NZ can afford another quake - Key

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 11:45 22/07/2013

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Prime Minister John Key has moved to calm fears after a small move in the currency following yesterday's quake.

The magnitude 6.5 tremor shook central New Zealand when it hit at 5.09pm on Sunday, causing numerous reports of damage in Wellington and the top of the South Island.

He said that "in principle" New Zealand can afford another earthquake.

"There is nothing at the moment that would advise to me that there is substantial fiscal risk to the Crown. We know that the EQC fund really has nothing in it from the last, from memory, time I looked at it. But
in essence the Government just backs that up.

"And we've got a strong balance sheet, we are in better shape the pretty much any other OECD country in the event that we need to rely on the Crown, but we are a long, long way away from that."

"We are going through a period of shocks that are a bit unnerving," he added, but there was no substantial risk to the Government's books, he said.

Key would not cancel upcoming trips to Korea and the Solomon Islands this week.

Speaking before a briefing at Wellington's regional emergency management office, this morning, he said arrangements for every overseas visit were "fluid."

"At this point there isn't anything that would stop us doing that."

Key cancelled a trip to Europe after a quake in September 2010. "That was quite a different set of circumstances," he said. "It was quite widespread damage, actually, then."

New Zealanders should take confidence in that fact there had always been a quake risk and the country's buildings were constructed to a high standard.

However, he said he understood why Wellingtonians were feeling unsettled.

He said his office was "quite beaten up" with a few bottles of wine smashed. He hadn't yet seen if Premier House, his official residence, was damaged.

Key said the emotional impact the quake had on families was very traumatic and people were fearful of the unknown.

However, it was important to realise this was very different to the Canterbury quakes, which were shallower and "very powerful."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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