Dalziel opens up about trip to Japan for quake apology

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has broken her silence about travelling to Japan to apologise to families affected by the collapse of the CTV building in the 2011 earthquake.

After making a formal apology on Sunday to the families who lost loved ones when the building collapsed in the February 22, 2011, quake, she travelled to Japan to apologise to those living in Tokyo and Toyama who were affected by the tragedy.

Twenty-eight Japanese language students were among the 115 people killed when the six-storey building on Madras St collapsed.

Dalziel said she wanted to ensure the apologies were as "personal, private and respectful" as possible.

"I made it clear that neither I nor anyone else from Christchurch City Council would be responding to any media enquiries on this topic until after I had apologised to the bereaved families and those who were seriously injured, traumatised or affected by the earthquakes," she said.

"I felt this was the proper way to apologise and I still do."

She has now broken that silence in a statement released on Thursday

"Over the past few days I have met with many bereaved families and others personally affected by the impact of the 22 February, 2011, earthquake to offer a formal apology on behalf of the Christchurch City Council.

"At private events in Christchurch, Tokyo and Toyama, I have formally apologised to the bereaved families and to all those who were injured or traumatised as a result of the CTV building collapse and the collapse of the unreinforced masonry buildings that could have been better secured, or cordoned, on 22 February, 2011," Dalziel said on Thursday in a statement.

"I have had the opportunity to meet many families and to talk personally with them. It has been an emotional experience and one I will never forget.

"This apology is something many people have wanted to happen for nine years. Japanese families, for example, have written every year in the lead-up to the anniversary.

"I personally felt it was important that the apology did not become intertwined with the 10th anniversary of the earthquake.

"When 22 February, 2021, dawns I want the quake victims’ families to be able to focus solely on remembering those they lost and everything they meant to them.

"It is going to be a very significant day for them – an important milestone as some have said to me - and I do not want anything to detract from that.

"I am aware that not all of those injured or the quake victims’ families wanted this apology.

"Nothing that I say or do changes what happened on that day. Nothing will restore to them or anyone else what has been lost and I acknowledge that.

The first part of her apology related to the families of people who died and to the those who were injured when the unreinforced masonry buildings collapsed.

"I noted that people’s lives were saved when steps were taken to secure these earthquake-prone buildings or when sufficient cordons were in place.

"People died when these steps were not taken or the steps proved to be inadequate, and I apologised on behalf of the Christchurch City Council for that.

"Of the 185 people who died in the earthquake, 115 people were killed in the CTV building. Of them, 28 were Japanese and this is why I travelled to Japan.

"After acknowledging that the building permit for the CTV building was issued by the council under the bylaws that existed at the time, I apologised for the fact that the building was allowed to be constructed the way that it was. It should not have been.

"Many of the families wanted to know that steps had been taken to ensure that no other family had to go through the pain and grief that they have suffered."

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo: Newsline/CCC
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo: Newsline/CCC
Dalziel said it was important to give them an assurance the council has learnt from the experience.

"I highlighted some of the changes that have been made to improve building safety as a result of the earthquake, but there is still more work to be done.

"I want to stress that the apology that I have given has been made on behalf of the Christchurch City Council. It was unanimously supported by all councillors.

"We are all committed to ensuring the tragic events that occurred in our city are never repeated."

City councillors will also reconsider the findings of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission to ensure the lessons have been learned and embedded into law and practices.

"As a council, we are committed to continuing to advocate for further changes to be made to the law so no other town or city in New Zealand experiences the trauma and the loss of the life that Christchurch did on 22 February, 2011," Dalziel said.