New Zealand Embassy Washington, United States of America

Ambassador's Christchurch newsletter #03

There has been a call from New Zealanders living in the US, and from friends of New Zealand around the world to be kept up-to-date and informed on developments in Christchurch. On that basis, Ambassador Moore has written a third newsletter on the Christchurch Earthquake.

New Zealand is just returning from a holiday period which traditionally marks the end of summer and the coming of autumn: Easter Weekend and Anzac Day. The long weekend serves not just as a holiday opportunity and a commemoration of the sacrifices of Kiwis and Australians who have served side by side over the past several decades; it also provides a chance to look back at the difficult two months New Zealand has been through since the Christchurch earthquake, and take stock of where we have arrived and how much there is still left to do.
 
The official Christchurch Earthquake Appeal has, over the past month, taken further shape. The Appeal (www.quakeappeal.com) is focused at the community level. In addition to the physical hardship, Cantabrians are experiencing the feeling of loss for the places that were the touchstones of the communities. These are places like the rugby clubs, playing fields, community halls, galleries, historic buildings and swimming pools. While they took decades of fundraising to put in place, it took only a few hours to ruin or knock many of them out of action.
 
These places at the heart of the community also typically do not take priority in the initial rebuild. The reason is simple: the very people who built them up over a long period of time – the parents, the local businesses, the community funders – have also taken a knock, and do not have any financial ability for anything above their personal essentials. Corporate, private individual and NGO support is thus essential to ensure communities are restored and Christchurch has a bright outlook for tomorrow. This is the focus of the Appeal.
The Appeal’s monies will be directed into seven areas:

  • Hardship & Relief. Winter is coming up, many people have no homes, children are travelling long distances to attend other schools or take classes in makeshift facilities like marquees, elderly and disabled people have had expensive equipment irreparably damaged. There is significant hardship in Christchurch.
  • Education. 37 schools in Christchurch are closed. Many schools are running on reduced hours with a paucity of basic equipment like books and computers. Over half of the primary schools in Christchurch have damage to playing fields, school gymnasiums, or other sporting infrastructure. Items like computers, books, music instruments and other equipment funded from years of community fundraising activities are also damaged, with no immediate funds available for replacement.
  • Sport and Recreation. This category includes club houses and scout dens, fields, community halls, rowing clubs, stadiums, and other places kids play, as well as the equipment they use. Sport is suffering. For example, of the 95 sports grounds, 41 are unusable due to liquefaction or sink holes.
  • Heritage and Culture. 16 of the 20 city libraries are closed. Every building at the historic Arts Centre was seriously damaged with the repair bill put at $100 million.
  • Natural Environment. This includes the parks and rivers, and other parts of the natural environment impacted by the quake or its after effects. The rivers have suffered large-scale erosion from stormwater and liquefaction affecting water course.
  • Spiritual and Faith. This will be directed at providing support to rebuild places of worship where such organisations lack the financial resource to repair themselves.
  • Economic Revitalisation. Business has taken an enormous hit. Amongst the directly affected, there were 6,008 companies with over 501,000 employees working within the closed ‘redzone’. Already 722 commercial properties have been ‘red-tagged’ and can’t be entered at all. All other businesses are suffering from reduced demand.
     
    For large individual or corporate donations, the Appeal will support and give appropriate recognition to legacy projects in areas that the donor cares deeply about.
    US residents who wish to donate to the Christchurch earthquake might wish to consider doing so through the American Friends of Christchurch (AFOC). An activity of the US-NZ Council, AFOC provides a means by which earthquake donations can receive tax deductibility. Such donations can be made here: http://www.americanfriendsofchristchurch.org/donate.html.
     
    There are a number of other organizations in the US with tax exempt status including the American New Zealand Association (ANZA).  More generally, our friends in the United States have continued to step up with enthusiasm and generosity to help Christchurch in myriad ways.
     
    Recently, the New Zealand Embassy played host to a gala fundraising dinner, which raised more than $200,000 NZD. This was a fantastic event, in which over a hundred Americans from such fields as business, politics, arts and entertainment, politics, science and technology, and agriculture came together to donate to this worthy cause. Once again, I was blown away by the sheer open-heartedness and generosity of those present.
     
    Phil Keoghan, born in Canterbury and host of the hit TV show The Amazing Race, was MC for the evening. He encouraged attendees to dig deep into their pockets by auctioning off a host of items that had been donated by corporate sponsors (including one item we auctioned off for our friends in Japan).
     
    Phil emphasised the importance of the world getting the message that Christchurch was “open for business” – because tourism dollars were integral to the city’s recovery. He also talked about his efforts to publicise, through his TV network CBS, the plight of Christchurch – whilst encouraging Americans to do what they could to help the city.
     
    Guest speaker Admiral Thad Allen, former Commandant of the United States Coastguard, spoke about being in Christchurch when the earthquake struck. He said that he was moved by the resilience of the New Zealand people, and that he found the way the country had pulled together in the aftermath of the earthquake “admirable”.
     
    There has been some interesting media coverage back in New Zealand of the gala dinner including a column by TVNZ’s US correspondent Tim Wilson: http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/tim-wilson-dc-does-christchurch-4126179.  And there have been many other earthquake-related events and activities happening around the country – bringing together US-based Kiwis who want to make a difference and Americans keen to help out.
     
    Some examples: Our Honorary Consul in Boston, Simon Leeming, helped organise a New England Christchurch Appeal, raising US$25,000. Craig Nevill-Manning, Engineering Director at Google, helped to develop Google Person Finder – a web application that was used in Christchurch to help families and friends locate their missing loved ones. Sarah Robb O’Hagen, Head of Marketing at Gatorade, organised a “Christchurch Stay Strong” promotional video involving celebrities from the worlds of sport and music.
     
    For more stories of worldwide support for Christchurch, please see the Appeal facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ChristchurchEarthquakeAppeal
     
    The Embassy will continue, in the coming weeks and months, to work on finding ways to help the rebuilding efforts in Christchurch. If you know of any earthquake-related activities happening in the United States, we are keen to hear about them. And if you know of other individuals who might wish to receive these messages, please let us know and we will add them to our mailing list. Such information can be sent to our Public Affairs Officer, Michelle Parish, at michelle.parish@mfat.govt.nz
      
     
    Yours sincerely
     
     
    Rt Hon Mike Moore
    Ambassador

 

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