Three years on

February 22, 2014

Those of us who weren’t in Christchurch at 12:51pm on February 22nd, 2011 will probably always recall where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the earthquake.

Those who were in the city or close to it will never forget.

This post is to remember the ones who died and were injured;  the ones who lost family and friends, homes and work places;  those who lives were literally and figuratively turned upside down and those who are still dealing with the physical, financial and emotional problems caused by the quake and its aftermath.

It is to acknowledge those who helped during the crisis and those who are dealing with ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances.

It is also to celebrate the people who are working so hard, under still trying conditions, to rebuild the city.

The Press lists commemorative events.

 


Fewer than half preprared

February 14, 2014

Only 22% of New Zealanders believe they have the basic essentials to get through a natural disaster and only 17 % had better than basic preparations.

Figures from the 2012 New Zealand General Social Survey show the proportion of people with basic preparations (a three-day supply of food and water, and a household emergency plan) is up from 17 percent in 2010.

“Unsurprisingly, the region with the highest level of basic preparation was Canterbury – 40 percent had basic preparations, up from 28 percent in 2010,” General Social Survey manager Philip Walker said.

“Marlborough (36 percent) and Hawke’s Bay (30 percent) also had high proportions of people who were basically prepared.”

In Wellington, 29 percent of people were prepared while around one-quarter of people in the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne region had basic preparations.

“The regions with the lowest rates for basic preparation in 2012 were Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Otago, and Southland. They all had less than one-fifth of people prepared,” Mr Walker said.

Nationally, 17 percent of people had better-than-basic preparations for a natural disaster – they also had a torch, portable radio, spare batteries, first aid kit, and essential medicines, on top of a three-day supply of food and water and a household emergency plan. This figure was up from 12 percent in 2010.

Approximately one-third of New Zealand households had an emergency plan in 2012. This has increased steadily from approximately one-quarter of households in 2008. . .

It’s rare that neither my farmer nor I is in town more than once a week but we could easily get by for more than that if we had to. We’ve got enough ponds and streams for water and a fire on which to boil it to ensure it’s potable and we always have torches, spare batteries and a first aid kit.

The portable radio is a bit too portable and tends to wander but it’s generally not too far from home. If all else failed we’d be able to use a radio in a car, ute or tractor to catch up on emergency broadcasts.

That fewer than 40% of people have at least basic preparations for an emergency could be a reflection on the way they live these days – fewer have vegetable gardens and many shop for what they need day by day.

But how hard is it to have basic or better than basic preparations?

If you’re very poor it would be difficult to have little if any more than you require for immediate needs.

But is it asking too much for other people to have enough spare to be self-sufficient for three days?


Big numbers but each an individual

November 13, 2013

At least 10,000 people have died and many more have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines:

Four million people are thought to have been affected by the massive storm and 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the city of Tacloban in the province of Leyte alone after huge waves swept away coastal villages on Friday.

A United Nations humanitarian official described the scale of damage in the Philippines caused by Haiyan as massive and unprecedented. John Ging said 660,000 people fled their homes because of the storm and the UN will appeal for significant international aid for victims.

Devastated communities without food, water and medicines are showing desperation after one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded flattened entire towns and left countless bodies scattered across wastelands.

People in Tacloban woke up to just what they didn’t need on Tuesday – driving rain. With provisions running low, everyone says that food is their main concern.

A BBC correspondent said he saw families straining filthy water through T-shirts to try and remove the dirt and there is a real risk of diseases like dysentery spreading quickly.  . . .

It is difficult to grasp the extent of the devastation, the lives lost, many more still at risk, homes destroyed, schools trashed, businesses ruined . . .

With numbers as big as these it is important to remember that each is an individual and that, just as we are seeing in Christchurch, the end of the storm won’t be the end of the problems.

Parliament began yesterday by offering messages of support to the victims.

Before question time in the House this afternoon, Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe both offered their condolences following the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines this week.

“Images we are seeing out of the affected areas are deeply harrowing and I know that all New Zealanders will be moved by them,” Mr Key said.

New Zealand had learned firsthand from the Canterbury earthquakes no country has to face a destructive natural disaster alone, he said.

“The international community always stands ready to help.” . . .

Unfortunately one MP let politics get in the way of the condolences.

In contrast, Dr Norman used his time to read a speech from the head of the Philippines’ delegation to the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

His speech drew audible groans from the MPs and a number of negative tweets from politicians, including National MP Tau Henare and Labour MP Shane Jones.

After a point of order from co-leader Metiria Turei, Speaker David Carter said Mr Norman had the right to make a speech, “but it would be better if it was delivered without a political message”. . .

This was the wrong time and place for such a message.


State of emergency declared in NSW

October 21, 2013

We spent a couple of days in rural Victoria last week.

A strong, not wind was blowing, it felt like a nor wester at home, but the fire danger was low. Pastures were green and lush with spring growth and dams were full.

victoria

 

But blackened trees showed where bush fires had raged and our hosts told us of days spent fire fighting as their farms and homes were threatened.

They were counting their blessings as they listened to news of fires further north.

A week later New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell has declared a state of emergency across the whole state as bush fires worsen.

Mass forced evacuations affecting tens of thousands of people are possible as hotter and drier than expected conditions combine with huge fire fronts already burning.

”This is not out of the realms of possibility,” NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. ”We are expecting the potential for the series of these fires to come together, to extend right down Bells Line of Road.

”They have the very real potential to go right out to the eastern end of the Hawkesbury, right down into the north-west area of Sydney including Richmond. . .

The Sydney Morning Herald has live updates.


Freedom Tower

September 11, 2013

It’s still September 10th in the USA but it’s the 11th (11.9 to us but 9.11 to them) here.

I woke up that morning to hear my farmer saying “they’ve crashed” and spent the next few hours checking in to the live broadcasts as the horror unfolded.

Each time I travel I’m reminded of that day and how it changed the way we do things.

But twelve years on the focus is on the Freedom Tower which is  nearing completion.

Soaring above the city at 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center will be America’s tallest building – and an indelible New York landmark. Designed by David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 2.6-million-square-foot building will include office space, an observation deck, world-class restaurants, and broadcast and antennae facilities.

Begun by Silverstein Properties in April 2006 and taken over by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, construction has accelerated in the last year.   . .

 

 


Govt funding Pike river re-entry plan

September 3, 2013

Families of the men who died in the Pyke River mine have been given some hope that the bodies will be recovered.

The Government has approved conditional funding of a staged plan to re-enter and explore the main tunnel leading up to the rock fall at the Pike River Coal Mine, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges has announced.

The decision follows approval in principle of the re-entry plan risk assessment by the Solid Energy Board.

Mr Bridges said the Government will fund the estimated cost of the plan, at $7.2 million.

“Our criteria are that any re-entry into the tunnel up to the rock fall is safe, technically feasible and financially credible. Safety is paramount, and the High Hazards Unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has reviewed the plan and is comfortable with it,” said Mr Bridges.

“This is a highly complex and technical operation and it will be carefully managed in stages, with a risk assessment undertaken at each stage. Ensuring the safety of workers is an absolute bottom line for the Government and Solid Energy.”

Mr Bridges said the scope of the operation did not include entry into the main mine workings which is blocked by the rock fall. 

“The Government cannot comment or speculate about re-entering the main mine until the tunnel re-entry has been successfully achieved,” Mr Bridges said. 

Some of the families might have accepted that body recovery is unlikely, others haven’t and that will be an obstacle in the grieving process.

This is a first step which will give families hope but it gives no certainty.

Awful as the waiting and wondering must be for the relatives and friends of the men who died, the safety and lives of rescuers must take precedence over the recovery of bodies.


Canterbury can

May 26, 2013

Quote of the day:

 Like this if you agree.

We have friends in Christchurch who keep us in touch with what’s happening and we toured the red zone a couple of months ago.

But no-one who isn’t living there can really understand what it’s like living there and dealing with the aftermath of the big earthquakes and the ongoing after shocks.

Those who are doing it are showing compassion, practicality and resilience that none of us know we possess until we’re put to the test.

They’re showing us Canterbury can and is recovering.


Texas Fertiliser plant explosion

April 18, 2013

An explosion at a fertilser works in the town of West, Texas, has killed at least two people and injured more than 100.

“There are a lot of people that got hurt,” West Mayor Tommy Muska forewarned Wednesday night. “There are a lot of people that will not be here tomorrow.”

A massive explosion at a fertilizer plant on the edge of the town killed at least two people, wounded more than 150, leveled dozens of homes and prompted authorities to evacuate half their community of 2,800.

“It was a like a nuclear bomb went off,” Muska said. “Big old mushroom cloud.”

The Wednesday night blast shook houses 50 miles away and measured as a 2.1-magnitude seismic event, according to the United States Geological Survey.

“Fire officials fear that the number of casualties could rise as high as 60 to 70 dead, said Dr. George Smith, the emergency management system director of the city. . .

The Boston Marathon bombing was no accident it is probable that the fertilser plant accident was.

Fertiliser can contain ammonium nitrate which is also used in explosives.

 


Two years on

February 22, 2013

At 12:51pm two years ago a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch.

On this second anniversary we remember the 185 people who died and the many others who were seriously injured.

We think of people whose homes and businesses were badly damaged, some irreparably.

We think of people still living in limbo, waiting for decisions, waiting for repairs, waiting to move on.

But two years on as the rebuild gains momentum we can also appreciate the work that has been done, the opportunities grasped and look ahead to better times for Christchurch and Canterbury.

 

 


NZ First pledges to kill insurance industry

February 16, 2013

New Zealand First has pledged to give full compensation to Christchurch landowners:

All Christchurch uninsured red-zoned land owners who accept the current Government’s 50 per cent compensation offer will get the other half should New Zealand First become part of the next coalition Government.

Ensuring these landowners are treated fairly and receive the full rateable value of the land will be a bottom line in any coalition negotiations. . .

The party obviously doesn’t understand that what it regards as treating these landowners fairly would be treating insurance companies, their staff and shareholders, and taxpayers most unfairly.

This would kill the insurance industry because no-one would bother insuring their properties if they knew the government would pick up the pieces after a disaster.

This policy passes all the risk and costs from private property owners and insurance companies to the government which means taxpayers.


Drop, Cover, Hold

September 26, 2012

At 9:26 this morning more than a million people will participate in the earthquake drill ShakeOut.

This will be the first nationwide earthquake drill ever held in any country.

Until a couple of years ago we might have thought it was academic.

But the Canterbury quakes changed that.

These are the shaky isles and we should all know how to drop, cover and hold.


Prepare to ShakeOut

September 13, 2012

At 9.26am on Wednesday September 26 more than a million people will participate in the earthquake drill New Zealand ShakeOut.

Wherever we are, at home, work or school, inside or outside, we’re being asked to join in and practise the drill:  “Drop, Cover and Hold”.

That’s what we’re meant to do in an earthquake.

Rural Support Trusts have a message for farmers:

Stop for a moment and think – if there had just been a major earthquake:

  • Are your family and staff safe?
  • If you have lost services or infrastructure, are you able to keep your farm operating?

Following the 2010 Darfield earthquake some properties did not have power for up to a week. Also, rotary dairy platforms were knocked off their mountings, grain silos collapsed, and reticulated water systems were damaged. In the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake, milk silos at the dairy factory collapsed. The 1968 Inangahua earthquake saw all roads out of the area blocked.

“The priority for restoring services such as electricity and telephone service is likely to go to the areas of highest population first,” says Lindsay Wright of the Southland Rural Support Trust. “This means that the more remote rural areas may have to wait several days for restoration of services. If the roads are blocked, then maybe longer.”

Rural Support Trusts are asking farmers to take the opportunity during the Shakeout event to consider their readiness, response and recovery plans should such an event occur in their area.

Until a couple of years ago the need for awareness and preparation might have been considered to be academic.

The Canterbury earthquakes taught us it isn’t.

Wherever we are we need to know what to do. In the country especially we need to be prepared to look after ourselves and our neighbours in case help can’t get to us or emergency services have higher priorities in more densely populated places.


Can we prevent a repeat?

August 15, 2012

Alan Reay whose design firm Alan Reay Consultants designed the Canterbury Television building which collapsed in the Christchurch earthquake has accepted full responsibility for its failings.

Without in anyway minimising the tragic loss of life in that quake, the death toll was low considering how many people were in the city centre and most of those who died were in just two buildings.

Taking responsibility for building failings can not change what happened and its tragic consequences.

But learning from the mistakes and shortcomings not just in the design and construction but in inspections after the pre-February 22nd earthquakes could prevent them and the tragic consequences being repeated.


Drop, cover and hold

June 9, 2012

People in Christchurch know the drop, cover and hold drill and it is important that the rest of us do too.

That’s the motivation behind the Great New Zealand Shakeout - the country’s largest ever earthquake drill which is being held at 9:26am on September 26 (9:26 on 26.9).

Why bother?

While earthquake hazard varies from region to region (see below), all of New Zealand is prone to earthquakes.  You could be anywhere when an earthquake strikes – at home, at work, at school or on holiday. 

New Zealand ShakeOut has been created to help people and organisations get better prepared for major earthquakes, and practice how to be protected when they happen.  Everyone will practice “Drop, Cover and Hold”—the right action to take in an earthquake.

New Zealand ShakeOut also provides a fantastic opportunity for organisations and businesses to examine and review their own emergency preparedness arrangements.  Families and households can create, review and practice their household plans.

Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain says that more than 100,000 people have already registered to participate.

It’s easy to think it won’t happen here, but that’s what Canterbury people would have thought before the September 2010 earthquake. That and the thousands that have followed are proof it could happen anywhere and we all ought to know how to protect ourselves and those around us.

We’ve had all-too regular reminders that these are the shaky isles and we need to be prepared for the shaking wherever and whenever it happens.


Safest place on earth

April 1, 2012

Sky today has compiled a list of the 10 safest places on earth if World War 3 breaks out.

The #1 spot is New Zealand about which they say:

New Zealand  might be the most isolated and expansive fully developed nation in the world. It shares no borders, sits relatively distant from any other nation, has no real national enemies, has a safe democracy and a diverse landscape with many remote places to hide away within. Furthermore, it ranked #1 on the Global Peace Index in 2009.

Numbers 2 – 9 are: Bhutan, Iceland, Tuvalu, Finland, Seychelles, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica and Switzerland.

 

 


Kia Kaha Christchurch

February 22, 2012

At 12:51 a year ago today, a violent earthquake shook Christchurch, Lyttleton and the hinterland.

It lasted just 24 seconds but in that time changed the city forever.

Among the victims on the day were 185 who were killed and many more who were injured.

The physical and financial costs of the quake, and the thousands of big and small ones which have followed, might be quantifiable.

The emotional impact on the people of Christchurch is not.

Today we will remember them all: the people who died; their family and friends who will still be mourning for them;  the people who were injured and those still supporting them; the people who were forced from their homes and businesses and those who have stayed.

Today is also an opportunity to honour the many organisations and individuals who have worked so hard to help the city and its people. Among them are Sam Johnson who was named Young New Zealander of the Year for his leadership of the Student Volunteer Army, and Federated Farmers’ John Hartnell who led the Farmy Army.

Today is an opportunity to look back in sadness but it’s also an opporutnity to look forward in hope.

Kia Kaha Christchurch.

Timetable of commemoration  services:

  • Christchurch

Where: North Hagley Park

When: 12pm-1:30pm

Christchurch residents welcome to attend the reading of names of the  185 who perished and two minute’s silence will be observed.

Where: North Hagley Park

When: 2pm-4pm

Christchurch Earthquake Awards will celebrate those who rose above the call of duty to assist others in the aftermath.

Where: Latimer Square

When: 8am-8.45am

Service focused towards those who lost loved ones as well as first  responders, the public is also welcome to attend.

Where: Avon River

When: 8am-8pm

An event called River of Flowers. The public is invited to  cast flowers into the river at particular sites. More information available here

Where: Christchurch Botanic Gardens

When: 10am-11.45am

Festival of Flowers where Golden Angel/Spirit sculpture will be  unveiled and ringing of Peace Bell by Japanese students who lost friends in the  CTV building.

Where: Wainoni/Avonside Community Services Trust

When: 12:45pm

Lighting of candles and two minutes’ silence along with other memorial  activites.

Where: Branston Intermediate

When: 4.30pm-7.30pm

The Crusaders will be manning the  free BBQ and there will be ice cream and games to entertain the  children.

Where: Sacred Heart Parish Church, Addington

When: 5pm-8pm

Mass by the Filipino community of  Christchurch.

Where: Queenspark Reserve

When: 5pm-7pm

A Memorial Reflection where northeast Christchurch residents can  reflect over the year at stations dotted around the park.

Where: Oxford Terrace Baptist Church

When: 7pm

Reflection of Loss of Lives, Livelihoods and Living in Neighbourhood.  An installation of white chairs will represent earthquake victims.

Where: Holy Trinity Avonside

When: 7pm

Brief service and candle lighting will be followed by Ash Wednesday  service.

Where: Spreydon Baptist Church

When: 7.30pm

Remembrance and Ash Wednesday service.

  • Selwyn

Where: Selwyn District Council chambers, two minutes’ silence

When: 12.51pm

Where: Rolleston Domain

When: 5pm-7pm

Community picnic with music and children’s games

  • Waimakariri

Where: Kaiapoi Baptist Church, the Kaiapoi Club and the Oxford  Workingman’s Club

When: 12pm-1.30pm

North Hagley Park’s Civic Memorial Service will be screened.

Where: District Council Rangiora and Oxford service centres and  Darnley Square, Kaiapoi

When: 12.51pm

Two minute’s silence.

  • Auckland

Where: Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral

When: 12.30-1:00pm

Mayor Len Brown will lead two minute’s silence at 12.51pm.

Where: Aotea Square

When: 12.51pm

The Auckland Town Hall clock bell will ring at the start and finish of  two minutes’ silence.

Where: Auckland War Memorial Museum

When: 12pm-2pm

Reading from The Broken Book by Christchurch author Fiona  Farrell, two minutes’ silence at 12.51pm and a screening of When A City  Falls documentary at 1pm.

  • Wellington

Where: Anglican and Catholic cathedrals

When: 12.30pm

Wellington’s service will be hosted by the Anglican and Catholic  cathedrals, as vigil of solidarity with the two iconic Christchurch cathedrals  that were destroyed.

  • Dunedin

Where: Otago Museum lawn

When: 12.30pm

Otago Student Association president Logan Edgar says a two minute’s  silence, mayoral address from Dave Cull and end karakia will be held.

  • Wanganui

Where: Majestic Square

When: 5pm

Wanganui District Council’s youth committee and Mayor Annette Main will  be hosting a service.


Pike River tragedy unresolved

November 19, 2011

A year ago today 31 men went into the Pike River mine.

Two survived the explosion which happened that afternoon, the rest died in the mine.

The first anniversary of a death is a big milestone which usually helps families and friends in their journey through the grief maze. They know they have survived all the firsts – birthdays, Christmas, mothers’ and fathers’ days – without the one for whom they are grieving and can realistically hope that the next year will be better.

But the coming year will bring more of the same for the relatives and friends of the Pike River men. They still have to endure the Royal Commission into the disaster and a court case of those being held accountable for it.

And they still wait in hope that the bodies or remains might be recovered.

The Pike River mine disaster is still an unresolved tragedy.

It could take many more months before it is resolved and regardless of how it is resolved it can never bring back those 29 men who went to work a year ago today.


Stomach knotted, brow knitted

October 14, 2011

Is a knotted stomach an inner luck-bringing contortion in the nature of the outer display of digit crossing?

If so, we should be right because the nation’s stomachs are knotted and brows knitted too as an extra precaution.

That doesn’t mean we can relax though, because any unknotting of stomachs, unknitting of brows and uncrossing of digits could be tempting fate and fate has a way of acting capriciously enough without any encouragement from us.

If none of this makes sense – pop over to read Jim Hopkins’ diary of a column and see if that helps.

 

 


The facts on Rena – UPDATED

October 13, 2011

The captain of the Rema and another officer have been charged with ‘operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk’.

It is difficult to understand how a container ship could hit a well marked  charted reef but the court case may answer some of the many questions about that.

In the mean time, a media release from National MP Dr Jackie Blue answers the critics who think the government should have done, and should still be doing more:

1. What are Government’s environmental priorities?

The main concern is the 1700 tonnes of heavy oil on the Rena, of which an estimated 350 tonnes has leaked.  The second priority is
the 80 tonnes of hazardous goods, albeit these raise greater occupational safety risks for the salvage operation than environmental risks to the Bay of Plenty community.  The third is the risk to shipping from the containers lost overboard.

 2. Why was oil not removed from the vessel earlier?

The heavy oil tanks on the Rena are serviced by pipes in the duct keel which was extensively damaged when the ship hit the reef. 
The time critical issue in getting the heavy oil off the ship was putting together the alternative pipe system to enable the tanks to be emptied.  A further priority was pumping oil out of the bow tanks that were damaged to the stern tanks.  An additional complication was intrusions within the tanks that made the job of getting the pumps in from the top difficult.  Even if the oil transfer vessel, the Awanuia, had arrived prior to Sunday it would not have changed the time when the pumping could have started.

3. Why were booms not placed to contain the oil around the ship?

Booms are only useful in very specific circumstances and their performance varies with the type of oil and sea conditions.  They don’t work in a chop of more than 0.5 metres or in any significant sea current.  The fuel oil in the ship is heavy grade and can float below the surface, also making booms less effective in this spill.  Absorption booms are being used in some of the estuaries, but are limited to areas where there
is low current.

4. What about the environmental safety of the dispersant being used?

Dispersants help reduce the harm of an oil spill by breaking up the oil and thus reducing the toll on birdlife.  It is most effective as soon as possible after the oil enters the ocean.  Five dispersants were trialled because different formulations work differently on different oil types.  The dispersant being used, Corexit 9500, is approved by the Environmental Protection Authority and has a low eco-toxicity.  It is similar to dishwashing liquid or washing powder.  It can have ecological effects in shallow waters that exceed its benefits and, as a consequence, its use is being limited to deeper waters.  The Government is taking a cautious approach to its use but decisions on this, like on other parts of the operation, are being made by technical experts.

 5. What implications are there from this spill for the Government’s plans for petroleum development
in the marine environment?

The Government has taken a very environmentally responsible approach in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.  There was an independent review of New Zealand’s regulations and systems for managing the risks.  This review found New Zealand’s regulations and systems were in good shape, with the exception of the gap in respect of assessment of environmental effects in the EEZ.  The Government has introduced legislation based on world’s best practise for the EEZ and put in place interim arrangements.  This legislation was supported by the Greens but opposed by Labour.  You should note that there were 14 test bores drilled in the deep sea during Labour’s last term, without any mandatory assessment of environmental effects.  The connection between this shipping based spill and proposed deep sea drilling are thin.  The risks are quite different and no one is suggesting that an export based country should ban shipping.

This is an environmental disaster but TV3 has a history of maritime disasters which put it into perspective:

An estimated 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has spilled into the sea from the  Rena so far.

* Last year the Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded, spilling about 780,000  tonnes of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

* In 2003 the oil tanker Tasman Spirit ran aground off Karachi,Pakistan, spilling about 27,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 2002 the tanker Prestige wrecked on the Spanish coast leaked an  estimated 76,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 1989 the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska,  spilling up to 119,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 1978 the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground off the French coast and  broke up, spilling its cargo of 220,000 tonnes of light crude oil and 4000  tonnes of fuel oil into the sea.

And in New Zealand:

 * In 2002, the Jody F Millennium broke free from her moorings in Gisborne Harbour and ran onto the beach in rough seas. An  estimated 25 tonnes of fuel oil leaked out, coming ashore over about 8km of  coastline.

* Also in 2002, the Hong Kong-flagged carrier Tai Ping, carrying 9500 tonnes  of fertiliser, ran aground at Tiwai Point, at the entrance to Bluff Harbour.  After being grounded for nine days, the vessel was refloated with not a drop of  oil spilled.

* In 2000, the Seafresh 1 caught fire and sank off the Chatham Islands,  spilling 60 tonnes of diesel.

* In 1999, the container ship MV Rotoma discharged around 7 tonnes of oily  water off Northland’s east coast.

* In 1998, the Korean fishing vessel Don Wong 529 ran aground off Stewart  Island, spilling 400 tonnes of automotive oil.

NZ History online has a list of disasters among which are the following maritime ones:

* The Maria broke up on rocks near Wellington on  23 July 1851, with the loss of 26 lives.

* The sinking of the Orpheus which hit the Manakau bar in 1863 killing 189 of the 259 people on board.

* The City of Dunedin which disappeared without trace in 1865 with 39 passengers and crew.

* After fire broke out on board the Fiery Star in 1865 the captain and 77 passengers took to the lifeboats and were never seen again.

* The steamer Taiaroa struck rocks at the mouth of the Clarence River on 11 April 1886, and 34 people drowned.

* The sinking of the General Grant in 1866 resulted in the death of all but 15 of the 83 on board.

* In 1869, 20 people died when the St Vincent was wrecked in Palliser Bay.

* In  1881, the steamer  Tararua struck a reef at Waipapa Point, Southland. In all, 131 passengers and crew died, including 12 women and 14 children. Most were washed overboard and drowned while the rescuers were held back by high seas.

* The following year a sudden storm wrecked two large sailing ships, the City of Perth and Ben Venue, in Timaru’s exposed roadstead. Nine lives were lost. Among the dead were the port’s harbourmaster and five local watermen, who had tried to rescue the ships’ crews.

* In 1886 Taiaroa struck rocks near the mouth of the Clarence River, north of Kaikōura, and sank with the loss of 34 lives.

* In  1894 the steamer Wairarapa hit cliffs on Great Barrier Island, resulting in the deaths of 101 of the 186 passengers and 20 of the 65 crew.

*  In 1902 the three-masted sailing ship the Loch Long was wrecked off the Chatham Islands, with the loss of 24 lives.

*  The same year  the steamer Elingamite was wrecked on the Three Kings Islands, north of Cape Rēinga, with the loss of 45 lives.

* In 1909 the Cook Strait ferry Penguin struck rocks off Cape Terawhiti and sank with the loss of 72 lives.

* In 1950 the passenger launch Ranui, returning from a holiday trip to Mayor Island, was wrecked on North Rock, Mt Maunganui. Of the 23 people on board, only one survived.

* In 1951 the 10 crew on board  Husky and Argo, were lost during the centennial Wellington-Lyttelton yacht race. (My father was on board the Caplin, another yacht which entered the race).

* The Holmglen foundered north of Oamaru in 1959. All 15 crew were lost.

* In 1966 the collier Kaitawa was lost with all 29 hands.

* In 1968 the  Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine struck Barrett Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. Of the 734 passengers and crew on board, 51 died (a 52nd victim died several weeks later, and a 53rd of related causes in 1990).

These don’t make the foundering of the Rema any better.

It is an environmental disaster which will have social and economic repercussions but no human lives have been lost, nor should any be put at risk in the recovery and clean-up.

UPDATE: Whaleoil has some graphics which also put the Rena into perspective.


Can’t risk living to bring back dead

September 26, 2011

Tom was only 20 weeks old when he died.

We were in hospital at the time and among the formalities which had to be completed was signing a form giving permission for a post mortem.

I had no objection to that. I was at least as anxious as the medical staff to find a cause of the brain disorder which killed him and I waited with increasing desperation for the results.

It was a very long wait. We passed the 20 week mark after his death so he’d been dead longer than he’d been alive and still the post mortem report didn’t come.

The longer we waited the more I focussed on the results but when the letter finally came it was an anti-climax and a disappointment. The investigations undertaken after his death told us no more than the results of the numerous tests Tom had endured during his life.

In hindsight I realise that it wasn’t just the absence of any answers to our questions of what had caused Tom’s illness, which upset me. It was that focussing on the post mortem results had led me down a by way off the grieving highway. The letter brought me to a dead end and forced me to accept there wasn’t going to be a happy-ever-after there. The son we had loved was dead and with him died the hopes and dreams we’d had for his future which we hadn’t even been aware of until we lost him and them.

The report on which I’d put so much importance was nothing more than a reminder I had to return to the main road, come to terms with Tom’s death and get on with living.

All that a long time ago now, more than 20 years, but reports on the desperation of the families of the men who died in the Pike River mine remind me of how I felt.

Anguish and anger are natural and normal reactions to the tragic deaths of their men and wanting to get them back is understandable. But even if, after two explosions and subsequent fire, there is something to bring back, it won’t by itself make anything better. The families are stuck down a side road, waiting as I was. Whatever they might have when the waiting is over it won’t be what they want which is the living men they remember and for whom they grieve.

Nobody could have told me I was waiting in vain and I don’t expect the Pike River families to give up on the hope a recovery operation could, and belief it should, be undertaken.

However, those responsible for the mine can’t be swayed be the strong and understandable emotions of those who grieve. No matter what the bereaved families think and feel, the living can’t be put at risk to bring back the dead.


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