Editorial: Be prepared

16:00, Jan 14 2013

"The foundering shriek of the gale" was how Allen Curnow described the Canterbury nor'wester - words that warn of that wind's destructive potential.

From the earliest written records of the region we learn of its power. Kaiapohia was burned in a nor'west blaze and thereby opened to Te Rauparaha's murderous onslaught; the settlers' huts overturned in gusts and their first attempts at brick buildings blew down; Lady Barker's picnics overturned as the wind tore down the Selwyn.

Almost every year since those early encounters, Canterbury has been blasted to the point of destruction, often significant.

Such a serious degree of destruction was suffered in last week's gale-fomented fires around Prebbleton with the loss of houses and other buildings, stock and pasture. The Fire Service has brought the blazes under control and the energy of the inhabitants will return the area to its prosperity, but for David and Deanna Hartley, the prospects are more discouraging.

The complete loss of their home and its lack of insurance mean that they must, in their old age, start from the beginning again. The task will be eased by the generosity of builders who have undertaken to rebuild the house. The couple's exposed financial position, though, must add to their distress.

Some concern may also be felt for the Throsby family, who lost their rental accommodation and its contents in the Prebbleton fires. They will have to restock their personal possessions without help from an insurance payout as they had failed to arrange cover.


The Prebbleton cases are minor in the context of the lack of insurance or underinsurance of property damaged in the earthquakes, yet they remind Cantabrians of the need to be prepared for disasters - and that includes getting insurance.

Few in this city will not have emergency supplies on hand. Many probably have not made similar provision with insurance cover, especially over contents.

There is now no excuse in the claim that insurance is not being offered to Christchurch householders - those on TC3 land excepted. The industry is back in business here and offering good policies.

In some instances, failure to arrange cover will be due to poverty. It is an excuse that can be reasonably claimed by few because of the comparative low cost of premiums when measured against the security they offer - security boosted because private cover is needed to access the Earthquake Commission's cover.

The worrying reality seems to be that some people are unwilling to spend on insurance because they think disaster will not strike, and if it does, someone will lend them a saving hand.

The earthquakes should have disabused all Christchurch people of such unrealistic notions. The earth shook wildly, repeatedly in Christchurch and its destructive power might revisit us again at any time.

Neither is the city exempt from the fires that have ravaged the Prebbleton area, as the 1973 conflagration on Clifton Hill shows.

Even if Christchurch is not again subjected to mass destruction, individual houses remain in risk of fire, slip and flood to such a extent that insurance cover is a vital part of the fundamental need to prepare for disaster.

The Press