Cantabrians an inspiration, Prince tells memorial service

8:07 pm on 18 March 2011

Prince William has told tens of thousands of people at the memorial service for victims of the Christchurch earthquake Cantabrians are an inspiration to all people.

More than 30,000 people are estimated to have streamed into Hagley Park for the service, on Friday.

Poignant tributes flowed at the two-hour service, which was punctuated with prayers, music and moving tributes to the quake's victims. The service included two videos, one showing the devastation in the city's centre and the other highlighting the rescue teams and the fundraising efforts.

A lone piper, Richard Hawke, played a lament for the dead and missing. Police have confirmed 166 deaths from the 22 February earthquake but say the number is likely to rise to 182.

Among those at the service were Prime Minister John Key, Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as well as His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales.

The service opened with a mihi whakatau by Ngai Tuahuriri, Ngai Tahu's principal hapu officiated by Henare Rakiihia, who spoke of the importance of a family tree that embraced all ethnic groups.

He described the "family of Christchurch" as the "family of the Universe", saying tragedy had unified the city.

Two minutes of silence was observed at 12.51pm, at the time the earthquake struck.

Leading the silence, the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, the Reverend Peter Beck, acknowledged the crowd, saying they were there because they loved and cared and had a deep, deep grief at the loss of so much.

"We reach out to the loved ones, we hold in our hearts those who have died", he said.

Prince William conveyed the Queen's message of deep sympathy and condolence, saying that his grandmother once said that grief is the price we pay for love.

"We honour the lives and memories of all those who did not survive the earthquake. New Zealanders and those from around the world who came to this city to visit or to make it their home.

"Courage and understated determination has always been the hallmark of New Zealanders, Cantabrians - these things the world has long known. But to see them so starkly demonstrated over these terrible, painful months has been humbling," he said.

Broken but not beaten - PM

Prime Minister John Key remembered those who had died and paid tribute to the resilience of Christchurch citizens, who he said have resisted despair and had the bravery to go on.

Mr Key said those at the service were the face of a city that was broken but not beaten.

He said those who died had become part of the wider New Zealand community and would be forever remembered.

He also paid tribute to the foreign nationals who died.

Mr Key said the country had rallied magnificently in the aftermath of the quake, and thanked emergency services and volunteers he said were working so hard to repair the infrastructure of Christchurch.

Mr Key said the city would be rebuilt, and it was important people learnt lessons from the quake.

He said the Royal Commission would hopefully provide answers about the toll the quake took on people and property.

Time of hope - Goff

Opposition leader Phil Goff said the people and city of Christchurch were changed forever on 22 February and nobody would forget the experience.

He said it was also a time of hope, born of the resilience and determination of Cantabrians to come through the disaster.

The city would rise again and homes would be rebuilt stronger and better than before, he said.

Mayor Bob Parker said the city owed it to those who had died, to rebuild a city of optimism.

He said the dreams of young people in particular had to be remembered and given meaning.

Musical contributions included Dave Dobbyn singing an acoustic version of his hit single, Loyal and Dame Malvina Major singing You'll Never Walk Alone. Hayley Westenra sang Amazing Grace.

A plane flew overhead with a banner reading "Rise up Chch."

The service included offerings by representatives of various faiths including Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu.

Footage shows devastation

Before the formal service began, Bob Parker introduced a 14-minute video filmed in parts of the city that most people cannot still reach.

He said the video would be, for many people, difficult to watch.

However, he said the images, more than any words, would convey what it has been like since the quake struck.

The video showed images of ruined buildings and wrecked motor cars with rubble and masonry on top of them.

Along with the images of destruction were the sounds of emergency services' sirens.

Ahead of the service, the crowd stood and clapped as members of the Urban Search and Rescue team arrived at Hagley Park.

A Radio New Zealand reporter there says the wave of appreciation spread right across the park, as people realised what the clapping was for.

Victims' families mourn

The brother of television presenter Donna Manning, who died in the collapsed CTV building, says it was important for the family to be at the service.

Maurice Gardiner says the family had been privileged to lay his sister to rest and the service was another part of the healing process.

Donna Manning was buried on Monday.

Mr Gardiner said his heart goes out to those who are still waiting for family to be identified.

Some people have decided not to attend the service because it is too upsetting.