There was a special moment in Christchurch's earthquake recovery yesterday, as hundreds of University of Canterbury students marched through the city for their graduation, for the first time in nine years.
The time-honoured procession hasn’t been able to run ever since the quakes damaged the Christchurch Town Hall nine years ago.
It was clear just how much it meant to students and academic staff alike, as the march kicked off yesterday afternoon, with smiles on the faces of all 444 graduating law and commerce students attending.
The procession ran from the historical university site at the Christchurch Arts Centre, up Worcester Boulevard, along the Avon River and through Victoria Park before reaching the Town Hall.
University of Canterbury registrar Jeff Field says 83 per cent of students took the opportunity to graduate this year, making it the most well-attended in the university’s history.
“It's the first time we've used the energy of our campus back into the city since before the earthquakes, so [it’s] special from that point of view,” he says.
“When you've put in 3, 4, 5 years to actually get yourself to the point of the degree, being able to celebrate with an hour-and-a-half, two-hour ceremony is pretty meaningful.”
Students described the march as a “special experience” and “pretty exciting”, with one describing it as a “very humbling experience” to “walk through a city that's sort of come out of the ruins”.
The sound of an organ echoed across the room as the students filed into the Town Hall for the ceremony, following the building’s massive $167 million restoration, and parents proudly waved down from the top balcony.
University of Canterbury chancellor Susan McCormack took to the stage to congratulate the graduates on completing their years of study and “celebrate your achievements and hard work”.
Then, one by one, it was time for them to take their walk and accept their degrees, in the same way their predecessors had done in years gone by.
The occasion shows that while progress may be slow, Christchurch is finally starting to return to the city it once was.