This promotional travelogue, made for the Christchurch City Council, shows off the city and its environs. Filmed at a time when New Zealand’s post-war economy was booming as it continued its role as a farmyard for the “Old Country”, it depicts Christchurch as a prosperous city, confident in its green and pleasant self-image as a “better Britain” (as James Belich coined NZ’s relationship to England), and architecturally dominated by its cathedrals, churches and schools. Many of these buildings were severely damaged or destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
This documentary follows the fight to save Christchurch’s “other” earthquake damaged cathedral, the Roman Catholic basilica. A team led by a heritage consultant and a structural engineer struggles to keep pace with fresh damage inflicted on the basilica by ongoing quakes. Drones and a Defence Force robot aid investigations into the interior of the now dangerous building. There are hard questions about the venture’s costs. But, as parishioners tell their stories, there’s also reminders that the basilica isn’t just an architectural treasure — it has been the heart of a community.