Deputy PM: Speech to Parliament on Canterbury Earthquake

  • Bill English
Deputy Prime Minister Earthquake Recovery

Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I wish to make the following ministerial statement.

In particular, I would like to:

Mark the tragic loss of life and injury that has occurred as a result of the earthquake in Canterbury yesterday;

Express our deepest sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have died and are still missing;

Thank the brave rescue teams who are working so hard in very difficult conditions;

And acknowledge the enormous impact this disaster will have on the communities of Christchurch and Canterbury.

Yesterday was indeed one of New Zealand’s darkest days.

Today we are a nation in mourning. Unfortunately, this Parliament is again assembling to mark another national tragedy.

No words come close to conveying the horrendous scale and impact of the disaster that befell Christchurch at about 12.50pm yesterday.

Our thoughts turn to the people of Christchurch who have lost loved ones. To grieving mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, partners and friends – please accept this message on behalf of all New Zealanders:

We feel your pain. We share your loss. And we will stand with you. New Zealand is a small, close-knit country – your tragedy is our tragedy.

Mr Speaker, let me repeat the assurance given by the Prime Minister earlier today. No one will be left to walk this journey alone. New Zealand will walk this journey with you.

The focus right now is on saving lives, on rescuing those who are trapped and treating those who are injured. Already, we have witnessed some inspirational stories of rescue.

Those efforts, by many hundreds of courageous search and rescue workers, emergency personnel, medical professionals and others, will continue for as long as it takes.

Government agencies, working with other groups, have moved swiftly to get people and resources into Christchurch to lead and support the rescue effort.

This includes about 100 New Zealand Search and Rescue specialists on the ground in Christchurch, in addition to other emergency services staff. They are being joined today by two Australian Search and Rescue teams.

We have about 1030 military staff directly involved in the operation and the Defence Force has four naval ships and six aircraft in the area.

In addition to Christchurch’s police force, over 230 extra police staff are arriving from other districts – some arrived last night and others are arriving throughout today.

Medical staff have come into Christchurch from around New Zealand.

There are many thousands of other volunteers lending a hand in the best way they know how.

Mr Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the generous offers of sympathy and support we have received from around the world.

The Queen has conveyed her deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who have been killed. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has expressed her condolences and offered to provide any assistance we need.

President Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Harper have joined other world leaders in expressing personal sympathy at our nation’s loss.

We have also received generous offers of help from many of our international friends. We have accepted offers from Australia, the United States, Singapore, Japan, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

We are continuing to assess the requirements in Christchurch and offers of help from many other countries have come in, which we are keeping under review.

We know there will be many people around the world anxious to contact family and friends who are visiting or living in Christchurch. We are in close contact with foreign missions in New Zealand to offer our assistance to them.

Mr Speaker, this is a huge human disaster and now is the time for all of us to focus on saving lives and helping the people of Christchurch.

We are already being asked about the likely economic impact of what has happened. It really is too soon to look at that question in detail.

But as Minister of Finance, I think it is important for me to reassure New Zealanders that the Government, the Earthquake Commission and other
Crown agencies are well resourced to meet and overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

There is no doubt that the earthquake presents a considerable economic challenge for our country. But insurance companies tell us they are well prepared and their own direct exposure to this latest earthquake is limited by international reinsurance.

That will provide support for the Christchurch and New Zealand economies.

So I am absolutely confident that our economy will come through this. That will be a priority for this Government.

But, as I say, our immediate and most pressing priority right now is the people of Christchurch, who desperately need our help.

Mr Speaker, let me reiterate that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Christchurch and Canterbury, and other New Zealanders and international visitors, who are anxiously waiting for news of their loved ones

In the past six months, they have endured more pain and heartache than they should have had to over an entire lifetime.

As a fellow South Islander, I know you have the spirit to come through this. And I know, that with our support, you can come through this.

The Government and all of New Zealand will do everything possible to make that happen.