John Key: Proud of resilience, but recovery will take time

By Prime Minister, John Key

I'm immensely proud of the way local communities and support services have operated since the devastating South Island earthquake.

I visited Kaikoura twice last week where I met local people, and saw first-hand the damage the quake had caused.

I also spoke to a number of tourists and couldn't find anyone who wasn't happy about the way they've been treated and the support they've received.

A guy from Finland told me he'd only been in New Zealand for four days and he'd been fed three times a day, had somewhere to live, and people had been amazingly kind to him.

The local marae had provided 7000 meals by Wednesday.

People have their own lives and families to care for, but often they have prioritised visitors to Kaikoura. That's a testament to the sort of people in our country.

The support services - the Police, Civil Defence, St Johns, the Fire Service and our Defence Forces, have also been incredible. Men and women who have left their homes and families to come to the rescue of others.

Communities have also showed tremendous resilience. While I was in Kaikoura, people had lots of questions for me, but no one had complaints. They accepted we were all trying to cope with a very difficult situation.

A lot of practical questions are being asked by Kaikoura locals.

What happens if their business premises are damaged and they need to move somewhere else? What sort of support is there to keep their staff and their business going? How quickly would the roads reopen?

We understand their vulnerability because Kaikoura relies on tourism. So all these things could have a significant impact on people's livelihood.

We also understand the emotional pressure and stress that come with earthquakes.

Aftershocks put a lot of pressure on people's nerves and their ability to cope and move on.

It's important to say if you're feeling vulnerable or under pressure. Everybody reacts in a different way - some people are really terrified by earthquakes and they feel alone and on edge the whole time, because the earthquakes are so unpredictable.

Prime Minister John Key with former All Black captain Richie McCaw during his visit to Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell. R
Prime Minister John Key with former All Black captain Richie McCaw during his visit to Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell. R

One thing we found in Christchurch was an increase in the need for mental health services, counselling and support. It's important people know there are people to talk to.

We also need to keep an eye on older New Zealanders because they're often alone and sometimes isolated, and might be reluctant to ask for help.

The response so far has focused on getting tourists out of Kaikoura, and we are looking at what can be done to restore infrastructure services - electricity, water, sewerage, roading and telecommunications.

The Government has announced a support package for quake-affected small business, which will help those companies most disrupted by this week's earthquakes to keep their staff while the district recovers.

We have also announced a package to help the primary sector.

We will do all we can to help the people of the Kaikoura district and surrounding areas get back on their feet.

Huge slips, caused by the 7.5 earthquake, blocking State Highway One north of Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Huge slips, caused by the 7.5 earthquake, blocking State Highway One north of Kaikoura. Photo / Mark Mitchell

In Wellington we need to ask why some buildings have failed. And we will do that.

How much will the recovery and rebuild cost? It's really too early to say.

One of the things we learned from Christchurch is that damage can take time to identify.

We're seeing that in Wellington. On day one, the CBD was closed and people thought there wasn't a lot of damage. But as buildings have been assessed it's turned out some have in fact been damaged, and a small number quite significantly.

People should take great confidence in the fact that the economy is in good shape, the Government's books are in good order and we have the capacity to deal with this earthquake.

We'll need to put things back together again, and we will.

- NZ Herald

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