John Key joins the Herald as a columnist

I’m immensely proud of the way local communities and support services have operated since the devastating South Island earthquake.

I visited Kaikoura twice last week where I met local people, and saw first-hand the damage the quake had caused.

I also spoke to a number of tourists and couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t happy about the way they’ve been treated and the support they’ve received.

A guy from Finland told me he’d only been in New Zealand for four days and he’d been fed three times a day, had somewhere to live, and people had been amazingly kind to him.

The local marae had provided 7000 meals by Wednesday.

People have their own lives and families to care for, but often they have prioritised visitors to Kaikoura. That’s a testament to the sort of people in our country.

The support services – the Police, Civil Defence, St Johns, the Fire Service and our Defence Forces, have also been incredible. Men and women who have left their homes and families to come to the rescue of others.

When the pressure comes on, real Kiwis get busy.  The loud ones are generally the media and, perhaps not surprisingly, the Labour party.  Just 24 hours in they were criticising the government and demanding this, that and the other thing.   All this while the real Kiwis, and the real effort, goes unnoticed.  

But as things move from the emergency phase, people are looking for direction and certainty.

One thing we found in Christchurch was an increase in the need for mental health services, counselling and support. It’s important people know there are people to talk to.

We also need to keep an eye on older New Zealanders because they’re often alone and sometimes isolated, and might be reluctant to ask for help.

The response so far has focused on getting tourists out of Kaikoura, and we are looking at what can be done to restore infrastructure services – electricity, water, sewerage, roading and telecommunications.

The Government has announced a support package for quake-affected small business, which will help those companies most disrupted by this week’s earthquakes to keep their staff while the district recovers.

We have also announced a package to help the primary sector.

We will do all we can to help the people of the Kaikoura district and surrounding areas get back on their feet.

One thing that surprised me about the Christchurch quakes is that people had the attitude that they should get to the other end of it without any damage to their equity, business prospects and general quality of life.  And they wanted the government, in general, to achieve this for them.

This kind of entitlement is only on display from the media and Labour thus far, but as experience shows, the cogs of recovery grind slowly, and more and more people will fall for the easy choice of having a go through the media.

One of the things we learned from Christchurch is that damage can take time to identify.

We’re seeing that in Wellington. On day one, the CBD was closed and people thought there wasn’t a lot of damage. But as buildings have been assessed it’s turned out some have in fact been damaged, and a small number quite significantly.

People should take great confidence in the fact that the economy is in good shape, the Government’s books are in good order and we have the capacity to deal with this earthquake.

We’ll need to put things back together again, and we will.

It’s just never going to be as it was before.  And stop expecting that.

 

– John Key, NZ Herald

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