Realising the full impacts of Christchurch horror

Ka rere te roimata, ka heke te hupē, ka pouri te ngākau. Ki ngā rahinga nō Otautahi kua riro ki te iwi o te pō, okioki atu rā.

Ki a koe e te tuahine e hāpai ana i ngā taumahatanga o tō rohe, kia kaha rā.

Who of us will ever forget the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake that claimed the lives of so many; destroying homes, workplaces, schools, churches, heritage sites and whole streets in its path? Two weeks on, we are only just realising the full impacts of this horror for so many people.

Yet in its darkest hour, we can be proud of the way our nation has responded. I have been so impressed with the way communities have come together to help each other in such trying circumstances including the many government agencies, fire, police, defence, local and international search and rescue personnel who have all been working together for the common good. The generosity of spirit has been very humbling.

Organisations such as Ngai Tahu, Maori Wardens, Maori Health Providers from throughout the county, Salvation Army, Student Volunteer Army, the farmers’ army, Red Cross and many many more non-government organisations have really stepped up to help out.

Of course there has also been the individuals and neighbours who have come together to cook, clean and clear the awful liquefaction and debris from damage

In many respects the hardest work lies ahead, as families start to understand the full psychological impacts of the trauma that beset them. This will be the time when more than ever, we need to take care of each other, to watch for signs of stress and take the time to simply be there.

While I don’t want to take anything away from the work the volunteers have done and the crucial rescue response in the CBD I have been disappointed with the overall response to the poorer communities of Christchurch where there has been so little help until only recently.

It concerns me greatly that the hardest hit eastern suburbs where many of the most vulnerable people including the sick and the elderly live, were left to fend for themselves for so long and are still trying to live without the most basic resources.

Too often our Maori and Pasifika communities are last on the list for the state resources and this earthquake is a wake up call that there is so much more we should be doing for the most vulnerable people in our society.

I could well understand the anger of communities who have waited so long to get access to the very basics medical help, welfare centres, fresh food and vital resources such as power, water and portoloos.

The fact these communities have fared as well as they have is due to their ability to instinctively act collectively and support one another.

Whenever we saw images in the media we didn’t see people from the eastern suburbs complaining we saw people saying despite having nothing we will get through. I am profoundly moved by their courage, and their willpower to survive, despite enduring such adversity and with only minimum resources to fall back on.

If there is one thing I and many others have learnt from this earthquake it is the importance of our neighbours.

As a good neighbour we must actively support those around us and we must try to establish a relationship before we are confronted by a disaster. It could well be the little things that alleviate the pain of someone living close to us during such trying times.

My hope is that the Government enquiry into the earthquake rescue, recovery and relief operations will lead to changes that will never see a repeat of some of the issues the residents of the Christchurch’s eastern suburbs have had to endure during the past fortnight.