The New Zealand prime minister said it had “been a hugely difficult decade for this city – at times I’m sure it’s felt impossible” but that she believed Christchurch was coming back.
“As we look ahead to the coming decade, I see hope and energy and optimism, and I see Christchurch taking its rightful place amongst New Zealand’s best and brightest cities,” she added.
Ms Ardern also said it was important to remember 87 of the victims were foreigners and that some of their families could not attend due to coronavirus travel rules.
“Our flags fly at half-mast for them today too,” she said.
The 6.3-magnitude quake struck Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-most populous city, at 12.51pm on 22 February, 2011.
During the commemoration on the banks of the Avon river, a silence was held at the same time. Emergency service workers and others took turns reading out the victims’ names.
Lianne Dalziel, the mayor of Christchurch, spoke about the 28 Japanese citizens who died, the largest number of victims from any country outside of New Zealand. Others from Australia, the US and China also died.
“We are forever connected by this tragedy and we do not forget you even when we are apart. You are with us in spirit,” she said.
Another who spoke at the service was Maan Alkaisi, a university professor who has spent years trying to compel authorities to press criminal charges against those who designed the CTV building, which collapsed during the tremors, killing 115 people including his wife, Maysoon Abbas.
A royal commission later found the building’s design was flawed and should never have been approved.
“Today commemorates 10 years of injustice and mistreatment,” Mr Alkaisi said.
“Today reminds us of our responsibility to make sure we learn from this tragic experience and honour those lovely people we lost by ensuring their dreams are kept alive, by ensuring this will not happen again.”
Thousands of buildings and homes in Christchurch were damaged by the earthquake, leading the government to embark on reconstruction schemes that continue a decade later. Much of the downtown district was destroyed.
Additional reporting by agencies