By ROBYN BRISTOW
North Canterbury is hunkering down and facing its next battle.
Just as it looked like three years of drought might finally be coming to an end it was hammered with a 7.5 earthquake just after midnight on Monday.
An emergency has been declared in the Hurunui and Kaikoura Districts as infrastructure, homes and businesses suffering damage across the region.
A 24-hour emergency response centre is operating from the Amberley service centre seven days a week and people can ring (03) 314 8816 for assistance or send a message.
If they are unable to call they can visit their local Civil Defence post which Amberley is in touch with or visit the Command vehicle in Waiau which will convey messages back to Amberley which will act on them.
Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says it is devastating to have his community facing severe adversity again.
“Our district has been battling the stress of natural events in the form of drought for nearly three years.
“During that time the community has been amazingly strong and taken a very self help attitude and been determined to come out the other end stronger than ever.
“In my view this has been achieved to date and with the current tentative reprieve from drought conditions, it was devastating to have my community hammered again so severely,” he says.
However Mr Dalley says it will be business as usual and “self help, resourcefulness, and determination will contiue to be the hallmarks of our community”.
He says the drought committee will continue its work and extend its brief to be inclusive of the needs of the “entire community in an appropriate way”.
Mr Dalley extended his deepest sympathy to those who have lost their homes and had their lives substantially disrupted and changed.
“I have no doubt our community will give you every support.”
He also extended support to his colleague Winston Gray and the people of Kaikoura who faced major tragedy in the district.
Mr Dalley says he has been “pretty humbled” by offers of assistance and amazed at the response from staff and the local Civil Defence organisation.
The quake has highlighted the vulnerability of State Highway One into Kaikoura.
It has also confirmed the Inland Road is not a secure alternative, a battle the council has been fighting over many years in an effort to get it upgraded and capable of operating as an alternate route.
It is hoped it will be cleared enough for essential traffic in the next few days to get through to Kaikoura, says Hurunui chief executive officer, Hamish Dobbie.
Mr Dalley says it will be challenging to get the road open because of a series of “smaller slips” but a huge effort was being made.
Waiau and Mt Lyford were badly battered in the quakes but were “hanging in there”. Both will make a recovery because of the resilience of residents and efforts by the council.
Mr Dalley said quite a few dairy platforms had come off their rollers but a big effort had been made to ensure all cows were milked with cows from three or four properties, where repairs could not be made, spread around neighbouring farms to ensure all cows were milked.
Some milk might have to be wasted until Fonterra assessed roads and bridges to make sure it was safe to reach all dairy farms.
“It is going to be a marathon getting back to normal but we are getting used to marathons. We will just keep working together and digging deep, hanging in there and helping each other,” he says.
Meanwhile Canterbury folk are rallying to help their northern neighbours.
Miss Lilly’s Mobile Boutique Catering from Rangiora has put the call out to North Canterbury to “get baking”and has air transport organised to fly the baking and non-perishable food to those in need. It can be dropped off at 4 Golf Links Road, Rangiora.
The North Canterbury Rural Support group and the North Canterbury Step Up group are also rallying to support North Canterbury residents in need. For details go to their Facebook pages.