Firie awe-struck on return to earthquake-hit Christchurch

MOUNTAINS of rubble confronted Stewart Lange when he arrived in Christchurch in 2011.

But what struck him more was the fact four years on, the city remains a construction zone.

Mr Lange returned to the destroyed city in March this year on a holiday and said the scenes that confronted him left him awe-struck.

"Karl (Noble) and I were there earlier this year, going to the fire station and seeing the boys there," he said.

"We walked to Latimer Square and just having a look at what is no longer actually there.

"Lots of the buildings that hadn't actually fallen over but were leaning over at the time are gone.

"They're still in demolition mode.

"There's still concrete cutting ... it's a massive construction site.

"That's one thing that got to us back there in March."

The New Zealand Government estimated the total Christchurch rebuild cost at more than $40 billion.

More than 10,000 homes required demolition and a further 100,000 needed repairs.

By October last year, 140,000 homes had been repaired or rebuilt.

Like his teammates, Mr Lange was humbled to receive the Australian Government Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal and the recognition for his service in New Zealand.

But it's the personal aspect of his mission that still hits home.

"It's good having received some recognition for what we did," Mr Lange said.

"But for us to be put in that situation, somebody has to suffer.

"So our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are affected by it.

"Bringing closure to family who are directly affected by these situations is really rewarding for us."