Why the big pile in the forest? : The question of demolition in post-quake Canterbury

This piece was written by Juliet Arnott for the book Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch, which was published by Freerange Press in August 2014. This important book offers the first substantial critique of the Government’s recovery plan for Christchurch, presents alternative approaches to city-building and archives a vital and extraordinary time.

New Zealand has to rebuild the majority of its second-largest city after a devastating series of earthquakes – a unique challenge for a developed country in the twenty-first century. The earthquakes fundamentally disrupted the conventions by which the people of Christchurch lived. The exhausting and exhilarating mix of distress, uncertainty, creativity, opportunities, divergent opinions and competing priorities generates an inevitable question: how do we know if the right decisions are being made?

Once in a Lifetime brings together a range of national and international perspectives on city-building and post-disaster urban recovery.


  • Foreword by Helen Clark (former New Zealand Prime Minister and UNDP Administrator)
  • 55 written essays from a range of contributors including Kevin McCloud, Rebecca Macfie, Sally Blundell, Raf Manji, journalists, economists, designers, academics, publicans and more
  • 39 visual essays that document community, business and  government responses to Christchurch’s recovery.

Edited by Barnaby Bennett, James Dann, Emma Johnson and Ryan Reynolds 

http://onceinalifetime.org.nz/ for more information and to purchase the book.

Juliet's article 'Why the big pile in the forest? : The question of demolition in post-quake Canterbury' is here.