Leave this beautiful little country alone!
Every time NZ Prime Minister John Key’s phone rings, he must fear the worst. Every time your average Kiwi switches on the news, they must dread what they’re about to hear.
Our tiny neighbour across the Tasman experienced disaster after disaster in 2011.
Unfortunately, the first week of 2012 brought events that jogged painful memories of the events of the previous year - and another tragedy of its own.
On Saturday the ground beneath Christchurch rumbled four times. One quake measured 5.2 on the Richter scale. No damage was reported but it was more than enough to raise anxieties nearly a year after a devastating earthquake claimed 181 lives.
Out at sea the cargo vessel Rena, which ran aground on a reef near North Island in October last year causing an oil spill that is considered NZ’s “worst ever environmental disaster”, broke in two. More oil was spilt (although thankfully, not huge amounts) and the coastline has been besieged with the contents of the ship’s containers.
But by far the worst news of the week was the deaths of 11 people when the hot-air balloon they were on board erupted in flames. After last year’s disaster on the ground and disaster at sea, a disaster in the sky.
Just as they did in 2011, the faces of this latest tragedy have emerged. The stories of the likes of Stephen Hopkirk, who died in the balloon tragedy on his 50th birthday after being given a ticket by his partner, Belinda, are being told. More public grieving, after a year of grief.
It’s just unfair.
But what’s perhaps most depressing is that the tragedies of 2011 seem likely to continue to torment NZ into the future.
Earthquake scientists told AAP that aftershocks from the quake could continue for up to 30 years, although Christchurch is unlikely to face an earthquake of similar magnitude to the one of February 2011.
The clean-up operation for the 236-metre Rena is sure to continue in the coming weeks, the mess tormenting the country.
Late last year I tried to survey the mood in New Zealand following the disasters and in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup grand final, which the Kiwis eventually won.
One Kiwi told me a victory in the World Cup would “be like a dream come true….It’d boost morale hugely, boost confidence in every aspect of our lives.”
The Kiwis have always been known for their fighting spirit - on the sporting field and off. Let’s hope they tap into that spirit this year when it comes to confronting the unstable world around them.
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