Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Christchurch earthquake: Offers of help overwhelming NGOs

A Red Cross worker takes a nap on Wednesday afternoon at the Civil Defence Emergency Centre at Hagley Park. Photo/ Greg Bowker
A Red Cross worker takes a nap on Wednesday afternoon at the Civil Defence Emergency Centre at Hagley Park. Photo/ Greg Bowker

Overwhelming offers of help for Christchurch are impeding the systems of non-government organisations trying to help there, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

She hooked up today with heads of major NGOs in a conference call along with Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English.

Participants in the conference call included the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Barnados, Relationship Services, Women's Refuge and Presbyterian Social Support.

Paula Bennett said one of the common issues facing the NGOs was that their attention was being diverted from what they wanted to do by the overwhelming offers of help.

The response of people wanting to help was understandable.

"Although it is greatly received, it is clogging up emails and phones and they just haven't got the means right now to co-ordinate it," she told nzherald.co.nz.

"There is just such an immediate response that needs to be done that although they are really grateful it needs to be co-ordinated a little bit better.

"The reality is right now we need to deal with the really real, immediate need and stay focused on that."

If people used the earthquake help email address more, earthquakehelp@msd.govt.nz, it would be very helpful.

Cabinet colleague Minister Hekia Parata has been given responsibility for co-ordinating assistance to earthquake in centres outside of Christchurch.

The NGOs were also concerned that with many of their own offices damaged, they needed alternative bases but businesses had snapped up vacant office space in Christchurch.

Paula Bennett said they were looking at finding them space.

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