Christchurch earthquake: Recovery could take years

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Workers making emergency repairs to a building after the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Greg Bowker
Workers making emergency repairs to a building after the Christchurch earthquake. Photo / Greg Bowker

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says Christchurch will take years to recover from last week's devastating earthquake.

In an interview on Q&A, he said "an enormous amount" of progress had been made in a very short time.

"The city got reconnected very quickly to water, sewerage and power ... and daily lives can continue for the overwhelming majority of the city."

But he said where temporary fixes were enacted in certain areas, it would be necessary to go back and implement long-term solutions - "and that's where it will take years".

Mr Brownlee said people might not see an end to the the disruption for years.

He also said it was important to be patient and to ensure every safety precaution was taken along the way.

Aftershocks fewer and further between

Civil Defence Director John Hamilton said the frequency and magnitude of aftershocks in the Canterbury region were continuing to decrease.

According to the GNS website, there have been two aftershocks of more than magnitude 4 since 6am today.

Mr Hamilton said the majority of public services across Canterbury were now operating at normal or near normal levels and most schools were opening tomorrow.

Cathedral service

About 400 people today gathered in Christchurch's Cathedral Square for the Cathedral's first mass since last Saturday's earthquake.

The Cathedral itself is off limits to the public until the risk of aftershocks has eased but Dean Peter Beck said he felt having the multi-denominational Sunday mass was important to the community.

He said the cathedral stood strong and firm, just like the people of Christchurch.

Dean Beck told nzherald.co.nz news of the service had been well received and people from outside the Cathedral's own community had participated.

"People, once they've known about it in the last few days, have been saying: 'Really glad - time to come into the heart of the city and to say this city's heart is strong. We're all strong and resolute in the midst of this tragedy that we've all been through.'"

Moral support

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker earlier told Newstalk ZB moral support would become increasingly important as the media glare shifted from his city.

"Ongoing moral support is probably one of the most positive things people can do for us down here," he said.

Governor-General to visit

The Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Susan Satyanand, will visit Canterbury tomorrow to support and encourage those affected by the earthquake.

Sir Anand said he had been shocked by the devastation wrought by last Saturday morning's earthquake and was keen to personally offer his support, including hosting a BBQ at Selwyn District Council Headquarters for volunteers.

"With the region continuing to experience aftershocks, many Canterbury people are naturally worried for the future. Even so, the strength and resilience of the community is impressive."

Sir Anand praised the combined work of central and local government, civil defence, the emergency services and community groups who are doing their utmost to help the people of Canterbury find their feet.

"As people now steel themselves for recovery and rehabilitation, and progress emerges, Susan and I look forward to coming to Canterbury to lend our support in that regard."

Public volunteers

Civil Defence Headquarters said it has received an overwhelming response from the public volunteering their services after the earthquake.

Civil Defence Controller, Peter Mitchell said today: "While we're extremely grateful for these offers and are making use of them where possible, we don't currently have the resources to get back to everyone.

"If you don't hear back from us, please assume further assistance is not required at this time."

The region continued to be hit by aftershocks today, including one of 4.6 magnitude at 6am, but there have been no immediate reports of reports of any further damage.

Messages of support

Mr Parker said today the well wishes from around New Zealand and the world had been an immense encouragement.

He said he had had messages of support from mayors throughout the country.

"We've also had messages from our sister cities of Wuhan, Gansu, Seoul, Christchurch, England, and Seattle, and from the French and Korean Ambassadors.

"The Great Wine Capitals Global Network has also sent support, including from Porto, Portugal, Bordeaux, France, Cape Winelands and South Africa.

He said that he would like to say thank you for the generous financial support amounting to millions of dollars.

Patrols to stop looters

Police and armed forces have stepped up their presence in some of the worst affected areas of Christchurch after incidents of looting and disorderly behaviour.

Acting Canterbury District Commander, Detective Inspector Peter Read, said an additional 10 patrols made up of police and soldiers, were out on the streets.

"These patrols consist of a mixture of foot and vehicle patrols combined with static checkpoints and are all about giving the residents of some of our more vulnerable areas peace of mind.

"It appears to be having the desired effect with residents speaking to our patrols giving very positive feedback about their presence."

Mr Read said the majority of checkpoints and cordons had been lifted around the CBD allowing freedom of movement around the City.

But anyone seeking to take advantage of the lessening of restrictions was warned to think again.

"In addition to our normal staffing levels additional staff are maintaining mobile and static patrols in the Bexley, Kaiapoi, Brooklands, Spencerville, Burwood, Sydenham, and Knox Church areas.

"These patrols are comprised of a mixture of Defence personnel, local Police and recently arrived Waikato officers who replaced their Wellington colleagues yesterday."

Police in the central City reported a fairly normal Saturday night with about 31 arrests and about 100 people processed city-wide for mostly disorder, breach of liquor ban and disorder offences.

- NZPA and NZ HERALD STAFF

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