Sunday, 27 February 2011

Disaster Recovery

Christchurch, New Zealand, is a place that we are very familiar with. I did my BSc and MSc studies at the University of Canterbury and my second industry job with Canterbury Savings Bank in the centre of the city. When we look at the photos of the current damage cause by the earthquake, we see just how much of the character of the central city has been destroyed. We have heard from Marilyn's brother, and three families that we know in Christchurch. All are safe although they have various damage to their properties. One couple has left Christchurch to live with family until things settle down.

However, although our thoughts are with the people and the need to re-establish their lives, it is the ongoing cost burden that is my concern. I read that the current estimate is $10 billion to restore the city. It is difficult to see how donations will cover that type of cost. How will the difference be made up? I suspect by loans. What are the long term implications of such a strategy?

Countries, like Pakistan and Bangladesh, struggle to recover from floods and natural disasters. Donations help overcome some of the suffering but are never enough to bring recovery to all the people. The countries go further into debt but never producing a better environment. Our economic system is designed to enslave and natural disasters just ensure that the process of enslaving goes further.

I fear that New Zealand's disaster will plunge New Zealand backwards at a time when it seemed to be weathering the economic storm. The government has pledged to spend what is necessary for search and rescue but that is only the start of the costs. Will they be as willing to create funding to rebuild the city's infrastructure and to help people recover. Sure insurance may cover some of the recovery costs but what that guarantees is that insurance costs will rise.

Our economic focus is that someone has to pay even if resources are available. It also favours those who can afford to pay. As a result resources can be taken from areas of need and used in other areas where the need is not so great.

1 comment:

Mr. Pieter said...


I read your blog every once in a while. I get directed to it by my Google Alerts. My last name is Kiwiet and every time the letters "Kiwiet" appear on the web, I get an e-mail from Google. So, guess what happens when someone (you) from KiwiET writes something....your reflections on ChristChurch were meaningful to me. In 1997 I was in New Zealand for 4 weeks during my sabbatical. The first two weeks I was building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Hamilton. The last two weeks I wandered about the South Island spending most of my time in Nelson and ChristChurch. I was really impressed with the beauty of ChristChurch. So, news of the earthquake was hard to hear. My prayers are with the families of those who lost loved ones and with the whole community as it seeks to rebuild.
Pieter Kiwiet