Tag Archives: Christchurch earthquake

Do we need an NZERA?

The appointment of Roger Sutton as Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority has been widely welcomed as a good move and in the best interests of the region.  From the little I’ve seen of him on telly I would tend to agree.  He has the communication and leadership skills to bring great vision and drive to a very important organisation.

What a pity that our politicians don’t have the same skills.  Words like self-serving, poll-driven and short-term thinking spring to mind when I hear a politician speak.  The drive to retain power in a system that sees them facing the risk of being sacked every tthree years stunts their ability to think and act in the best interests of the country and its people.

I am of the view that New Zealand faces a disastrous economic future unless something drastic is done to sort out our problems.  I’ve posted before about the economic impact of the leaky home crisis, the Christchurch earthquake and the meltdown of finance companies.  These things, along with world economic conditions, will make life very hard for us all.  But what are those responsible for managing all this doing?  Making minor adjustments to things like student loans schemes and Kiwi Saver (but not their own super scheme I note somewhat cynically).

Perhaps we need to sideline the politicians and appoint a New Zealand Economic Recover Agency headed by someone like Roger Sutton?

Someone able to assess the situation, get a handle on the key factors plaguing this country and then make the hard decisions,not just short term, to help us make progress and get back to a reasonable standard of living.  Not a political appointment, subject to three yearly changes of governments, but an enduring appointment (obviously with safeguards) of someone with vision and leadership skills to sort us out.

So bring on an NZERA.  I’ll vote for that.

Where is God?

Where is God?  A question you might ask given calamatous events all around the world, and even in our own communities.  A question that deserves some thinking, and if I may be so bold, some words.  Not answers because the question is too big for answers, but lets see where words take us in this blog.

Your response to the question will probably depend on whether you view God as a divine figure, a father or parent, a heavenly being perhaps, or whether your consider the concept of God to be a human construct, one created out of human experience, expressed in language in an endeavour to make sense of the realities of this world.

My particular thinking is the latter.  Not for me the God of the parking space (this is when you get in your car to go to town you pray to God that a parking space will be created just for you when you get to the supermarket even if you happen to change you mind on the way and got to the mall instead).  Sorry, this divine being, holding the fate of individuals in her/his hand, doesn’t do it for me.

I’m at the stage in my journey where I see the hand of God (a human construct), the work of the divine, in the world around me expressed in the everyday pleasures and calamities of and through people.

When we look at Japan or Libya or Christchurch or our neighbourhood we see ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  Motivated by compassion, justice and love they are in there rescuing people they’ve never seen before, caring for neighbours they wouldn’t normally talk to, making a stand for those people in their community who are oppressed or suffering or down trodden or excluded.  And it doesn’t have to be  mighty works –  love as shown in a kind word, a cup of tea,or  a phone call is God seen in our lives.

So for me God is there, not making this cracked earth shake and quiver, not sending rolling waves of water crashing into villages, but rather encouraging and uplifting people to help and rescue and comfort people.  God is in the hearts of the children down the road baking cup cakes for Christchurch; in the strong arms of the firemen working in dangerous conditions to pull people out of buildings; in the brains of the engineers selflessly working to contain the nuclear reactors in Japan.

Go God!

ps I’m not sure where God fits into the lives of Hurricanes supporters:-(

pps Obviously these words don’t explain death and distress and pain as epitomised by starving children dying because the leaders of their nations are corrupt and tyrannical or families in NZ torn apart by the scourge of drugs such as P. I’m not sure that the concept of a father figure God can explain that either.  To me it lies within (there’s a church song that says “the kingdom is within you”) and so we each have the ability, the capacity, to be a source of good in the world or to be a source of bad.  Jesus certainly shows us which is the better way.

It’s a risky world out there

Directors and senior executives will be nervous.  In the wake of the February 22 Christchurch earthquake and the more recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami I would expect many organisations to be taking a long hard look at their risk management strategies.

Risk management (RM) has long been an agenda item for directors who are expected to have an oversight of risk management in their organisation and to satisfy themselves that risk management policies and procedures designed and implemented by executives are consistent with corporate strategies.  Part of this assessment is the risk appetite of the organisation but the events of Christchurch will be changing both risk profiles and appetites making many directors nervous.

The process of developing a RM response is to review all the potential risks and then rate them for probability (likelihood) and impact.  These likelihood and impact scores can be three or five or ten point scales or percentages based on subjective scales.  The scores are then typically multiplied to produce a numerical rating for the overall risk.  This quantification of risk provides a tool which is used to allocate priorities (management attention?) and resources to dealing with the different types of risk.

The problem with this methodology is that applying a mathematical approach to risk is meaningless when the unexpected happens.  From my experience the likelihood of earthquake was rated low throughout the country and the impact was never considered to be as catastrophic as has happened.  How many managers compiling risk profiles have researched the likelihood and impact of tsunamis in New Zealand?  The result has been risk profiles that focus on employee theft, plant breakdown, bad publicity and quality control lapses.

Directors and executives will need to revisit their risk management plans.  An assessment of the adequacy of insurance cover is an obvious starting point, but strategies for dealing with an inability to access business premises, the loss of vital records (and the backups which are typically stored in the same business district) and the personal impact on staff of a major event will all have to be revisited.

Many businesses are finding that suppliers affected by the earthquake are not able to meet their commitments or that the affect of the catastrophe on customers is having a direct impact on production, sales and credit collection.

Having realistic mitigation strategies in place and tested for such circumstances is now an important objective for all Chief Executives and senior managers, and directors will be putting pressure on them to ensure that these strategies (policies and procedures) are realistic, sustainable and effective in light of recent events here in New Zealand and around the world.

Less Government In Our Lives?

“I want it both ways”.  That’s what many people in New Zealand seem to want.  We are constantly berated by some about getting Government out of their lives or business.  On the web site of one NZ political party is the comment “New Zealanders know best how to spend their own money, not the government”.  In the NZ Herald on Wed 26 Jan the headline reads “Business leaders support partial privatisation of state assets”.

At the last election New Zealanders voted the National party into power to govern based in part by promises of reducing taxes and that has been implemented but any gain has been offset by the increase in GST.

But as soon as something goes wrong we hear these very same people holding their hands out and expecting Government to come to the party.  While not decrying the enormous tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake, the first reaction of business has been to turn to government and ask for handouts, the very same business that wants lower taxes and less Government.

Excuse me – if you reduce taxes and cut back on government expenditure for the armed forces and you decrease the capacity of Government Departments like DoL or Civil Defense or agencies such as hospitals, how can you then expect them to respond adequately in the event of a disaster?

Government is facing huge bills from recent catastrophes – last year’s Canterbury earthquake, the leaky building situation, the Pike River tragedy, the bail out of financial institutions.  In addition the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has seen a significant slump in tax revenue as the economy has contracted.  Now everyone expects the Government to step in and provide handouts for businesses that can’t operate in Christchurch and to support people with grants.

A simple example to illustrate the point I am making.  People in suburbs are complaining that after ten days they still haven’t got toilet facilities.  The city’s infrastructure has been severely damaged and a quick fix isn’t possible.  So the sight of thousands of portable chemical toilets being delivered is a relief (excuse the pun) for everyone.  But why aren’t there stock piled supplies of such essential items – toilets, tents, food, water etc at strategic places around the country?  Because we don’t want Government in our lives, we want to rely on private enterprise.  But private enterprise is never going to plan for an emergency.  Its never going to carry excess capacity for contingencies.  It can never supplant the work that Government does and must do as a back stop for our society.

Another example:  there’s been a push by some in Government to cut back the scope of fire fighter’s duties to focus solely on fire fighting.  Fortunately, senior people in the service have fought to keep the broader scope of the fire service and we’ve seen the result in recent days in Christchurch.  Superbly trained and committed fire fighters doing what private enterprise could never do.

“New Zealanders know best how to spend their own money, not the government”; Yeah right.  We can spend it on TVs or cars or lattes and don’t worry about tomorrow, Government will step in and pick up the remains of our lives when things go so terribly wrong.  When will we wake up?

Technology and Food

How will you cope if the supermarkets in your community are unable to open? What will you eat? An interesting question given that the people of Christchurch have been experiencing just that in recent days?

One thing I miss from my childhood is the easy access to fresh food that our family was fortunate to have. I was brought up on a small farm just outside Hastings where my parents grew crops for J Wattie Canneries. Peas, all sorts of beans, asparagus and tomatoes were staple crops along with peaches, sweet corn and potatoes. I enjoyed being able to pick vegetables and eat them fresh, nothing like what you now get in the shops. The tangy white juice from sweet corn eaten on the cob (raw) is never matched by the flavour of processed corn. Eating a tomato off the plant in the paddock is a treat and being able to pick and eat peas off the vine in the paddock is, well, probably what I miss most.

We’ve developed a society where we are so many steps away from our food that when disaster strikes we are not able to fend for ourselves. Vegetables and fruit in our local super markets is grown hundreds of kilometres away even though you can go down the road and see a farm that once grew these things now covered in grape vines. Tins of peaches and tomatoes on the shelves contain fruit grown in China or Spain or Australia, rarely these days in New Zealand and, I suspect, not here in Hawke’s Bay. Tinned apricots, once the hall mark of Central Otago, are now imported from overseas.

This food chain depends on technology in so many ways that when something happens to disrupt that technology chaos ensues and we are left struggling. The transport chain is now so extended that it is, in my view, fragile. I worry about current events in the Middle East and the potential impact they will have on oil supplies because they will translate into another oil shock and the resulting crisis for New Zealand will, in my view, be something we have never experienced before.

My frustration is that I don’t have a simple answer. The world isn’t simple anymore and while the idea of going somewhere remote and getting back to basics sounds appealing, it’s not a practical solution. Te Radar tried it but I can’t see myself coping anywhere nearly as well as he did in that situation.

From time to time I grow some veges in pots but I won’t survive long on what I produce

My Vege Garden

I think I’ll settle for checking the cans of food and bottles of water I’ve got stored in my emergency kit in the garage and continuing to hope that any disaster doesn’t last longer than my tolerance of baked beans and peaches.

Technology and Nature

The sight of boulders crashing onto a building and wreckage in the streets of Christchurch made me think about the human struggle with nature.  Despite all the technology, we (humankind) are powerless in the face of nature’s floods (Queensland), fires (Victoria) and earthquakes (Napier and Christchurch).  The devastation wrought by nature overcomes our reinforced steel and flood schemes and no amount of computers, eco-friendly houses or hybrid cars can stop what nature wants to do to our human constructions.

Despite that, technology does play a part in how we respond and cope.  Already social media are (should that be is?) helping people connect and cell phones are being used by people trapped in the  rubble to let rescuers know of their plight.  I heard an interview with a person managing rescuers on the ground in Christchruch from a control centre in Auckland.  He was able to direct resources from throughout the country to give maximum effect to the rescue effort his organisation was making.

News media are making use of You Tube footage posted very quickly after the event and one FaceBook site I’ve looked at has messages of support along with enquiries seeking information about family.

Of course with technology we run the risk of repetition.  Last night’s TV footage seemed to be a repeat of much footage and while this was helpful to people who might just be turning the TV on later in the evening, it did appear as though they were struggling to get new info.

In the aftermath of the quake everyone has to contend with the need to look after their own well being and that of their family/friends while at the same time having a commitment to their work and/or community.  Many have to lift themselves above their own concerns and contribute to the rescue effort and I take my hat off to all of them doing that, their commitment and hard work is a stirring example to us all of what commuinity is about.

So to all the people of Christchurch my heart felt prayers at this time.  May the basic human characteristic of love and concern for each other win through and may technology help you connect with those you care about.