I went into Ballantynes in Christchurch earlier this week and felt a bit sad when I glanced across towards the Red Zone. This is the area in the middle of the city that is still deemed unsafe and is cordoned off. Some of the buildings, like The Grand Chancellor hotel, are being deconstructed whilst the demolition of around 5,000 homes in Christchurch suburbs started this week.

A large chain fence separates the newly constructed Cashel Mall (where Ballantynes is located) from the ghost city. I call it that because as I gazed through the fence, along with about a dozen Japanese tourists clicking away, all that could be seen was graffiti on buildings, rubbish being tossed around by the slight wind, and one lone chair perched on a sidewalk. Not a person or car in sight. No signs of life; not even an urban rat or two scurrying around. It was pretty eerie standing there and looking at shops I’ve entered and busy streets I’ve walked down. I imagined the ghosts of the 181 people who lost their lives on February 22, 2011 meandering the streets forlornly.

And then I turned around and looked back down Cashel Mall. The contrast was incredible. Lots of shoppers milling around; people chatting in the sun whilst sipping a coffee outside one of the container coffee shops; signs of life and laughter.

I remember shopping for shoes in this shop.


The new Cashel Mall.