South bank area

The south bank area is a place of remembrance. Facing the sun, the memorial wall extends 111 metres along the curve of the Ōtākaro/Avon River.

A stepped terrace with seating and maple trees separates the 3.6-metre high memorial wall from the river. The south bank area has been designed to accommodate variable river levels.


Memorial Wall

Names arrangement

The names of those who died as a result of the 22 February 2011 earthquake are inscribed into marble panels stretching 40 metres along the memorial wall.

Each of the 185 names is written as requested by their family.  All names are in English, as well as the person’s first language (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic, Serbian or Russian), if it was not English.

The arrangement of names has also been guided by the bereaved families.  There were many requests for the names of family members, couples, friends, work colleagues, classmates and people from the same country to be close together on the wall. Where people were not connected to others who lost their lives, their names are placed in a chance arrangement, reflecting the random nature of the earthquake and those it impacted.

Words of acknowledgement

A violent and destructive earthquake
shook greater Christchurch on
22 February 2011.
The lives of 185 people were lost
and many were seriously injured.
This was one of thousands of
earthquakes experienced in the
region, starting on 4 September 2010.
Our communities were forever changed.
We remember:
Those who died,
Those who were hurt, and
Those who experienced loss.
We offer our thanks:
To those who came for us,
To those who risked their lives
for ours, and
To those who supported us.
Together we are stronger.

He rū whenua, he rū whakamoti i Ōtautahi
Ake i te 22 o Kahuru Kai paeka 2011.
185 ngā tāngata ka ngaro ki te pō, ā, he
tokomaha atu anō i whara.
He rū nui tēnei o ngā rū manomano
i rangona whānuitia i te takiwā, mai
i te tīmatanga o ēnei koringa katoa a
Rūaumoko i te 4 o Whitu 2010.
E kore a muri e hokia.
Ka maumaharatia:
Rātou i mate atu rā,
Rātou i pāmamae, otirā
Rātou i whai wheako pōkaikaha.
Ka mihia:
Rātou i whakapiri mai ki a tātou,
Rātou i tohu mai i a tātou,
ahakoa te mōrearea, otirā
Rātou i tautiaki mai i a tātou.
Tū kotahi tātou, e kore e hinga.


Kia atawhai ki te iwi
Care for the people.
Pita Te Hori, Upoko –
Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga, 1861.

Remembering those who were lost

The 185 people who lost their lives in the 22 February earthquake were in Christchurch either by chance or as a usual part of their daily lives. It was a busy time of the year for locals and visitors, and at 12.51pm on a fine summer’s day people were doing a range of things, such as working, studying, shopping, having lunch with friends, or walking.

The earthquake struck without warning and claimed the lives of people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. Almost half those who lost their lives in the city, suburbs and surrounds were from overseas – working, studying or holidaying here.

The losses experienced that day continue to affect people from the local community, throughout New Zealand and overseas.

People from all walks of life, life stages and places are remembered and it is this inclusiveness that we hope to share through the experience of the memorial. We acknowledge and remember those we lost and those whose lives were changed forever in the tragic events of that day.

In addition to the loss of life, more than 220 people were treated for major injuries at Christchurch Hospital, and about 6,500 people were treated for minor injuries.

Remembering those who provided support

Many of those injured were rescued or assisted by volunteers, and that selfless support for those impacted continued in the ensuing days and weeks. The coordinated efforts of groups like the Farmy Army and the Student Army – clearing liquefaction, providing meals and patching up damaged homes, for example – were matched by spontaneous acts of support by neighbours, friends and family.

Immediately following the earthquake, almost 600 emergency service personnel came to the city’s aid under the control of Civil Defence Emergency Management. Experts from around New Zealand were joined by international colleagues from Australia, United Kingdom, United States, Japan, Taiwan, China and Singapore.

The New Zealand Defence Force responded with its largest domestic operation, and various agencies provided humanitarian aid, including the New Zealand Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Remembering the broader impacts

The immediate trauma of the earthquake and the sequence of more than 11,000 aftershocks that continued for two years had a major psychological effect on the community. It is estimated that about 10,000 residents left Christchurch after the earthquake and the population did not return to pre-quake levels until 2016.

The severe damage to property has reshaped greater Christchurch. Large residential areas were ‘red zoned’ (deemed unsuitable for housing in the short-to-medium term) and cleared of more than 5000 homes, while the inner city has been redesigned with key precincts and anchor projects, based on the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan.

Damage to schools, churches, sport, community, cultural and other facilities also impacted the lives of Cantabrians. 

Kōhatu pounamu

A significant kōhatu pounamu (greenstone) at the memorial entrance indicates the importance of the memorial. It has been gifted by Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio (Ngai Tahu sub-tribe). There is an established Māori tradition of placing pounamu at important entranceways and thresholds, and the ritual of touching the stone connects visitors and locals back to the land and all those who have been there before us.

The pounamu was specially selected by Ngāi Tahu representatives in the South Westland mountains and airlifted out.

It has been mounted onto a plinth with a Carrara marble base. Ngāi Tahu master carver, Fayne Robinson, in consultation with memorial designer Greg Vezjak, crafted three designs that have been sandblasted into the marble base:

Kowhaiwhai whakairo: this represents male and female components and the presence of whanau, hapu and iwi. It depicts generational growth and represents life’s cycle of growth through the ‘piko’ or koru – the unfurling fronds of the fern.

Puhoro: this traditional design application of toi kowhaiwhai represents the passage or ara (path), acknowledging the way we were before 22 February 2011. It encompasses the ability for movement and reflection of both people and the adjacent river, Ōtākaro.

Te ngaru pae: secondary waves. These are depicted as seismic waves or quivers, and are horizontal and lesser in speed and impact than the primary wave. Traditional aspects of implied negative and positive spacing create a distinct contrasting outline and the ability to recognise a spiritual context which depicts the cycle of life and death.

Mirrored segments of the implied kowhaiwhai design reflect the pulse or heartbeat of the ru whenua (earthquake). This depicts the mauri (spiritual energy) and acknowledges that where there is death, there is life, and the importance to remember loss, reflect resilience and celebrate coming out of the dark (Te Po) and into the light (Te Ao Marama).

A water feature representing the mauri of wai (spirit energy of water) sprays water across the pounamu. The water will also accentuate the rich green colour of the pounamu.

Ngāi Tahu master carver, Fayne Robinson: “The pounamu mauri kōhatu enables a physical connection for visitors to experience, reflect and remember the loss of life, and the resilience of people, the natural environment and the importance of a Ngai Tahu visible presence in the memorial precinct.”

Over time, sunlight will warm and rain will wash the pounamu, and its appearance will change. It will remain a tangible and beautiful reminder of the deep connection between the land and its people.