Majority of Canterbury schools reopen
Children at Canterbury's Southbridge School were able to return last Thursday (NZPA)
Most children will be able to return to school and preschool in Canterbury today, restoring at least some semblance of normality for young people just over a week after the region was struck by a major earthquake.
Nine schools will remain closed until later in the week, and two have suffered serious structural damage, but more than 200 schools will open.
Of the region's 388 early childhood education services, 358 are due to open.
"Principals, teachers and trustees deserve a huge amount of credit for making sure their schools will be open for students," said Education Minister Anne Tolley.
University of Canterbury students will return on Wednesday, although teaching will not start until next Monday. Students at Lincoln University and the University of Otago's Christchurch campus return today.
Essential services have been restored for most people, but the early morning magnitude 7.1 quake on September 4 and strong aftershocks have caused widespread damage and unsettled many residents.
Counselling will be offered to thousands of students, preschoolers, teachers and parents through Ministry of Education-backed workshops.
Organised by Save the Children and TelstraClear, the sessions will be run by facilitators trained in emergency and trauma response, providing simple messages, advice and resources to help create supportive environments for children, Save the Children NZ chief executive Liz Gibbs said.
The psychosocial support workshops are provided to children and their carers around the world by Save the Children in the aftermath of an emergency.
Many people will return to work today as well. Christchurch commuters have been urged to consider taking the bus, as many on-street carparks are out of action because of unstable buildings being fenced off.
Traffic will be slowed to 30km/h in the central city to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists, due to the footpaths and intersections that remain closed.
As of yesterday afternoon, 5639 buildings had been visited by the council's building evaluation team, with 3.3 percent deemed unsafe to enter.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has announced an appeal to save the city's heritage buildings, kick started with $1 million from Fletcher Building to help restore and repair character buildings damaged in the city's quake.
A heritage rebuilding group is also being set up.
He had heard some buildings had already been demolished without consent, and warned of penalties for such actions.
"We want to make sure that people aren't just going to be asking for consent to take buildings down because it's the most economic response," he told NZPA.
He had spoken to Prime Minister John Key about government cash for the fund, and also expected help from the Historic Places Trust and even overseas organisations like the National Trust in Britain.
He expected opposition from people wanting to get the CBD moving again, but said demolition was "short term".
A number of aftershocks beyond magnitude 4 have occurred today, with no further damage reported, and seismologists say they should continue to drop in size and number.
Meanwhile, elective surgery and other services will re-start at Canterbury hospitals on Tuesday. Burwood birthing unit remains closed, with mothers-to-be coming to Christchurch Women's Hospital.
Akaroa and Lincoln hospitals remain closed but all other hospitals are open, and nearly all GP practices and pharmacies have re-opened.
A new welfare centre has also opened at Cowles Stadium, to replace the one at Linwood College as the school prepares to re-open tomorrow. The centres are continuing to shelter significant numbers of people as authorities try to find more permanent accommodation for those with uninhabitable homes.
Local State of Emergency declarations remain in place in Christchurch City, Selwyn and Waimakariri districts.
Around 120 families in Kaiapoi and surrounding communities have been forced to leave their homes.
The small township has been restricted to residents only, after an influx of visitors last weekend taking photos of the damage forcing the mayor to ask people to stay away.