April 17 2014, updated 9:31pm

Parker's 20-hour days for 'a personal thing'

BY GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 08/09/2010

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker will sleep, but not just yet.

Parker spends up to 20 hours a day helping to co-ordinate Christchurch's response to Saturday's earthquake, and while he is tiring, "real sleep" is on hold.

"We're like everybody else in the city at the moment," he said.

Monday night's strong aftershocks prompted Parker and wife Jo Nicholls-Parker to pack some bags and be ready to leave their inner-city warehouse home.

"We are all on edge," he said.

What has kept the exhausted mayor going?

"There is a really important job to do. This is a very personal thing," he said. "It's our city, our families, our friends, and we are all working together to do our best."

Parker said his head was not in the right place for next week's scheduled Press mayoral debate, which has been cancelled.

His main challenger, Jim Anderton, wanted the event to go ahead, saying he did not want to see the elections cancelled or delayed.

"I think we have to be careful not to too easily suspend democratic processes," he said.

He was still campaigning – not to create photo opportunities but to help people with all sorts of issues, both before and after the quake.

Parker usually arrives at civil defence headquarters by 5am and often does not get home until 11pm or later. He has masses of emails and telephone messages to answer.

"Even if I took more time off, I wouldn't be sleeping."

Monday night's "scary" aftershocks underlined that point, he said. "What's the point of going to bed when your bed is attempting to travel through the far side of the house?"

The events since early Saturday had been "surreal" at times, he said.

On Sunday, he briefly slowed down and struggled to realise what had happened was real. "For a distinct moment, I said to myself, `Am I in the middle of a nightmare, a dream, or is it reality?"'

The mayor's effort is helping his re-election chances. The iPredict website, which measures the probability of specific events, had Parker polling at 45 per cent and Anderton at 55 per cent.

Anderton had previously dominated that contest.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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