Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has compared the devastation in Christchurch with that in Haiti following last year's magnitude 7 quake there, saying the life has been squeezed out of the city.
Ms Clark, who is now the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in New York, visited the worst-effected areas of Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.
She says her heart goes out to to the people of Christchurch.
Ms Clark mentioned the eerie quiet, and says the collapsed Pyne Gould building reminded her of a building in Haiti that killed some UN workers when it fell.
About 300,000 people were killed in the Haiti quake on 12 January 2010.
Ms Clark says rebuilding Christchurch is a job beyond imagination, and will require tremendous vision to see the way ahead.
Describing the rescue and recovery operation as first-class, she says Christchurch faces a long, hard road ahead but will stand again.
She sees no need for UN involvement in the long term, because New Zealand, she says, is strong enough to rebuild itself.