Sumner Surf Life Saving Club, Christchurch

What Christchurch did next

Chapter 5: The community connection

Pallet pavilion

Pallet Pavilion

“You can measure the strength of the community when disaster strikes. Our community spirit and resilience were phenomenal and they are days I’ll remember all of my life.”

Baden Ewart, Director – Former CCDU/CERA

During the months that followed the earthquakes, the depth of suffering affecting community groups became very apparent. People knew that infrastructure and essential services took priority initially, but it was also important to support community groups as soon as possible, so that residents could start to regain a sense of normality and had places to connect with others. Lianne Dalziel, Mayor – Christchurch City Council, says “It was extremely important to understand how other cities responded and recovered from disasters they encountered. People internationally were really open to help. I am actually overwhelmed at how much help people were willing to give.

“As a city our infrastructure is much stronger and we have processes in place to make sure we are checking that our buildings are safe after an aftershock or another earthquake. We are a much safer city than before.”

A pavilion of blue

With countless gaps in the city’s architecture, an innovative group decided to find ways to fill those gaps with temporary installations designed for the community. Out of this realisation, Gap Fillers was born.

Their first project, the Blue Pallet Pavilion, was a transitional architecture project built by volunteer power over six weeks in late 2012, and harnessed the goodwill of Christchurch residents and businesses to construct a new temporary events venue. Created by emerging designers, supported by established professionals, and built from loaned, reused and donated materials, including over 3 000 blue wooden pallets, it was a testament to the effectiveness of a collaborative and community-minded will and process.

Importantly, the Blue Pallet Pavilion helped to address the city’s need for new small-to-medium venues after the loss of demolished clubrooms and community halls. It also aimed to draw people back into the central city, supporting businesses and promoting it as a place for experimentation.

Rebuilding a community treasure

On June 2013, demolition of Christchurch’s Sumner Surf Life Saving Club was scheduled due to irreparable earthquake damage. The Club, which was founded in 1911, had been at its current site since the 1950s, overlooking a 400-metre stretch of golden sand lapped by waters that attract residents and tourists alike. Since the earthquakes, it had been operating from a portable cabin and a container.

Plans for a new pavilion were for a largely ground-level building with a patrol room above to give lifeguards an unobstructed 180-degree view of the beach. Aurecon surveyor and Club member Luke Keats, also a senior lifeguard, initiated the company’s planning, surveying, traffic, civil, water, geotechnical, structural engineering and building services support for this important community asset.

A sophisticated ground analysis was undertaken to check potential damage during future large earthquakes and associated risks. An innovative, cost-effective foundation solution that ensures resilience was adopted. This allowed the original site to be reused and the project accelerated in time for the 2016/17 summer patrols.

Luke first joined the club at age 15 and for him, the sight of the new clubhouse, which has always had lifesaving as its main focus, was a very welcome reminder of safe hands. The restoration means its continuation as an invaluable community facility base for the lifesaving patrols, which safeguard Sumner Beach in the busy summer months, and as a vital hub for local community groups and residents who use it for conferences, weddings, yoga and as a toy library.

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