As we prepare for the arrival of a southerly storm that is expected bring heavy snow, biting gales, freezing rain, spare a thought for the people of eastern Christchurch. Thousands of people in the eastern suburbs – Bexley, Avonside, Dallington, Avondale, Burwood, Horse Shoe Lake, Brighton to name just some are going through their third winter waiting for the insurance companies to decide what they are going to pay out. Yes you are probably tired of hearing continual whinging about them but let us be brutally honest. How many of you are in households that:
- Are now subject to regular flooding in winter, which were not prior to the quakes
- That cannot afford to move because EQC and/or the insurance companies have not paid out
- Suffer medical problems that you did not use to because of the bad sanitary state of your dwelling
- Want to move but cannot because the property market in Christchurch is out of control
Now, I can add a fifth problem to the list. Starting on Thursday, continuing throughout Friday and easing in the small hours of Saturday is an expected polar blast that will be very likely to bring heavy snow to Christchurch. The sanitation safety levels might well reach critical status during this period as many of these houses do not have working toilets and port-a-loos and chemical toilets still exist in some places. On Monday during the heavy rain there was a Civil Defence welfare centre opened at Mairehau High School because some people were flooded out of their homes. The water damage might now be followed by extreme cold with a severe wind chill factor expected with the storm.
This is not the first time that Christchurch has had snow since the earthquakes. Between 24-26 July and 15-17 August 2011, heavy snow fall caused the city to go into virtual shutdown. On 06 June 2012 another snow storm shut the city down. Heavy rain followed the second event in 2011 causing widespread flooding in Avonside, Avondale, Dallington, Burwood and Aranui. This was because the streets near the Avon River sank significantly during the earthquakes and the river lost much of its flood bearing capacity. It also occurred in 2012.
Let there be no doubt that these people would happily move on. They would happily leave Christchurch if they had the financial means, or move to another part of the city. They would happily get on with their repairs if the insurance companies and EQC got their act together. None of them asked for the quakes or any of the other natural events that have made life such a living hell for them.
We need to get this sorted. I am not not saying this just for the sake of Christchurch. I am saying this because the Christchurch earthquakes have in many ways rewritten the manual – if one ever existed – for disaster response to a major New Zealand disaster, and whether we like it or not we are all affected. We need to sort out EQC before Wellington or somewhere else has a big quake or one of the volcanoes has a major eruption. How people view EQC will be measured by how well they react to the disaster of the day and if the Christchurch quakes are anything to go by, that reaction is not currently very encouraging.
It would be doing all of New Zealand a favour.