24 February 2012
Key Notes - Standing beside Cantabrians
In this edition of Key Notes, I talk about our commitment to Canterbury and the one-year anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake that devastated Christchurch.
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This week we marked one year since the February 22nd earthquake that devastated our second largest city.
Scenes from that fateful day in Christchurch will live on in our memories - whether you were there that day, or watching events unfold on television.
I was in Latimer Square in the hours after the quake struck. I remember the sight of people huddled under blankets, sirens blaring, and helicopters flying overhead. Dust was thick in the air, and the ground we stood on continued to shake with rolling aftershocks.
It's something I'll never forget. It was New Zealand - but it was a New Zealand I had never seen before.
On Wednesday morning I spoke at the remembrance service in a very different Latimer Square. It was an emotional and moving ceremony as we honoured the 185 people who lost their lives. At 12.51pm we held two minutes of silence in North Hagley Park and across the country.
For those who lost loved ones, or the many who were injured, it has been a particularly tough week. Many family members were at services in the city, and some had travelled from other countries to be with us.
Recognising bravery and thanking volunteers
One year on, it was also a time to recognise the many people who stepped up to help those in need.
So many risked their own lives to save others. For many, their homes were damaged and their family and friends were scattered across Canterbury, yet they selflessly took care of strangers.
I paid tribute to the thousands of Police, Fire Service, ambulance, and other first responders from both New Zealand and overseas, who worked tirelessly in the days and weeks afterwards. The actions of these brave people and many other Cantabrians showed us that in the worst of times, we see the very best of New Zealand.
I attended a ceremony to award the Royal Humane Society's gold medal to Mayor Bob Parker on behalf of the people of Christchurch.
Reaffirming our commitment to Canterbury
This week I also reiterated the Government's total commitment to rebuilding Christchurch.
We will find answers about what happened through the Royal Commission process. We will do what it takes to rebuild a city that looks different, but carries a renewed vibrancy and energy.
This week was also a time to reflect on the progress we have made in getting Canterbury back on its feet. We have committed $5.5 billion to the rebuild of Canterbury. Around 200 infrastructure repair projects - such as roads, sewer lines, and water mains - are underway. In the central city construction has begun on around 20 commercial buildings. Thousands of badly damaged homes have been repaired, or work has started on them. The Re:Start shopping area in Cashel Mall is drawing people back to the central city.
Looking ahead to the future
The anniversary this week is a time to reflect on the past year, and to remember those who lost their lives, those who were injured, and those who selflessly went to the aid of others. February 22nd will be forever etched in our nation's history. We have a long journey ahead. But together we can take strength from one another and look forward to the future.
Rt Hon John Key