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Monday, March 7, 2011

Opinion: We are not ruined (Greg Jackson)

We are not ruined...

GREG JACKSON
Last updated 09:43 08/03/2011


OPINION:

We are not in ruins in Christchurch.

Like any disaster zone there are bad bits and bizarre untouched bits.

Nor are we Haiti in Godzone.

I know, I was in Haiti exactly a year ago just six weeks after their 7.0 Richter apocalypse tore their pre-ruined nation further apart.

I was providing media and diplomatic advice to the secretary general of the world's second largest aid agency, the ACT Alliance, John Nduna, on a fact finding tour.

John's a tough African dude who has seen the worst the world has to offer in the way of refugee camps starting with post-bloodbath Rwanda.

After our first refugee camp visit in Haiti he looked ashen.

I asked him what was wrong.

He said that the camp was just the worst he had ever seen anywhere.

There are still over a million Haitians enduring those camps now.

It won't happen here.

Nor are we Haiti when it comes to building standards and styles.

I was in my Manchester Street office on the fourth floor when our destroyer shook the building like a rag doll, a metre here, a metre there, glass buckling and twisting as we scurried down our intact stairwell to safety.

I showed all the nobility of an amoeba on the day, stomping off homeward on a route that in hindsight was the only death and injury free way I could have gone.

My sons Finn and Huia, my partner Sharon and then my 80-plus parents were virtually all that was on my mind.

One fleeting thought as the bricks and glass exploded around me was that based on Port Au Prince we were in for thousands of deaths.

We did not get that awful result, because we are not bent, we don't bribe building inspectors and we don't pour concrete at a one-to-ten ratio.

Every death here is dreadful, every loss a shared wound but it is nothing like the scale of carnage in Haiti.

In Port Au Prince, at present progress it will take 20 years to clear the streets of rubble, here at the most it will take a quarter of the time.

The image that haunts me from there is of a three storey school building sheered in half.

Half was intact with chairs, desks blackboards etc, half was part of a pile of rubble those without respect for the tapu of the dead could stand on.

I asked my driver "how many?"

Tears welled up in his eyes as he replied "about three hundred."

So lets get it clear.

We are not Haiti South.

Nor are we ruined or pre ruined like the poor brave inmates of the venal den of thieves at the top that is Haiti pre and post quake.

What have we in common?

Guts, grit and courage.

Here it has been the grassroots/flaxroots efforts that have kept the broader city humming and alive.

Aroha we call it here and it is alive and well in Christchurch.

I come from Aranui.

I went to Aranui Primary. Aroha is alive and well there as it is in all the other places here I have lived and loved in.

Sumner, Cashmere, Lyttelton, South Brighton, St Martins - they have all taken big hits but they are not ruined.

The people are not ruined.

They often rise above themselves to help their fellows.

I wanted to round up the churchbashers last week and drag them by their over-educated ears to Spreydon Baptist Church.

There they would have seen hundreds of people bringing in free food, taking it out, serving it up, listening to the afraid, providing children with a safe play space.

It was goodness working in front of us, a scene I did see played out in Haiti.

Nor was it just the Baptists or even Christians, although this same scene is played out daily in churches across Christchurch away from the cameras.

We've been eating with our Krishna friends.

Their temple is ruined but they are flat tack cooking and handing out food around town.

I'm sure other faiths are doing the same, possibly shoulder-to-shoulder with agnostics and atheists.

In between this I've been helping out with media advice for the Non Government Disaster Relief Forum - a group of Kiwi aid and emergency agencies working quietly here in Christchurch to help.

They've bought all their global expertise back home to bear on our needs here while fully aware that a first world disaster is totally different to a third world one.

More proof that we are not ruined.

Please don't call us ruined.

Or Haiti.

The first is not true.

The second insults us all, Kiwis and Haitians alike.

Our buildings and hearts may be broken but here in my turangawaewae I can't help but feel a flinty little glint of contempt for those who up and leave now.

Believe me as a multi-generation Cantabrian, we are only getting started as a city.

We will renew once this impending winter of tears and fog has been waded through.

Just watch us.

Greg Jackson, a fifth generation Cantabrian, is the media officer for Christchurch based Christian World Service

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