A warning to expect the worst
Talk about rolling with the punches. John Key and this government know their way round disaster response like the back of their hand.
The Christchurch earthquakes - not one, but two, either one of which alone would have been a heavy blow to a country barely recovered from the global financial crisis. Then there was Pike River, and the Rena grounding.
So when Finance Minister Bill English told journalists on Tuesday it would be a long time before we see "normal" back in North Canterbury and Kaikoura, he was speaking from long and personal experience.
In the eight years since the Key government got into power, New Zealand's share of disasters has been disproportionate to most.
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Key flew over the shattered Kaikoura region on Monday, the day following the latest quakes, and I asked him later whether it felt like deja vu.
Five years go Key flew into a devastated Christchurch, the city a scene of utter devastation, the situation on the ground still in chaos as efforts to rescue the survivors got underway.
Eerily familiar, is how Key describes that initial helicopter pass over Kaikoura, on his way to yet another disaster.
The scene below, initially, was reassuring. A bit of liquefaction, some road damage.
But as the helicopter got closer to the epicentre the scale of the damage to roads and the surrounding areas was "mind blowing", Key says.
As they flew over, an after shock triggered more land slips, sending clouds of dust and debris into the air.
The finger in the air estimate of the cost so far is "billions of dollars" and there is no reason to believe that figure is overstated.
It's not just Kaikoura that has suffered major devastation. In Wellington there are reports of a building in imminent danger of collapse and a key Government building - Statistics New Zealand - had failed, raising serious questions about the rest of the building stock, given the building was almost new.
That has rung some heavy duty alarm bells in the Beehive given the number of Government agencies, which have moved into new buildings relatively recently, specifically to ensure they were quake proof.
Meanwhile, State Highway One, the main arterial route from north to south, is in a parlous state. Ferry sailings have been cancelled until a full assessment can be made of damage to the Wellington and Picton terminals.
It adds up to a major disruption for businesses, and a big cost on central and local Government, though insurance will hopefully cover the steepest tab.
But the language of Government ministers on Tuesday had the sound of a warning to expect the worst.
The experience of Christchurch was that it can take days, weeks or months for the true scale of damage to become evident.
As the aftershocks from Kaikoura continue, and the cost of the quakes in Wellington keeps rising, that's one lesson that's been hard learned.