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Scarves on Statues – William Sefton Moorhouse

[Previous instalments in the ‘Scarves on Statues’ series can be found here]

Christchurch. It’s hard to say anything on the subject without sounding patronising or clichéd. They have been through so much. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Their strength of spirit is an example to us all. They have had such a tough time. Kia kaha. Hang in there. The long road to recovery. They must be thoroughly sick to death of hearing all of it. All they want is for their lives to get back to normal but instead, on top of insurance companies and governments alike dragging their feet, they keep suffering setback after setback – the latest of course being the flooding that in the past couple of days has decimated many homes that had only just been repaired from the earthquake damage.

Someone who knew a thing or two about resilience was the second ever superintendent of Canterbury Province, William Sefton Moorhouse. His most famous achievement as a politician is considered to be the 2.6km Lyttleton Rail Tunnel, connecting Christchurch’s port with its population. A project he had to fight for every step of the way until the day the tunnel opened on 9 December 1869 when it became the first tunnel through an extinct volcano in the world.

Moorhouse encountered and saw off initial political opposition, the original contractor needing to be replaced due to financial difficulties, the subsequent discovery of more difficult than anticipated drilling conditions caused by dense rock and water, and skyrocketing costs necessitating international loans to be taken out in order to complete the job. At many points along the way, serious consideration was given to abandoning the project, but Moorhouse was determined to see it through to completion and he did.

The tunnel will turn 150 in a little under 6 years’ time, and is currently the oldest operational rail tunnel in New Zealand. Putting my patronising hat back on, let me say this. Resilience can be a real drag. But it does eventually pay off…


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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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