Like so many of you I have been struggling over recent days to comprehend the incomprehensible. The unspeakable act of violence on Friday 15th March which tore families apart in Christchurch has ripped through the hearts of all New Zealanders.
This a region which has suffered the loss of many lives during the catastrophic February 22nd earthquake and shed many tears at the cruelty of a natural disaster. Now we have experienced the kind of violence and cruelty which we previously used to worry friends and family travelling overseas may get caught up in, here in our own backyard.
I know that many people in Selwyn will have family, friends and colleagues who have been directly affected by this atrocity. As your local Member of Parliament, I am here to provide support and advice to those in need.
As National Party leader Simon Bridges has rightly stated, now is not a time for politics. It is a time for grieving, and we commend Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for the dignified way she has handled this tragedy. She has provided comfort to families of those killed or injured in the two mosque attacks, and allowed other political leaders to do the same.
On Saturday following the attacks I visited the Christchurch Migrant Centre with the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and other senior political leaders and I also spent several hours with the friends and families of those affected.
But for all of us, it’s hard to escape a sense of helplessness. As much as we might try, nothing will erase the barbaric act committed on our soil.
It is heartening to see the response of Cantabrians reaching out to those affected through actions and messages of support, and through placing flowers and lighting candles.
I also want to acknowledge the work of our police and emergency services, including the two local police officers from Lincoln who apprehended the perpetrator, and our medical staff. They are heroes, as are the victims who risked their lives to save others. We will remember them and their bravery.
The values of this country, our tolerance and our ability to get along with each other have made New Zealand the type of place where people want to live, and it should, and will, remain so. No one in this country should live in fear because of their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.
We need to stand together and speak out against hatred wherever it occurs.