The Māori Party stands with the rest of Aotearoa today to remember those whose lives were lost in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake which struck Christchurch and surrounding areas five years ago today and to pay tribute to the resilience of whānau.
Who of us will ever forget the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake that claimed the lives of 185 people; destroying homes, kura, churches, heritage sites and whole neighbourhoods in its path?
While we can reflect back and be proud of the way our communities and nation responded, we know we have so much more to do to ease the burden for those who still struggle with the endless impacts that the horrors of the earthquake beset upon its victims.
Most of us can remember where we were when we heard about the earthquake that day, and the utter despair that set in for those of us who had loved ones in Christchurch that we could not reach immediately. We all have vivid memories of turning our television sets on to see the scale of destruction and recall the clogged phone lines and utter panic that set in from not being able to contact loved ones in Christchurch.
For those living in Christchurch, lives would be irrevocably changed and so too will our collective memory about the effort of so many selfless volunteers – the Student Volunteer Army, Ngai Tahu, the Fire Service, Police and USAR (Urban Search and Rescue), our beloved Māori Wardens, Māori Health Providers from throughout the country, Salvation Army, the Farmy Army, Red Cross and many many more non-government organisations.
Through the dust, the devastation and the despair, we acknowledge their depth of community spirit and we also pay tribute to the tenacity and courage of the people of Canterbury who, despite ongoing adversities, have ploughed on to rebuild their homes brick by brick and their communities one by one.
One of the obvious signs that the city is restoring itself is seen by the numbers of Māori that have repatriated back to Christchurch to pick up where they left off when the earthquake forced many of them to move away. The growing rolls in the kura and Māori Special Charater schools are evidence that whānau have come back, and they’re there to stay. The work done by the Council on rebuilding infrastructure and intensive civil defence training means Christchurch people are now much better prepared for major earthquakes than they were five years ago.
In one word resilience describes how whānau have coped with more than 10,000 individual tremors and shakes since that fateful day five years ago, some as big as 5.7 magnitude on Valentines this year, but that doesn’t discount for the many psychological effects the earthquake has had on others. The work we know we have to do to halt the suicide rates that are on the rise, and to increase support for whānau seeking support for mental and other health related issues has to continue to be a priority. More than ever we need to take care of each other, to watch for signs of stress and take the time to check in with one another.
The disaster endured in Christchurch has reserved a permanent place for Cantabrians in our hearts, our minds, and our karakia. At Te Matatini 2015 the theme was ‘he ngākau aroha’ to acknowledge the support that whānau in Ōtautahi received in gestures of manaakitanga expressed through koha of labour, essential items and donations.
Today as the Māori Party pauses to remember the 6.3 magnitude earthquake with the rest of Aotearoa, we join with our whānau of Ōtautahi to rebuild and restore lives.
Kia tū tahi, kia kaha, kia manawa nui!