New Zealand: Area regaining its balance after deadly February quake, says ‘Amazing Race’ host

Special to the Los Angeles Times

The magnitude 6.3 quake that hit the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s South Island last month may have staggered its residents, but not for long, says one of its native sons.

“You can knock down a building, but you can’t knock down a Cantabrian,” says Phil Keoghan, host of CBS’ “Amazing Race,” who was born and raised just outside the city limits of Christchurch. “They’re going to dust themselves off and get back up again.”

Keoghan, whose parents own a bed and breakfast there, went home last week to check in with his mom and dad and friends in the area, which was also struck in September by a magnitude 7.2 quake.

The Feb. 22 aftershock to that quake was centered in Christchurch’s downtown business district. More than 160 people died, and the shaking destroyed the building that was Canterbury’s regional TV station. Christchurch Cathedral was severely damaged.


But, Keoghan says, “The damage was very much centralized to an area the size of Lower Manhattan.”

He hopes that quakes won’t deter visitors. “Tourism is vital to our economy,” he says, “and the rest of New Zealand is open for business, so people shouldn’t cancel trips. It would be like canceling a trip to Chicago because something happened in Denver.”

Despite remaining under a state of emergency, Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism reports that key tourist attractions have reopened, including the Air Force Museum, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the TranzAlpine train service.

If you can’t visit and want to help Christchurch recover, Keoghan suggests buying New Zealand wine and contributing to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.


“But planes, bus drivers -- all these people feed our economy. The best thing to do is come down and have a good time,” Keoghan says.