The massive earthquake in Christchurch on Saturday morning is a wakeup call for us here in Marlborough. The earthquake occurred on a previously unknown fault line, and with the proximity to Christchurch and a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale, it was inevitable that damage would occur. What is incredible is the relatively low amount of damage and the rapid restoration of services compared to similar quakes elsewhere in the world.
Here in Marlborough, we shouldn't be complacent. We have known fault lines running the length of the Awatere and Wairau Valleys, so it's a case of when, not if, we have an earthquake here. Hopefully if we have enough small frequent quakes that pass unnoticed, we'll never have the 'big one', but we shouldn't get complacent.
Disaster planning is a community responsibility, starting at the top with local government, but involving all levels of society including local businesses, down to households and individuals. At the governing level, resource and building consents need to consider appropriate structures and construction methods. For example is a hydro scheme that runs parallel to and less than a kilometre from a major fault line a reliable source of energy for the region long term? Local government also needs to have a disaster response plan in place. Blenheim does have a modern Civil Defence headquarters, but this is where individual responsibility also kicks in. Because we don't have major disasters every day, there isn't a paid team of professionals dedicated to disaster response. If there was, people would complain about the expense. Police and the military are professionals who have disaster response training. Firefighters, Saint John's Ambulance, and Red Cross have people with a high level of training, but many of these people are volunteers, and there's always a need for more. Maybe the recession is making it difficult to donate money to charity, but how about checking out whether you can donate some time to get trained, so that you're able to help out if a crisis hits our community?
Individually, there's a personal and household responsibility to be prepared to minimise dependency on emergency services. Perhaps the best way to think about it, is to consider being prepared to go camping for a week at short notice in a remote location where there's no safe drinking water, no electricity, and no cell phone coverage. If you could jump out of bed in the dark and know where all the gear to do this is, you're probably already pretty well prepared. If you're not, perhaps it's time to make it a priority to get things together.