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'Best day ever' - Christchurch's Redcliffs School officially opens, nine years after earthquake closure

Emotions ran high at Te Raekura Redcliffs School’s opening today, nine years to the month after an earthquake forced its closure.

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A crowd of 600 people gathered as Jacinda Ardern joined principal Rose McInerney to officially open the school. Source: 1 NEWS

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined Principal Rose McInerney to officially open the school, with a crowd of 600 people watching on in the school's new hall.

Ms McInerney declared it the, “best day ever … and I am loving sharing it with you.”

Also present were Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson, and local musician Dave Dobbyn.

Ms McInerney described Ms Dalziel and Ms Dyson as “leaders who understand the importance of community”, and noted that Dobbyn’s music “has lifted our spirits and stayed in our heart when the going got tough”.

Dobbyn, with 210 tamariki as back-up vocalists, sang Welcome Home, Loyal and Slice of Heaven to help mark the school’s return to a full-time facility.

But according to two student MCs, it was the so-called “leader our whole world wants” who stole the show.

Ms Ardern used her time to remind the students: “You are the reason that this happened, so please remember that,” admitting that she too, had succumbed to the emotions that were running rampant through the crowd."

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Christchurch's Redcliffs School, displaced by 2011 earthquakes, finally returns home today

More than a third of the crowd was made up of smiling tamariki, excitedly welcoming the party with a karanga shortly after 11:40am.

However, the journey for Te Raekura Redcliffs School hasn’t been all smiles.

The Redcliffs area was devastated by the February 2011 earthquake, but it was a magnitude 6.0 aftershock in June 2011 which forced the school’s closure, amid fears that the nearby cliff had grown unstable.

What was meant to be a short-term move to Sumner’s Van Asch Deaf Education Centre lasted the remainder of the decade, during which time an outright closure was floated.

In response, the Ready to Return campaign was started.

The ensuing community backlash and outpouring of support for a new facility was instrumental in returning the school to its own grounds.

Te Raekura Redcliffs School now stands on the former Redcliffs Park, with the Christchurch City Council agreeing to swap the property with the Ministry of Education in September 2017.

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In exchange the council gets the old school site, to turn into a new park. Source: 1 NEWS

That history recognised as the school showed a story by 1 NEWS reporter Lisa Davies over their data projector, detailing the day the school’s redevelopment was announced.

“Our school is not made by the buildings, but by the people,” said one student leader.

Before leaving, the Prime Minister and Ms Dyson joined in the planting and blessing of a tree.

Ms Dyson scored plenty of applause for her ongoing championing of the school, which she described as the most important part of her political career.

Gratitude was given left, right, and centre today, but most importantly, Ms McInerney wanted to give thanks to the Redcliffs community.

“You are the small seaside village, who never gave up.”