New Zealand: The Christchurch Earthquake: Unexpected Conflicts and Congregations

In 2011, Christchurch experienced a devastating earthquake that left 185 people dead and destroyed much of the center of town. As the city started its recovery, local businesses created a shopping mall out of shipping containers. They sprang up organically, and according to many locals, they gave the shopping area a unique appeal providing Christchurch with something that few other places in the world could boast about. There was a debate about the area, but in the end, the city planning committee decided to remove the containers and build a new shopping mall. Those containers are gone.

The Anglican Cathedral

The Christchurch Anglican Church Cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquake. It sits in the center of town surrounded by fencing and painted walls and continuing to decay as the church and the public spar over what is to be done with a replacement building and the property. Many locals want the church to look the way it did before the quake. Feasibility studies have shown that the church could be built and strengthen using the same general outline. There have been questions about who will pick up the cost of repairing and rebuilding the cathedral. In 2017, a plan was accepted to rebuild the cathedral at the cost of the church, taxpayers, and donors. However, in 2019, there seems to be little that has been done.

Currently, black-billed gulls, the rarest of the gull family, may be using the interior as one of their roosting places. Whether or not the protected status of these gulls will affect the construction process is not even under consideration since there appears to be little possibility of the two sides coming together to agree on what the new cathedral should look like. Some would consider this a sad state of affairs for a religion that’s supposed to foster love and the coming together of people.

The Black-Billed Gulls

Black-billed gulls nesting in an open space created by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
Black-billed Gulls are the rarest of gulls. They’re nesting in Christchurch.

If there are no black-billed gulls in the cathedral, there are certainly some in a ruin of a building that left a hole in the ground where water has created a lake-like atmosphere. The gulls are using the old supports as a place to build their nests and raise their young. As the rarest of all gulls, these birds, found only in New Zealand, represent a positive increase in the gull population.

The water itself features a collection of trash including what looks to be thousands of balloons or balls and about a dozen safety cones. Boxes have been placed on the water for birds to use, as well.

The protected status of these birds and the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s recognition of the unique place they have nested may inhibit future attempt to rebuild in that spot. The black-billed gulls will continue to squabble, fly and raise their chicks as long as no one does anything illegal or morally ambiguous to get them to move.