone on 1 January 1880. It had clockwork mechanism which required winding every two hours so was always manned. The light was originally kerosene but latter changed to a double bulb system. In 1977, the old lighthouse was replaced by an automatic light. The following year a Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in Akaroa and bought the lighthouse and equipment for $1. By the year's end the tower had been cut into three pieces and manoeuvred over steep and narrow Lighthouse Road down to Akaroa, where it was re-assembled on Cemetery Point. Its historic equipment, which had been salvaged before the tower was moved, was then re-installed and lovingly restored by The Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society. A roster of volunteers 'man' the light house to enable the public to visit and view this iconic historic Akaroa landmark and it is now open for viewing many days rather than just Sundays (2-4pm). Beyond the lighthouse is the Britomart monument where the British raised the union jack to claim the territory just before the french settlers arrived. Next time we visit we must go to the Garden of Tane which has many interesting trees and includes a cemetery. It is also an option to climb to the top of Stony Bay Peak and enjoy the panoramic views.
We left the camp site as early as we could, it was a dry morning with low humidity and the tent dried quickly. The intention was to go through Christchurch and see what progress had been made with the Cathedral.
Christchurch and the Earthquake Damage: Before the earthquakes Christchurch was a beautiful city, and was also said to be the oldest city in NZ having been given that status in 1856 although Europeans landed in the area in 1815. It was modeled on a traditional English Garden City and fortunately the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, famous for its sporting events, still remained intact. The first major earthquake was in September 2010, with epicentre at Darfield some 44 kms west of Christchurch and at depth 11 kms. It was magnitude 7.1 and was followed by a serious of aftershocks. The Cathedral was a Gothic Revival design, built from 1860 to 1904, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott.The initial earthquake caused considerable damage and the spire of the cathedral to fall. Then the next serious earthquake was on 22 February 2011 at 12.51, with epicentre close to Lyttelton and only 6 kms from the CBD and at a depth of 5 kms. It was magnitude 6.3. It happened while we were in Hastings and again it was followed by aftershocks.
More recently there was another significant earthquake on 23 December 2011. Experts say it is not unusual for there to be a 6 month gap as there had been between the 7.1 earthquake and the 6.3 magnitude aftershock. That is no comfort for those people trying to re-build their lives in Christchurch who begin repair work and then had to start again. The third major Earthquake was in 2016, is known as the Valentine's Day Earthquake and was less at 5.7. This caused some more of the Cathedral to fall and the cliffs round Sumner had major falls which were recorded on video by many people. These dramatic films caused a lot of international publicity but overall the additional structural damage was very small and there was no loss of life although there was some liquifaction. We met some people who were present who described the roads heaving in front of them and were badly shaken. Another description said the ground was tipping and rolling like being on the Interislander in a storm. It served as a valuable validation of the quality of the strengthening and standard of the new buildings. The pictures below show the sorry state when we say the Cathedral in 2014.
Christchurch Cathedral: When we came to Christchurch in 2012 most of the central area was still in the Red Zone which was totally inaccessible to locals or visitors and most of the work was in make the remaining buildings secure, or more often demolishing them. At that time there was some controversy over the level of destruction of the heritage of Christchurch buildings but few could argue as there was little information and the aftershocks were still continuing. The Cathedral has always been one of the buildings which every visitor knew and was a symbol of the city. Christchurch cathedral was designed by Benjamin Mountfort, as were many of the stone public buildings in Christchurch. It was built between 1864 and 1904. There was a main building and a separate bell tower with spire. During the 2011 earthquakes the spire fell and the tower and the main stone structure were damaged.
Christchurch's Cardboard Cathedral: The controversy over whether to demolish or reinstate become extreme in the case of the Cathedral. A temporary "Transitional Cardboard Cathedral" has been built at a considerable cost with the scheme, it seems, largely forced through by the Lady Bishop who was brought in from Canada, despite a large amount of disquiet. We have tried to keep an open mind so one of the first things we did in 2014 was to go to see the new Cathedral which opened in August 2013. It is clear many of the objectives were good and the architect has done some remarkable work in the past. The building was designed pro bono by Shigeru Ban, who is is a famous Japanese architect, best known for his innovative work with paper, particularly cardboard tubes used rapid, efficiently, ecologically friendly and recyclable housing for disaster victims including aftermath of the Kobe earthquake. Larger Cardboard projects include the the Japanese pavilion building at Expo 2000 in Hanover. The original concept was an A frame building based on Cardboard tubes above a series of recycled Containers on the site of St John the Baptist church, a stone church designed by Benjamin Mountfort and Maxwell Bury in 1864 which was demolished after the 2010 earthquakes despite having a catagory 1 heritage listing by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
The cardboard concept however ran into a series of fundamental problems, in particular the inability of NZ firms to build the thickness and strength of tubes and the inability to meet the rigorous construction codes in New Zealand. The design was also targeted at a building which put forward as a transitional Cathedral was also envisaged to actually have a life of 50 years. The end result is that the cardboard is now little more than cosmetic in the Cardboard Cathedral and all the structural loads are actually taken by a laminated wooden structure within the cardboard tubes. The same problems had occurred with the Expo 2000 building where again extensive use had to be made of wood making it a hybrid, albeit cost effective, building.
The building does not seem that impressive from a distance but it seems to unexpectedly grow in size and stature as one approaches. It is a basic A frame structure cased totally in polycarbonate sheet which reaches almost to ground level with most of the end composed of stained glass sheets. Inside it soars to 70 feet above the altar. Looking at the building from outside it is clear that the altar end is wider than the entry. The roof appears to be supported by 2 feet diameter cardboard tubes held up by eight shipping containers which form the walls. The foundation is concrete slab. The 96 (78 visible within the church) tubes covering up the laminated wood beams have two-inch gaps between each so that light can filter into the cathedral make it very light and airy with the spacious air added to by the back wall consisting of triangular pieces of stained glass. The chairs follow the theme and are made from laminated wood. Most of the remaining structures are in cardboard tube and laminated wood (similar in appearance to a coarse plywood) with exceptions being the lectern and the Bishops chair which are the only items which were rescued from the real Cathedral before any further salvage efforts were thwarted.
The cost of this Cardboard Cathedral escalated to NZ$5.9m and the Council refused to transfer the grants for the original Cathedral upkeep to it and the use of the Insurance money made available for rebuilding has been apparently determined to be illegal (The Press (Christchurch). 27 July 2013).
Finally, in September 2017, the Canterbury Diocesan Anglican Synod voted to restore the cathedral. Shortly afterwards Bishop Victoria resigned and returned to her homeland in Edmonton, Canada. Bishop Peter was then installed in February 2019.
The real Christchurch Cathedral does not seem superficially to have changed greatly since our visit in 2014. Closer inspection shows it it has deteriorated internally as it has been open and full of pigeons. But finally the project to reinstate the iconic building has started so that it can once more become a place of worship and community activity. Some big machines are in place and work on removing steel framing from the front of Christ Church Cathedral was underway during our visit.
The on-site boards and https://reinstate.org.nz/faqs/ informed us that:
In the immediate area round the Cathedral; the 100 year-old Heritage Christchurch hotel is open for business; it is one of the few heritage-listed buildings and is the former Christchurch Government Municipal Building. In 2014 we remarked on the new Novotel also in Cathedral Square and there is now an Ibis Hotel in the city centre. The site of the Irish pub where we enjoyed many evenings is still an open space. There are now far fewer open spaces and areas undergoing demolition than during our last visit in 2016 but it does seem that many Heritage building have been lost.
During our last visit many believed the powers which were put in place when the earthquake took place were leading to an unnecessary loss of "listed" heritage buildings. A dictatorship, preferably benign is needed when emergencies and war strike but eventually democracy needs to once more replace it and almost everyone we spoke to was concerned that the situation was no longer fully under control. To an outsider some of the decisions seem difficult to understand and a small number of people with strong views on the future of Christchurch seem to have determining the way forwards and steamrolling any people, buildings and heritage which gets in the way of their vision. Even major buildings put up in 2011 exceeding the latest standards are planned to be demolished as they do not fit the master plan and heritage buildings needing minimal work are being allowed to be destroyed. There must be some method behind such madness - at the best it is a communications problem but on the basis of the information we were given we could not understand the cultural vandalism which was being enacted.
We did not spend a lot of time round Christchurch away from the Cathedral areas but the following shots show some degree of normality has returned and the city is returning to normal.
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|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 25th April, 2019