When adversity hits New Zealand, New Zealanders get going

There are many great reasons to be a Kiwi. As a citizen I live in a country with a still relatively clean environment. I can vote and do a whole raft of things that people in countries like Saudi Arabia cannot, such as write a blog. I can come and go with the only major constraints being whether I can afford it and how much annual leave I have stockpiled at work.

But – having observed it first hand – one of the things that makes me REALLY proud to be a New Zealander is how we respond to an adverse event. The generosity, the outpouring of concern, the way the nation rallies is an example of New Zealand at its finest.

Perhaps, prior to Monday morning, there was no finer example of that rallying response than how New Zealanders responded to the Christchurch earthquake. I got a first hand glimpse watching the Student Volunteer Army, of which I was one small cog in a vast voluntary army marching hundreds strong – of all sorts of ethnicities and nationalities (Chinese, South African, American, Indian, British, Australian, Chilean, to name a few) – through munted streets and dispersing into properties to start clearing liquefaction. Businesses, schools, communities large and small, the Defence Force, Police, Fire and St. John Ambulance, N.G.O.’s such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army among others all went into high gear.

Following Monday’s earthquake, we see once again New Zealanders opening up their homes and businesses, their Marae’s and public places to displaced people. When Parliament opens its doors so people can sleep in the foyer there is something to be said about it affecting ALL New Zealanders.

Politicians have – for the most part – put aside party politics to focus on their individual electorates and rallied to condemn the isolated reports of looting in Christchurch of some of the very few properties that have had to be abandoned. Given the fortunate lack of deaths, the media will likely not pay as much attention as it did to the Christchurch quakes, despite a much bigger area being affected and ongoing problems in Wellington with quake damaged buildings, which is where people not from north Canterbury and especially from Christchurch owe it to continue helping out.

We owe more than a proverbial bunch of flowers to the linesmen fixing the power, the men and women working to fix the roads, the water, the sewerage and the telecommunications networks. Despite it being late spring, the weather has not been co-operative and these people have been working in trying conditions with poor access trying to re-establish the basic infrastructure that makes this nation tick.

Many more long days await the people who are working to restore the infrastructure. Many more aftershocks are still to hit the region, but the response of New Zealanders to the emergency brightens up what is a very gloomy time at the start of the tourist season for a region heavily dependent on it.


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