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

Audrey Young: At least the office didn't drop into the pool

People take refuge under tables at Wellington Airport during the quake. Photo / Greg Bowker
People take refuge under tables at Wellington Airport during the quake. Photo / Greg Bowker

I was waiting for Patrick Gower to send us the latest political poll results to see if Labour's "man-ban" debacle had had any impact.

The Press Gallery sits alongside the Beehive and all I can say is, thank God for Stalinist architecture.

It's a long, skinny, two-storeyed building, unattractive, solid concrete, with small impractical windows. No chance of it toppling over. The Treasury could topple on to us but it is built like the proverbial brick s*** house.

The most scary thing about our offices is the prospect of the floors opening up and dropping us into the parliamentary swimming pool below.

Several times yesterday afternoon we had rushed to our respective doorways, Felix from Newstalk ZB, Jane from Radio New Zealand, Andrea from Fairfax and me, wondering if this was a big one (we hunt as a pack, we panic as a pack).

Just after 5pm we wondered no more. We dived to our positions under the door frames. The photos lining the gallery corridor swung back and forth on their strings.

This quake was harder, louder and longer than any of us had ever felt. There was a lot of swearing, a lot of Oh-my-Gods and fast-beating hearts.

The box marked Winston Peters and Owen Glenn came flying off the shelf in the Herald office, along with David McGee's Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand and many other files.

At least the floor didn't open up and throw us into the pool.

We headed out to the safety of the open space on the parliamentary forecourt, where a few security guards and members of the public had gathered. Gail Keoghan and her 8-year-old son, Callum, had just rushed up from the waterfront. The dock she'd been standing on was swaying.

People had been yelling to run for higher ground. They had headed to Parliament from Lambton Quay, where broken glass from some older buildings littered the streets.

Gail is from Nelson and tears welled up at the prospect of having to spend another night in her Wellington hotel.

She had been frightened enough by the five-point-something quake on Friday. Now she wishes she had gone home.

She found some solace from a couple from the Kate Sheppard apartments who managed to take a couple of iPhone pics of their living-room chaos before heading across to the safety of Parliament Grounds.

Paddy Gower emailed the poll results out under embargo at 5.30pm but I decided to follow the sirens up Molesworth and into Aitken St.


Down the end, dozens of people in the seven-storey apartment block above the Subway outlet had been evacuated. The quake had ruptured pipes and water was pouring down into Subway like a waterfall.

I bumped into a couple of other Herald reporters out chasing stories and headed back to the gallery to contemplate how the quake would affect events this week - whether John Key's trip to Korea would be in doubt. He cancelled his trip to Europe in September 2010 after the first Christchurch earthquake, in which no lives were lost.

- NZ Herald

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

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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