Once again the worst of circumstances brings out the best in New Zealanders.

The outpouring was more or less immediate in the wake of the 7.5 earthquake striking at 12.02am yesterday near Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury. Two confirmed deaths only hinted at the scale of devastation.

At first, the magnitude of the tremor spread the length of New Zealand. Tsunami warning sirens blared and texts brought cellphone screens alight along the eastern coastline. As the risk from the sea subsided, concern for ourselves swiftly moved to where the need was most.

The extent of the destruction took hours to flicker into view. The route for State Highway 1 along the Kaikoura Coast is a precarious sliver between towering slopes of loose schist and seas pounding rocky outcrops. The lines of communication here are tenuous and no match for yesterday's onslaught.


With mobile and land lines down, small towns such as Waiau, Culverden and Seddon were left to fend for themselves. At the Waiau School, a headcount quickly accounted for everyone despite the school swimming pool being destroyed, a war memorial lying shattered and a bell tower hanging off the main Anglican church building.

In Ward, which sustained some of the worst damage, about 80 people were taken into the Ward Community Centre. Larger centres such as Blenheim were also severed with roads wrecked and ferries cancelled.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett released a statement at 8.05am, when it was still too soon to get an accurate picture of the destruction, urging people to help each other wherever possible.

Throughout large and small communities, neighbours checked on neighbours. Tea was poured into mugs held by shaking hands and reassuring words uttered.

Beneath the majestic Southern Alps lies a terrible truth, something we have long known. The Pacific and Australian plates collide at the Kaikoura orogeny. The orogeny created these mountains but it has by no means finished.

By 9am, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority called off the NCEA chemistry exam scheduled for 9.30am. Far too many students could be affected by the events of the morning.

Shortly afterwards, Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers spokesman Nathan Currie announced farmers from neighbouring districts were ready to receive stock which couldn't be milked due to damaged sheds.

Make no mistake, we have among us a pernicious few who will seek personal gain when trouble strikes. But reports of thefts from evacuated properties were isolated and small in scale.


Multiplied many thousands times over, however, were the knocks on front doors and the concerned query: "Is everyone okay?"

New Zealanders dig deep when tragedy hits our own. Red Cross appeals for the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes collectively raised $111 million.

More so, we reach deep into our hearts.

By midday, 12 hours and more than 100 aftershocks later, the audience turning to nzherald.co.nz was still twice as high as a normal Monday. The world was watching and, for the most part, it was witnessing how we come together in the face of nature's force.

Last night, the support centre at the Waiau School was having a cook-up to feed everyone.

Scientists investigating the mechanics of the earthquake say the Hanmer blow faulted in the same way the February 22, 2011, Christchurch earthquake did.


So too, our communities will respond in similar fashion.

The bonds we share as we cling to these destructive tectonic plates and volatile volcanic fields cannot be so easily torn apart.