An interment site for the victims of the February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake is at the Avonhead Park Cemetery.

The site was opened to the public on Wednesday 22 February 2012 on the first anniversary of the earthquake. On 22 February a Memorial Service is held at the Earthquake Interment Site.

The defined grassed circular area within the recent Avonhead Park Cemetery extension is dedicated to the interment site and provides a contemplative, restful area for families and visitors surrounded by established trees in a park like setting.

Find Avonhead Park Cemetery. (external link)

After considering all council cemeteries, Avonhead Park Cemetery was identified as the most appropriate due to its locality to the airport, available space, public transport and no liquefaction.

The location of the cemetery site and the design concept were developed with close consideration given to the families of the unfound victims. The proposal was also developed in consultation with Christchurch Police and the Office of the Chief Coroner.

The interment site is interdenominational and the design symbolises the Central City.

The design

The design of the interment site is intended to be simple and timeless, reflecting elements from the central city in a contemplative space.

The outer circle

This area consists of ash beams for use by all victims of the earthquake and their immediate families. In some cases families may choose to install a headstone or plaque even if the victim has been or will be interred elsewhere.

The beams are surrounded by white flower carpet roses (Rosa ‘Flower Carpet White’) and Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis), a deciduous Japanese tree which flowers in early spring. Both species have been used elsewhere in the cemetery.

The inner circle

The central feature is intended as a gift from the City to the four unfound victims and is the centrepiece of the design. It includes six granite plaques with the following text repeated in English, Filipino, Maori, Russian, Spanish and Braille.

Etched in our City’s memory, never to be forgotten. The City of Christchurch

Exposed aggregate paths flanked by Timaru bluestone entrance columns lead towards a Timaru bluestone plinth with a central Timaru bluestone feature.

This area is reserved for the four unfound victims and their spouses or partners.  Only one recumbent granite plaque per person may be attached to the existing bluestone recumbent.   No immediate family (including children) maybe be interred in this plot. An ash plot can be prepurchased on the outer circle for immediate family members (children, parents, grandparents).

Radiating out from the centre of the site is a stainless steel band identifying who the site is for. The band unifies the site in one location by encouraging someone entering from one of the four pathways to circle the site to read the text.

The people of Christchurch will forever remember the unfound victims

Radiating further out are four lawn segments with recessed Timaru bluestone beams. Each segment includes a seat where visitors can sit and contemplate.

One of the four lawn segments is a burial area for the unidentified remains. This is marked by a granite plaque which reads:

Interred here are unidentified remains recovered

Two of the four segments are commemorative areas for the unfound victims. Each victim will have a granite plaque attached to the recessed beam.

The four recessed Timaru bluestone beams are symbolic of the four avenues - Moorhouse Avenue, Rolleston Avenue, Bealey Avenue and Fitzgerald Avenue - surrounding the Central City of Christchurch which was severely damaged in the earthquake. The aggregate and Timaru bluestone plinth with a central Timaru bluestone feature is symbolic of Cathedral Square and the Cathedral itself. Timaru bluestone is found throughout the Port Hills area and the majority of heritage buildings in Christchurch were constructed using bluestone, which is quarried from Timaru.

Exposed aggregate and Timaru bluestone elements used throughout the central city have been used in the design and are softened with simple plantings of white and red flower carpet roses (Rosa ‘Flower Carpet White’ and Rosa ‘Flower Carpet Red’) and standard ‘Loving Memory’ roses (Rosa ‘Loving Memory’ Standard). Species have been chosen to ensure the site is abundantly colourful throughout the summer and into February. Red tulips and snow drops will follow in late autumn/ spring.

A hedge of Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) and Kobushi Magnolia (Magnolia kobus), a deciduous Japanese tree which flowers early spring, define the edge of the site and separate it from the wider cemetery area.