Aftershocks constant reminder of importance of being prepared
OPINION: It's around two months since the Hurunui/Kaikōura magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit.
Strong-to-severe shaking was felt throughout New Zealand and lasted for more than two minutes in some places with hundreds of aftershocks since and the predicted seismic activity has been a reality for us over the holidays.
Sadly, two people lost their lives and there was widespread damage in the upper South Island area. Road and rail links to Kaikōura have been affected reminding everyone everywhere of how vulnerable any area can be. The main quake also damaged buildings around Wellington so there are closures of streets and buildings and demolition work has begun in the capital. Remember, this serious damage occurred a very long way from the quake's epicentre.
Fortunately, the Whanganui / South Taranaki area wasn't badly affected by these quakes. However, it's a timely reminder of the need to be prepared for any other big shake.
The Government acted quickly with immediate support to affected regions: for struggling businesses we introduced a wage subsidy package in Kaikoura and surrounding districts and in Wellington, followed up with a primary sector support package and tax measures to help those affected by the earthquakes.
Parliament has also passed laws to aid the recovery. Civil Defence Emergency Management legislation allows a smoother and more effective transition from the response phase to recover after an emergency. That flexibility can also deal with temporary housing, accommodation supplements, streamlining planning processes and geotechnical assessment.
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 capacity to fix our broken infrastructure and to support our affected businesses and communities. We have been here before and have risen above these challenges, stronger this time around and we will do the same this time.
But are we also learning from these incidents? Ask any Kaikōura resident who had to queue up outside the local supermarket. It makes you think. They were looking in through the windows on a complete shambles with goods strewn all over the store. Some stock was broken and unsaleable. They had to wait while staff went among the debris and salvaged what they asked for. And here's the kicker: in the days immediately after the quakes the number of items you could purchase was limited to prevent panic buying at a time when the major roads were still blocked. Before you shop this week, give some thought to, say, just 10 items you would buy if that's all you were allowed to purchase, or if certain essentials were simply not available. Take Eftpos and cell phones away for a week and life could be quite basic.
So it behoves all of us to plan to have at least a week's food in stock, including sufficient water and any essentials on hand such as medications. Devising a household plan should include agreeing how and where everyone in your home would meet up after a disaster.
When an earthquake occurs, make sure you drop, cover and hold (it's not just a slogan on a television commercial, we need to put it into practice) and if you happen to be near the coast and feel a long or strong quake, head to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for any official warning as media or warning systems could possibly be out for hours or even days – the earthquake itself is the natural warning to take action.
New Zealanders are resourceful people. The simple steps for surviving the first few days of a major disaster are easy to follow and we should all have a visit to civildefence.govt.nz/get-ready on our New Year's resolutions list.