As we listened anxiously to the weather warnings last Thursday evening, my wife and I went through a familiar routine.
Living as we do on the Eastern Bay of Plenty coast, just above the beach, we are used to the dangers that attend those "exposed" areas that are especially vulnerable to high winds and heavy rain – both of which were promised us in spades by the weather forecasters.
So, we moved all our outdoor furniture to positions that would ensure, we hoped, that even if they were picked up by the gale-force winds they would not be hurled through a window.
I cleared the drains in the hope that they would be adequate to divert the waterfall that would surge down our drive so that it would not flood our garage.
And I checked that my chainsaw was in working order and would be up to removing from our drive the tree trunks and branches brought down by the wind and threatening to block access to our property.
Most importantly, we checked that we had matches, candles, torches and batteries in the event of a power cut – almost an inevitability in rough weather – and that we had enough bottled gas to fire up the barbecue so that we could cook – or at least make a cup of tea.
But as we went through our checklist, I remarked to my wife that the people I felt sorry for, as we and they waited for the storm to hit, were those emergency workers who would know for a certainty that their evening and night were going to be disrupted by call-outs, and that they would have to leave the comfort of the family hearth and go out into the foul weather.
I was thinking of course of the firefighters who, by virtue of their expertise in using long ladders, seem to be the first port of call to resolve almost any problem – from a roof blowing off to a pet getting stranded.
And then there are the electricity line workers, struggling to identify and then to rectify the problem that might have left thousands without light or heat or the ability to cook.
And spare a thought for the hard-pressed call staff, having to be polite as stressed callers insist on an explanation and a prediction as to when power will be restored, even when the technicians themselves are still searching for answers.
And never forget the ambulance staff and the police whose normal workload is usually trebled by the manifold accidents that inevitably attend severe weather.
We, the public, are a demanding and often ungrateful lot (as will testify anyone who has ever had occasion to deal with "the public" at first hand) and most of those who undertake these difficult tasks get precious little by way of thanks in return.
So, as I spent Friday morning clearing up the mess, looking in wonder at the mountainous seas that – driven by the super moon's king tide – were obliterating our beach, and wondering what worse is yet to come, I was grateful that I, like many others, can rely on being able to call for help when it is needed.
It is good to live in a society that is sufficiently well-organised and caring to make provision for coming to our aid when our own efforts alone are not enough.
These services cost money, of course, and probably more than is actually made available – and they are only the tip of the iceberg since, by virtue of their importance in emergency situations, they have a higher visibility than other services.
Behind them, though, are many other public services that have a less high profile, but are equally important, in less stressful situations, in helping us to overcome life's problems.
The resources needed to maintain these services have to come from somewhere.
A moment's thought will tell us from where – from the bills and taxes we pay.
The next time we grumble about paying our taxes or our bills to public utilities, let us reflect that some of our fellow citizens are ready to go out on a cold, wet, miserable and dangerous night and will then use the resources that we help to fund so as to help us through our difficulties.
Well done them!