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Friday, May 13, 2011

Call for memorial walkway in city

Call for memorial walkway in city

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Christchurch needs a memorial walkway through the central city to give people emotional closure after the earthquake, counsellors say.

New Zealand Association of Counsellors chairwoman Marie Mayer said staff over recent months had spoken to hundreds of Christchurch people who were mourning the loss of loved ones and their city.

Officials were failing to deal with the emotional needs of people as well as the need for physical safety, she said.

"History can teach us that the true rebuilding of a city after a natural disaster arises from the spirit of its people and citizens," Mayer said.

"The present focus on recreating infrastructure and buildings in Christchurch ignores a very important human need."

People from all walks of life were experiencing deep emotional responses to the devastation their city had endured, Mayer said.

"One way to address this fundamental need for all citizens to grieve is to open up a safe walkway throughout the central city to enable citizens to quietly and respectfully reflect on their city's destruction," she said.

"This can enable people to express their emotions healthily and provide an opportunity for them to place flowers or small objects in significant areas."

Counsellors were urging officials to start the walk immediately, before all the rubble was cleared away. "To close off the city as it is now and to only open it up again as a hollowed-out shell is tantamount to holding a funeral without a body," she said.

Christchurch woman Melanie Mayell was in a Cathedral Square restaurant when the February quake struck and saw the spire of Christ Church Cathedral fall.

She wanted to revisit the site as the whole experience still felt surreal.

In the rush to demolish and rebuild, the need for people to see their city being transformed was being lost.

"It feels like we are not allowed to grieve properly and have our own emotional experience with it," she said.

"It's completely wrong to lock us out."

Mayell said the cordon should have been opened up much earlier to allow people to see parts of the city before they were changed forever.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) interim chief executive John Ombler, said community wellbeing was a priority.

However, safety must be paramount when considering access to the central city.

"Cera understands the people of Christchurch and beyond need to understand what happened in the central city, but it remains too dangerous to open up the current red zone to the public," he said.

A team was working with a range of social agencies on areas such as health, education, housing and counselling to provide support for individuals, families and their communities.

Since February 22, access to the city centre had been improving, Ombler said.

"Just this week, new video has also been released of the central-city area that was taken by Terralink last month, and it essentially takes people on a virtual journey through the city."

- The Press

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