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John Key: Ministerial Statement on Canterbury Earthquake

Rt Hon John Key

Prime Minister

8 March 2011

Speech

Ministerial Statement on Canterbury Earthquake

On this day two weeks ago, the great city of Christchurch was ripped apart by a devastating earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale.

So far it has been confirmed that 166 loved ones have lost their lives, and we are told that the final death toll could be more than 200.

To lose so many people at once, including many foreign nationals, is hard to fathom. It is a tragedy that one cannot put into words.

Everyone who was in Christchurch on that dreadful day witnessed an horrific scene. It was a frightening event that has left many suffering in anxiety and anguish, and without the services and infrastructure that we usually take for granted in New Zealand.

Many thousands of people have lost their treasured possessions, homes, businesses, places of work, and livelihoods. Early indications show that up to 10,000 houses will need to be demolished and over 100,000 more could be damaged.

The extent of this damage and huge loss of life have left people all over New Zealand and the world grieving.

Christchurch is a city that’s been changed forever and a community that’s in shock.

To all Cantabrians who have been affected, I’d like to express the deepest sympathies of the New Zealand Government.

Though we cannot imagine the deep sorrow and grief of all those who have lost loved ones, we can send you the promise of our ongoing support.

We are thinking of you. We are standing alongside you. And we are committed to rebuilding your lives and your city.

We acknowledge the huge emotional stress that has been placed on families by this earthquake, especially after enduring the September earthquake and months of aftershocks.

In the challenging times ahead, you have the full support of this Government, of this Parliament, and of all New Zealanders.

I’d particularly like to acknowledge members of this House from Canterbury. Our thoughts are with you and your families.

Mr Speaker, I want to acknowledge the outstanding generosity and support of people all over New Zealand and the world in response to the earthquake.

I’d like to thank our many international contributors. We have accepted and received help from Australia, China, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. And we have had generous offers from many more.

I’d like to pay tribute to the many hundreds of people who have been involved in the rescue and recovery operation, and I’d like to pay tribute to the bravery, heroism, and generosity of individuals.

Everywhere I go in Christchurch, I hear stories of miraculous rescues that took place, of people opening up their homes to complete strangers, and of people going out of their way to help fellow Cantabrians.

I’d like to thank all central and local government staff who have worked incredibly hard to restore public services, provide health care, open schools, run welfare centres, provide financial assistance, and more.

And I’d like to pass on a special thank you to all those who have made donations to the Government’s official Christchurch Earthquake Appeal, and to other appeals such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army. This money will go towards supporting Canterbury’s people and rebuilding Canterbury’s communities.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the Mayor of Christchurch Bob Parker for his leadership, and say thank you to all members and parties of this House for your support.

Yesterday I announced that on Friday 18 March there will be a National Memorial Service at Hagley Park in Christchurch. The service will give all New Zealanders the chance to reflect on the terrible loss of life that occurred on the 22nd of February, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with Cantabrians.

Rebuilding Christchurch is a key priority for the Government this year. We will provide the necessary resources to make this happen over the coming weeks, months and years. It will be a long and complex task, which we will need to work through step by step.

But one thing is certain. Christchurch, we will rebuild you. You will once again be the successful, vibrant, and beautiful city that you were just over two weeks ago.

While we will never forget those who have been lost, we must focus that indomitable spirit of Canterbury on the future. On my visits to Christchurch in the past two weeks, I’ve witnessed that spirit and I have great confidence in that spirit.

With the help of many people all over the country and the world, we will rebuild this great city. We owe it to the people we have lost to keep our minds on the brighter future that we are all striving for.

Mr Speaker, the thoughts of the New Zealand Government are with the people of Canterbury at this dark time.

Let us remember the loved ones we have lost. Let us be grateful for the lives we continue to lead. And let us turn our hearts and minds to the huge challenge ahead of us.

ENDS

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