I managed to sleep in my bed last night, as opposed to the couch downstairs, but it wasn’t a solid night’s sleep. I had a full day yesterday – picked up Phil Goff & Carmel Sepuloni from the airport and took them into the central city, to join Ruth Dyson & Brendon Burns for the Civil Defence briefing. Brendon has already reported on our walk around the city centre and I have logged photos on Facebook.
On their way to Kaiapoi, Brendon, Phil & Carmel stopped at a petrol station and encountered an irate taxi driver, living in Kingsford Street in my electorate, who gave Brendon an earful about having seen no-one – they had no power, no water and no information about anything. Brendon let me know and I headed down there – it looked like a war zone – silt piled up on the streets as people worked tirelessly with shovels and wheelbarrows. I spoke to some residents on one of the side streets and it was exactly as Brendon said – no-one knew anything and they felt completely forgotten. I contacted Orion and to their credit the power was restored that night. Their system had failed to record the number of households affected by the outage, so it hadn’t looked like the problem it was.
If there was one lines company I would choose to see me through a crisis, it would be Orion. They are a committed team that has retained the institutional knowledge needed at such times – big ups to Roger Sutton and the whole team!
One of my constituent couples let me take photos of the damage that had been done to their house. It was heartbreaking, captured poignantly in this photo of the crack on their bedroom wall, which was a result of the major shunt and drop of their house during the quake. I have put the series on Facebook so people can get an idea of the extent of the damage – not just to the old, as we have seen on TV, but to the new – these homes are only 4-5 years old and are ruined.
Today the electorate office was up and running and we started calling around constituents we had assisted through the home help cuts, ACC problems and disability issues; and we contacted local party members, particularly those we knew would be alone. We discovered that the Ministry of Social Development was calling superannuitants they knew were living alone – big ups to MSD!
When Kath & I left the office late this aftenoon, we were planning to do a quick scan around Bexley (where we both live) after a visit to South New Brighton, when we heard that there had been a news item saying there was an evacuation happening in the Pacific Park subdivision of Bexley. We headed over there and were stopped by members of the local volunteer fire brigade to tell us that the residents of Seabreeze Close didn’t know what was happening at all. I checked on the Stuff website and although the story was accurate about several residents shifting out – the headline was “Evacuation” – it created the impression that people were being required to move, which wasn’t the case. By the time I got through to the Council and Civil Defence the headline had been changed to “Moving Out” – but the damage had been done. The media do need to exercise caution when reporting such matters. To their credit TV3, who were on the spot, changed their story to focus on the confusion and distress that had arisen as a result of the reporting of an evacuation.
I am glad I went there because I found out that people essentially living in the same suburb as me still had no power. Another phone call to Orion and it was restored shortly after 7pm tonight.
When I got home, I discovered that my water was back on and I am able to look forward to a hot shower in the morning – the first since Friday. So another busy day is over but it won’t let up for a while. I am grateful that our party whips have given the Christchurch MPs leave for the week so we can stay in our electorates. And although I am very aware of how much worse it is for so many of my constituents, the enormity of what occured really struck me this afternoon when one of the bigger after-shocks made me feel physically sick – reminding me that the psychological effects of that single minute on 4 Sept will stay with us all for quite some time.