Kaikoura rural residents left out, frustration after earthquake boils over

By Sarah Harris

Rural residents are frustrated at being forgotten almost a week after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake shattered Kaikoura.

Hapuku man John Newell is outraged with how long it had taken to get relief to his small rural town, which is just north of Kaikoura. It was six days before anybody checked on him and he said no one had been given food parcels.

He said it felt like the response you would expect from a third world country.

"I understand the earthquake is going to be a bit of a shimozzle but you'd expect they'd get troops in and walk to every house if need be."

When the quake first happened Newell gave away 200L of diesel expecting more would be delivered to the town soon. But diesel rations of 20L per person have limited the amount he can drive around and help his friends.

He said rural people are pretty good at looking after themselves up to a certain point, but it's getting to the stage where they really need food and fuel.

Hapuku resident Kathy Thompson agrees. She was disappointed help hadn't reached their community earlier today. So she told Red Cross they needed a community meeting this morning, within an hour a notice had gone out for everyone to meet at 4pm.

Thompson hopes to open Hapuku School from Monday as a drop off point where people can get food parcels and information. She said many locals have no water, no diesel and will soon have no food.

"Rural people are really feeling it a few days on."

One of Thompson's key worries is that the 150m high Hapuku dam will burst as her 100-year-old house lies right next to the river.

"If it really pours, if that happens we'll have some scared people."

Civil Defence controller John Mackie briefs the residents of Hapuku, near Kaikoura, today. Photo / Alan Gibson
Civil Defence controller John Mackie briefs the residents of Hapuku, near Kaikoura, today. Photo / Alan Gibson

GNS Science principal scientist Kelvin Berryman wanted to allay resident's fears about the dam that formed as a result of earthquakes at today's community meeting. Civil Defence warned residents the dam could burst earlier in the week flooding some of their properties.

But Berryman said the dam had been inspected and doesn't pose an immediate threat. The fine weather forecast means it will take a long time to fill up and is unlikely to burst in an uncontrolled flood.

Civil Defence spokesman John Mackie said if the dam did burst the water would likely be contained to the floodplain. However it is a good idea to make a plan to get to higher ground as a precaution.

A large proportion of the mains water supply has been restored to Kaikoura township, but it is still in a fragile state and may be intermittent for some time, said Mackie.

"There is a limited supply at the reservoir, so we're still asking people to conserve water and make sure the valve to their toilets is turned off. And if there is a leak anywhere, please turn the water off at the street and get a plumber in."

Mackie wants to emphasise that nobody should flush their toilet, even if they have water, as the sewage system has been severely damaged. If anyone uses their toilet, the system won't be able to cope and it could spill into the sea.

Liquor store owner Rahul Bhandari has owned his shop for four years after he moved to Kaikoura after the Christchurch earthquake.

He saw the devastation inside his shop for the first time on Thursday and thought over $10,000 worth of alcohol must have smashed. Amongst the usual beers and wines were some big ticket items like two 4.5L bottles of whiskey with a combined value of $650.

"I've got a messy one."

Rahul Bhandari amongst the dozens of destroyed bottles of alcohol in his bottle store located in the main street of Kaikoura. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Alan Gibson.
Rahul Bhandari amongst the dozens of destroyed bottles of alcohol in his bottle store located in the main street of Kaikoura. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Alan Gibson.

Some locals were seen buying alcohol to help calm their nerves and help them get to sleep at night.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray was holidaying in Nelson when the earthquake struck but he managed to find his way back to Kaikoura before 7am after he waved a passing helicopter down.

"Since then we've been under the pump."

He said it was crucial to get the 600 tourists out and the last of them had been evacuated today leaving behind hundreds of rental vehicles. Now the town can shift fully into recovery mode.

Main Power spokesman Geoff Gale said 7000 customers lost power the night of the quake, by the end of the day 2000 were without power. Today 340 remained without electricity.

"For every one of those 340 we're doing everything we can to get it restored."

He advised that unsafe houses were a key reason why power may not be connected to a house even if it is available. People can call 0508 60 70 80 to find out more. He also asked people not to plug generators into wall sockets as it feeds back into the system and can cause havoc when the power is turned back on.

Gale said you can't see, smell or taste electricity "but if you touch it it will kill you", so be very careful.

The Fire Service has executed a complete fire ban on the region as they don't have spare resources to put out fires. Lighting fires indoors can be risky as the earthquake may have caused damage to the chimney's interior. Firefighters put out at least one roof fire this week from this cause.

Weary residents of Hapuku listen as Kaikoura mayor Winston Gray briefs them today on the relief operation. Photo / Alan Gibson
Weary residents of Hapuku listen as Kaikoura mayor Winston Gray briefs them today on the relief operation. Photo / Alan Gibson

A medical centre spokeswoman said she is getting patients who are extremely tired or who have neglected injuries from the quake. She wants people to come in sooner rather than letting it get worse.

Mackie said the slip risk to Inland Rd is still extreme and NZTA have taken control of the road which means they'll pick up 100 per cent of the cost.

Gray told the Hapuku community meeting to "hang in there, it's tough" as a vast amount of support comes in.

"We have our good days and our bad days."


The facts

•Free healthcare is being given by Kaikoura Health Te Ha o Te Ora. Call (03) 319 3500 to make an appointment.

•Anyone with gastro symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea, should stay home and phone their own GP team or the nurse at Kaikoura Health for advice. If you have norovirus, a particularly contagious gastro bug, it's easily spread from person to person, so it's important to isolate yourself as much as possible - and definitely keep out of the kitchen.

•Takahanga Marae is no longer the distribution centre. People can be fed and get food parcels from Kaikoura Primary School for assistance from the Red Cross.
A New Zealand Defence Force convoy of 27 vehicles arrived in Kaikoura yesterday bringing 7,320 litres of diesel and 1,540 litres of petrol, 10,000 litres of potable water and nine Army soldiers who will cater for the 250 patients at Kaikoura Hospital.

•The HMNZS Canterbury offloaded 216 tonnes of aid supplies brought from Lyttelton.

•The NZDF has mobilised about 560 personnel, at least 11 aircraft and four ships to support the Government's earthquake response.

•Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups are currently not accepting generous offers of donated goods.

•The Navy has brought in supplies of disinfectant for water that can be picked up in town. Use five drops to every litre to make water safe to drink.

•The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management will give the Kaikoura District Council $1 million in earthquake emergency funding.

•Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith is setting up an office in the town next week.

•The inland road remains closed to the public.

• Businesses in quake-affected regions will get $500/week for every full time employee and $300/week for every part time employee for eight weeks. Only businesses with less than 20 employees are eligible.

- NZ Herald

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