The worst of times bring out the best in us

Columns
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Our hearts and minds remain with those in Kaikōura, North Canterbury and South Marlborough affected by the November 14 earthquake. For those of us who experienced the September 2010 Greendale earthquake, it has brought back many memories of the frightening nature of these events but also of the strength of the human spirit and the resilience of our communities.

The people of Kaikōura and surrounding areas rallied around to help care for locals and stranded visitors alike and the local marae played an important role in helping house and feed displaced people in those first few days after the event.

The Government’s first priority was to ensure people in the worst affected areas received the immediate support and emergency supplies they needed and that people that needed to get out were evacuated.  The New Zealand Defence Force stepped up and enabled this to occur efficiently and without drama. The comments from those evacuated were overwhelmingly positive and appreciative of the help and support that they had received.

The damage is extensive but New Zealand is well placed to respond, and we are well-practised. We have been presented with yet another challenge but, as we have done previously, we will rise to that challenge and we will rebuild.

The message from the Government to those communities is that the rest of New Zealand is standing alongside you to provide whatever support you need in the coming weeks and months.

In terms of immediate financial support the Government acted quickly, announcing a $7.5 million wage subsidy package as an initial step to help businesses in the affected areas of Kaikoura, Cheviot, Waiau, Rotherham, Mount Lyford, and Ward.

The subsidy is modelled on previous support packages for small businesses after the Christchurch earthquakes. It is designed to give employers who experience a sudden big and sustained drop in revenue the confidence to retain their permanent staff while we all get more certainty on the future of the district’s key industries like tourism, hospitality and fisheries.

The Government has also announced a $5 million support package to help the primary sector in the region, including funding to help with repair of non-insurable assets such as bridges and water infrastructure and to mobilise skilled workers to help with farm recovery work.

An immediate advance payment of $1 million will support the Kaikoura District Council to cover the immediate costs of feeding and sheltering people.

The financial cost of the quakes will be significant but we will bear that. We have a strong, growing economy, our books are in order and our debt levels low, so we have the financial capacity to fix our broken infrastructure and to support our affected businesses and communities. We have been here before and we have overcome those challenges. We are stronger as a result, and we will do the same this time.

As a country, we are known for our resilience, our generosity, our commitment, and our willingness to pick ourselves up and carry on even in the most trying of times, and that is what we must do.