Work began Thursday on the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel and Ngai Tahu chairman Sir Mark Solomon marked the start of construction at a sod-turning ceremony on Thursday morning.

The first part of the memorial to be built is a reflective space on the north bank where people could look across the river to a memorial wall, which would be built into the south bank.

The work on the north bank was expected to be complete by Feb. 22 next year, and the entire memorial to be finished in time for an official dedication on the 6th anniversary of the deadly quake on Feb. 22, 2017.

The memorial design by Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak would be built at a cost of 11 million NZ dollars (7.22 million U.S. dollars) funded by central and local government sources.

Many of the 185 people killed in the 6.3-magnitude quake in February 2011 were from overseas. More than half the victims — 115 people — died in the collapse of the CTV building in central Christchurch.

“It is a special moment to see the construction under way after all of the planning and work with the various parties to reach a chosen design, including families of those who died, those injured in the February quake, and first responders.

I think it will be a fittingly simple and peaceful place for people to go and remember what we lost and what this city has been through,” Mr Brownlee said.