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Rising from the Rubble: RisingHolme

Risingholme Homestead in Opawa officially reopened on 5 June, when council members and the community gathered for the long-awaited moment when the cherished building reopened its grand front door.




Harbouring decades of memories, the authentic restoration was a collaborative effort of determination after a double tragedy. The homestead had been closed since the February 2011 earthquake and was further damaged by an arson attack in June 2016 – just prior to its planned earthquake repair.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel says the 153-year-old two-storey homestead, which has continued to hold a diverse mix of classes and courses, was one of the country’s first community centres. The site was gifted to Christchurch in 1943 by philanthropist Sir John McKenzie and the Risingholme Community Centre Incorporated Society was formed in 1944.

Cook Brothers Construction started the restoration last February, with a partial rebuild and significant repairs to earthquake and fire damage. Etchings of its eventful history remain, such as the charring on the fire mantle and the time-worn staircase of rimu, mahogany and baltic pine.

Christchurch City Council’s Heritage Programme Manager, Richie Moyle, managed the $2.5 million refurbishment, and also instigated the balcony’s restoration to the original open-window design. Formerly closed in and used as a room, it’s now a magnificent vantage point to view the established grounds.

Richie says he felt the elation of opening a birthday present at the opening of his 45th post-earthquake heritage restoration. It was quite surreal as his vision of the fire-damaged facade was still so vivid. The centre’s Committee President, Ildica Boyd, aptly pronounced on opening day: “Risingholme is moving back home”.


Rising from the rubble

Rising from the rubble

A new book, Rising from the Rubble: A health system’s extraordinary response to the Canterbury earthquakes, reveals untold stories of courage, compassion and creativity.


Rising from the rubble


Based on interviews with those who lived and worked through the Canterbury earthquakes, Rising from the Rubble is co-authored by Dr Michael Ardagh and Dr Joanne Deely and published by Canterbury University Press. It gives a compelling account of staff working in the Canterbury health system who rallied to maintain and rebuild essential health services, ensuring continuity of care for the most vulnerable, as well as managing the significant increased demand for services to support the ongoing impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Cantabrians.

Dr Ardagh says he and Dr Deely felt there was a lack of information about the enormous role played by people in health during and after the earthquakes and that it was vital to record the experiences of patients and staff. “We wanted to capture their stories in a book that would be accessible to the general public as well as to health staff.”

Stories about the immediate disaster aftermath include accounts of emergency medical teams successfully managing a huge influx of patients, blood bank (transfusion services), staff maintaining uninterrupted services despite working intermittently by torchlight and also ankle-deep in water, and the maintenance and engineering staff striving to keep the hospital functioning despite the ravaged infrastructure.

“Most people would have run for the hills rather than stay underneath a concrete building. It was typical that staff chose not to flee, but to fight – to stay at, or even return to, work.”