Actress mucks in to repay earthquake-hit Christchurch's kindness

By Jarrod Booker

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Miriama Smith (with students Amanda Thomas and Annabel Martin) helping out after the earthquake in Brooklands, near Christchurch, yesterday. Photo / Alan Gibson.
Miriama Smith (with students Amanda Thomas and Annabel Martin) helping out after the earthquake in Brooklands, near Christchurch, yesterday. Photo / Alan Gibson.

We've watched her dancing for charity and caring for the sick on television, and now actress Miriama Smith is getting her hands dirty to help out earthquake-hit Canterbury.

Rotorua-born Smith, who has starred in Shortland Street as Nurse Awhina Broughton and competed in Dancing with the Stars, has come to Christchurch to "muck in" with other volunteers.

The 34-year-old insists it is not a publicity stunt, but a way to repay a city that has been good to her. She spent three months in Christchurch last year filming "and I felt really close to the communities here".

"So when I heard about the earthquake, and I was watching the news, it really shocked me. And then when the aftershocks happened, and there was a lot of disturbing footage of families being driven out of their homes and things, I just thought, 'I need to offer my help in some way'."

Smith tried to contact authorities in Christchurch about how she could help best, but found the city officials in "lockdown mode". She got on a plane anyway, and when she arrived on Sunday morning, she had a contact for organiser Sam Johnson, who had been rallying students on Facebook to help in the earthquake recovery.

Mr Johnson picked her up at the airport and she was soon on her way to Kaiapoi, a severely damaged township just north of Christchurch.

"And we were digging [around] sewer pipes ... in case some had been cracked or had moved in the quake."

Yesterday, Smith was digging up silt and "lifting up rotten wet carpet" in the village of Brooklands, on the outskirts of Christchurch.

"I've met so many lovely people, and the majority of them have been absolutely humble and really stoked that we care.

"Another reason I came down was I wanted the communities to know that people in Auckland, and people out of Christchurch, are really hit by this as well, and they are affected by it and they do care."

Smith said she was open to publicity of her work in Christchurch - "whatever creates more awareness".

"I couldn't get on the plane to Samoa [after the tsunami] as easily. But there's no excuse for me not to come to Christchurch when the flights are that cheap and I had the time off."

She plans to return to Auckland today.

- NZ Herald

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