Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer

28th June 2014 - New Brighton

Fallen Tree Boardwalk
Beach We've had more than our share of troubles in Christchurch just recently. Earthquake damage is still to be seen everywhere, and last spring's winds have decimated forests. Add to that the floods that resulted from parts of the city being lowered by the quake, and some folk are still having a hard time. The East of the city is probably the worst. Driving the roads in still a bit like a rollercoaster ride and hundreds of houses stand empty waiting to be made safe or demolished.

Nowhere is this more apparent than New Brighton.

Another beautiful winter's day and we walked part of the New Brighton Spit. What was once a pleasant shore-side stroll by a pine forest is now past metal fences and a lumber camp as the last of the trees are cut up and disposed of. There are quite a few trees left in the southern stretch, and you can still get a feel for what it was like. Across the mud flats and water we can see the morre salubrious areas on Redcliffs and Sumner. They, too, were damaged by the quake.

Beyond this is a boardwalk. It's not very long, but has been torn up by the earthquake and still awaits repair.

Further on we come to rows of abandoned houses. New Brighton itself is not the most upmarket area, but South New Brighton has a collection of new and substantial homes, and most of them seem deserted, the gardens gone wild, cracked facades, red stickers on the windows.

Crossing the spit in glorious sunshine we come out onto the beach. This is a typical Canterbury beach, endless grey sand decorated with tortured looking driftwood, though not as much here as I've seen elsewhere. The light was good here, too. Walking towards the sun we could see a bank of cloud coming down from the north to cover it, and this channelled the light in such a way that it seems almost to drip from the clouds' edge. This is almost impossible to catch on camera (for me).

As with most South Island beaches we are almost alone here. There are tire tracks, but no cars. In the distance a man is walking a dog. A woman jogs past just above the surf line. Just over the line of dunes there are houses, and elsewhere in the world the beach would make this a choice area, but not here, never mind that there's a golf club just up he road.

We turn off the beach past the surf life saving club and now we are back in the city. The roads are crowded with orange cones and cars drive slowly towards the bridge (closed to heavy traffic). The contrast in extraordinary - just a few steps from wild beach to contruction site. Things are better than they were. The city is slowly coming back to life, but there is still a long way to go.


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