We are a first-world country. We have enough food, clean water* and shelter (although some of our housing is substandard). We have the internet, socialised healthcare, access to education. We can afford to buy clothing and drink lattes in cafes while discussing the state of the nation. We have peace and democracy, and the luxury of leaving if we don't like it here. In New Zealand, we have it pretty good. It's safe here - apart from natural disasters. And when they happen we have well-trained, well-coordinated civil defence and support services.
What we don't have is a large population. So when one of our major cities gets destroyed twice in 6 months, our national coffers get empty really fast. The first earthquake is estimated to have a damage-only cost between 6 and 8 billion dollars. Estimates on this one are going as high as 16 billion. Our GDP is about 140 billion. you don't have to be a mental giant to figure out that this is a huge blow to the NZ economy, which has been in recession for several years. Our dollar dropped as soon as the earthquake hit, and right now economists are arguing whether it'd be a good idea for the Reserve Bank to lower interest rates to get some cash out there - which would drop our dollar further and make things like petrol and a lot of food much more expensive. We simply don't have the critical mass of people to raise money to replace what this will cost.
And then there are the associated costs outside of putting homes and business buildings and infrastructure back up. I read an article recently in which a taxi driver from Christchurch was talking about how much harder it has been for him to make his living since Sept 4 last year because the tourists are not going there as much. There are people who will be left without jobs because the businesses they work for don't have a building, or can't ride out the second round of repairs - these people still need to eat and will need financial help. There are people who will leave Christchurch. In a country where we have 150,000 job seekers and 50,000 available jobs, there's not a lot of happy news out there for those people. Insurance premiums will go up for everyone in the country. And then there are the businesses themselves and what they added to the economy. After Sept 4, one of the Christchurch industry reps I work with was talking about how all their tower cranes had to be taken down and inspected, then put back up, before they could even start work on rebuilding. This is a national company that has already poured a whole lot of resources into Christchurch - who knows if they can do it again without going under? And how would the collapse of national companies affect the economy as a whole?
So yeah, good advice up there - go to work, be as productive as you can, take home your pay, donate some and spend the rest, and maybe write a letter to the Prime Minister suggesting he send the Beamers back in trade for some second hand Toyotas bought off TradeMe.
Right now we're in a national state of emergency. To be honest I don't even know what this means - it's never happened here before. And yes, I realise exactly how privileged I am to be musing about this stuff on the internet with a tummy full of coffee while in Libya people are getting shot at by their own leader and in Christchurch people are still wondering if their loved ones are alive. And it all feels very weird. I was watching a plane taking off from Wellington airport this morning and thinking "Wow, the world just goes on" - and as a nation, Kiwis are very very good at just going on in the face of disaster. But this time we might need a little help.
* Yes, even those in Christchurch will have access to clean water thanks to the evil giant Fonterra that the US is so scared of, donating 38 tankers at 20,000 litres capacity each, to take clean water to the city. Officials fear a water-related disease outbreak and are advising people to boil water before drinking it regardless.
And those bigots with that website blaming it on Teh Gheys can fuck off. Seriously. You are not welcome in my country.
But The Beached As Boys, they can stay. Or immigrate. Or whatever.