By ROBYN BRISTOW
The Hurunui district thanked New Zealand last Friday night.
A Special Community Service Award was accepted by Waiau Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Hugh Wells, on behalf of everyone across New Zealand who lent a hand to help Hurunui folk hit hard by last November’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
“Hurunui says thank you New Zealand,” Mayor Winton Dalley said when handing over the award at a Community Awards ceremony in Waiau.
The award was a collective thank you to “each and every one who made a contribution, no matter how big or how small” as it was simply not possible to thank everyone who contributed so much voluntarily to “our community in our hour of need”.
At two minutes past midnight on November 14, 2016, the district was struck by the quake, understood to be the most violent ever recorded.
“In the space of seconds the fracturing of multiple fault lines and the associated violent shaking wrought huge damage across a wide swathe of our district, extending from the mountains to the sea.
“We humans have amazing natural instincts that are instantly activated by a disaster.”
The instinct of survival saw many “miraculously in those terrifying moments” find their way to safety out of their homes that were being torn apart around them while the instinct of caring and taking responsibility for the welfare of others saw many leave their own damaged homes, to ensure that their neighbours and their community were safe.
“That same instinct along with a sense of responsibility, inspired our local volunteer emergency services, Police and individuals to mobilise instantly and go to the aid of those who may need their help.
“Many volunteers carried on for days, working long hours caring for their communities,” Mr Dalley said.
As darkness gave way to dawn the extent and the severity of the damage became more evident.
“In our villages the extent of the severely damaged and destroyed homes and businesses, the destruction wrought on our precious community facilities, the loss of power, water, communications, road access, and instant business interruption all became starkly evident.
“Across the rural hinterland the sight of similar destruction of homesteads, farm buildings, farm infrastructure, water supplies, power and communications, landslides and fractured land greeted the dawn, many properties and some communities were completely isolated due to the severe damage to roads and bridges,” he said.
Then the instinct of generosity was ignited in a bid to ensure those affected by the disaster wanted for nothing. “The hearts of thousands of people all over the country, resulted in a flood of food and supplies pouring into the district, to the point of embarrassment.
“This historic event inevitably generated many acts of humanity and many great stories of generosity.
“There was the story of the little boy who arrived at the collection depot in Rangiora, with a shopping bag full of toiletries and baby stuff, purchased with all his available pocket money.
“Remember the flood of home baking and meals, the Christmas cakes, hundreds of them from service organisations, and 25 Christmas cakes specially baked by a small group of Rangiora senior citizens, you will all know similar stories of generosity.”
Mr Dalley acknowledged the hundreds of thousands of dollars of “generous monetary donations” from Corporates, Service Clubs, Trusts, Welfare and Charity organisations, including the charitable organisation that flew themselves from Auckland to Mt Lyford a few days before Christmas to personally deliver tens of thousands of dollars to those who they wanted to help.
There was also two pop up swimming pools, the initiative of a woman who cared about young people having fun, Christmas parties organised to relieve the stress of young people and the challenge to Mr Dalley in the turmoil of the first day about what was being done to look after the children.
“This simple caring question resulted in corporate generosity providing hundreds of teddies to comfort our young people.”
Mr Dalley said while delivering the teddies, children shared their stories.
The instinct of generosity was also demonstrated in countless offers of help and assistance, of time and labour, of expertise, and equipment.
“We need to tell the stories of those who came voluntarily to assist those with devastated businesses and farms, of the supermarkets, local stores, and businesses that were cleaned up, repaired and restocked, of cows milked on neighbouring farms.
“There were stories of countless individuals and teams who travelled from all over the country to help with urgent seasonal farm work, tailing, calf marking, and to urgently repair fencing and water supplies, the list is endless.”
Agriculture industry groups, who became known as Team Ag, played a huge role, along with those who ignored the risk to go behind the cordon to assist friends and colleagues.”
Mr Dalley recalled the voluntary supply of tents and caravans to the homeless and the assistance to make rudimentary sheds and shelters into liveable homes, and acknowledged the organisations and individuals who voluntarily visited hundreds of homes and families to check on their welfare.
Public utilities service providers, contractors, the private sector, service industries and many others responded and continued to work long hours to restore services throughout the affected areas.
“Likewise in the private sector, service industries responded magnificently to ensure that farm and business infrastructure was up and running urgently. We extend our appreciation to
Some businesses had been devastated by the earthquake, others had benefitted, while those on State Highway One had made outstanding efforts to survive, create new business opportunities and replace what was lost.
Mr Dalley especially acknowledged all volunteers who activated and managed the Sector Posts in Cheviot, Mt Lyford, and Waiau.
“Thank you for your leadership and for holding your communities together until assistance was available.
“Can I acknowledge the role played by Mt Lyford Lodge, which became the refuge for the whole village, the Waiau Motor Camp for sharing their facilities with the community, and Cheviot A & P Association for providing a helicopter airport and catering for hundreds of
people in transition from Kaikoura, visiting MPs, and helicopter pilots.
“The Welfare Centre and its team operating from the Waiau School was a standout performer in the critical early hours and days following the earthquake, thank you.
“The Welfare Hub and its team, set up here in the Waiau hall picked up that role to enable the school to get back to some normality, and has continued in a number of forms to give outstanding service. Thank you.”
Mr Dalley gave special mention to council chief executive officer Hamish Dobbie and his council team.
As staff activated an Emergency Operations Centre their day-to-day responsibilities were picked up by other council staff to ensure the council business continued to operate
“Every section of council performed with distinction, and in my view the extraordinary contribution that each member made, clearly included a strong element of voluntary service to their community. Thank you all.”
Mr Dalley said the council would lend its support to each local community to develop a lasting commemoration of the disaster “including honouring all those who we have acknowledged tonight”.
A significant event or events would also be organised with communities to mark the anniversary.