Greetings all, especially any readers in Christchurch and surrounds (though I know that you have better things to do right now than read a blog).
There’s been lots of good stuff written on the quake. I’m not going to try to add to it in any systematic way. These are just a few random personal reflections, big picture and small, all that I can put my head around writing tonight.
• Get used to it. It won’t usually be earthquakes (I hope), but extreme weather events are going to be increasing in frequency, and challenging us in similar ways. So be personally prepared with your physical resources and your skills. And support the country’s attempts to prepare and respond in whatever way you can.
• A general tax to rebuild Christchurch? Good idea.
• Just because it’s a platitude doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Health is everything. In this kind of event the elderly and infirm are incredibly vulnerable. All that material “wealth” around you? 90% of it is junk that you can do without. Health is the thing to have.
• Bloody olive oil. Once it’s fallen from a high shelf into an open draw full of pyrex and exploded onto the remains of a pantry, it’s a real pain in the arse. You try cleaning a litre of olive oil mixed with shards of glass out of the remains of a kitchen, with no water or power, you’ll see what I mean.
• Thank goodness for Radio NZ. When the power goes off, when the phones are down, when the shit hits the fan, there’s RNZ. I’ve recently been able to look at some of the great stuff that is available on the web, and I’m sure that was useful to those with access, but for many of us, radio was the lifeline.
• Thank you guy with a wheelbarrow. Wandering around the neighbourhood with a well used barrow, a shovel, and a big smile, you were out there looking for liquefaction to shift and people to help. Thank you to all of the volunteers and helpers, the professionals working huge hours, and the folk who just checked on their neighbours. Thank you all.
• The emergency response in the first few days was bloody brilliant. I don’t know who to thank here (I haven’t been paying much attention to abstractions). All I do know, from ground level, is that the right stuff happened, fast. Cordon’s up. Water distribution. Portaloos. Good advice on the radio. We had EQC people in the street looking at damage. Orion not only picked up the phone but they acted on the information. People and companies donated food and resources from far and wide. Brilliant.
• Let’s hear it for Big Government. Regulation regulation regulation – I heard one estimate (sorry forget where) that the building regulations, sensibly designed and honestly enforced, just saved 50,000 lives in Christchurch. Planning planning planning – whomever set up the EQC deserves a bloody medal. How would we ever cope without it?
• We were lucky with the season. This would have gone much harder in Winter.
• That amazing community feeling born of shared experience and shared challenge is very real and very uplifting. Will it also be enduring? For most (I am no longer in Chch) this is going to go on and on for days and weeks. Rebuilding will take months and years. From what I have recently seen of media coverage of damage to the city, my gut estimate is 10 years to rebuild. It’s going to be tough.
• Let’s try and see past the disaster for Christchurch, and forward to the opportunity. A chance to re-imagine the city. My vote – a proper light rail transit system, free bicycles and a car-free CBD. Plan now for a post-oil city, a chance to do it right.
That’ll do for tonight. Keep safe, wherever you are, and spare a thought for those in Christchurch. Even better, find some way to help out, if you can.