Ministerial Statement to Parliament on Canterbury Earthquake

  • John Key
Prime Minister Earthquake Recovery

At 4.36 on Saturday morning Canterbury was hit by a devastating earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale.

People woke in the darkness to a loud rumbling noise and a shaking home.

Those with families gathered them together and took cover under a doorframe or wherever they could.

Everybody in Canterbury has an earthquake story from that morning.

By the time the sun came up, it was clear just how much damage the earthquake had caused.

Having visited Christchurch on Saturday after the earthquake, I can appreciate the magnitude of loss that people have suffered, and the trauma they have experienced.

I was awestruck by the power of the earthquake and the damage that it has caused in the city I grew up in.

Buildings have collapsed. Roads have been ripped apart. People have been injured. 

There are estimates that 100,000 homes may be damaged - some beyond repair.

It's a miracle that nobody was killed.

The earthquake was the same magnitude as the one in Inangahua in 1968, which caused extensive damage.

It was as strong as the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, which caused widespread devastation and is estimated to have killed approximately 230,000 people.

Although no one lost their life in the Canterbury earthquake, families have been traumatised and lost their valued possessions.

As one eye witness put it, experiencing the earthquake was like being in the horror movie, The Exorcist.

It was a frightening experience for everyone, but it has proven one thing: that in the worst of times, you see the best of New Zealand.

I have been impressed by the community spirit shown - from private individuals, to government agencies, NGOs, and businesses, both local and national.

People who cannot stay in their homes have been taken in by family, friends, or neighbours.

Work and Income staff have been ringing or visiting all the elderly people who are known to be living alone.

Students have used Facebook to find hundreds of people willing to help with the clean up.

Local mayors Bob Parker, Ron Keating, and Kelvin Coe have stepped up and shown excellent leadership.

Everybody involved in responding to this disaster has done a tremendous job so far.

I am proud of the spirit shown by the people of Canterbury and New Zealand in the wake of this devastating natural disaster.

We are also thankful to have had an outpouring of support and sympathy from governments around the world.

It will take us a long time to work through the damage caused by the earthquake and we will need to be patient as we move into the rebuilding phase.

Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city so there is likely to be considerable disruption to both the local and national economy.

The Government will help alleviate bottlenecks and speed up the rebuilding phase.

Yesterday I announced that the Government has donated $5 million to the mayoral earthquake recovery fund.

This is just a start. The Government is prepared to step up financially to rebuild the region.

This afternoon I am travelling to Christchurch again with other Ministers.

We are committed to working with local mayors and Civil Defence to get the region up and running again.

I have also cancelled my visit to the United Kingdom and France that was due to begin this Friday.

Mr Speaker, the thoughts and sympathy of the New Zealand Government are with the people of Canterbury in the aftermath of this earthquake.

As the frightening aftershocks continue, we stand alongside them, committed to helping them rebuild their lives.