New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at a service at the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial Oi Manawa to remember the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that took 185 lives.
Ardern reflected on the devastating natural disaster that shook the country seven years ago. “I want to start by acknowledging the emergency services”, she began. “We acknowledge you and we thank you.” Ardern thanked the Mayor of Christchurch, local counsellors, Sir Bob Parker and various ministers including Minister Gerry Brownlee, “But most of all, to family members, to friends, to those who experienced loss and grief.”
She then spoke about the lives lost in the earthquake. “It’s a time to reflect and remember the loved ones you lost, and the lives they led, but also the joy that they brought you”, she said. “It’s also a time to reflect on your stories and your lives since that day. From your initial response to the disaster, to your wholehearted determination to rebuild your city in the face of huge hardship and loss. From the job done by those first responders on that day, to the spirit of volunteers, [to] the thousands of people that have started new businesses and community groups in this city… You embodied New Zealand in those early days, and you continue to do so. But that day was a tragedy that touched people here but also from all around the world”, she added. “Today we remember that over 40% of all the earthquake fatalities were foreign nationals, we remember and we grieve with their families too. Today we remember all those that lost their lives and the communities that grieve them, and that in spite of that grief the generosity shown to us came so quickly from so many countries in our time of need. For that we will always be grateful.”
Ardern used the opportunity to talk about community and the future. “But today is also a day for reflection on how much has changed, but also in some ways, how little has changed. We know that many are still hurting, and we know that as a nation our priority must always be the wellbeing of our people”, she said. “We want everyone to be able to feel that sense of hope for the future. That’s why we must continue to do one simple thing – listen. Doing what you did that tragic day and working together as you rebuild your city and as you continue to rebuild your lives.”
“But hope and optimism also relies on wellbeing, and that’s most certainly the case for those most vulnerable, like the children of this city”, she said, calling the children of Christchurch “the generation of the rebuild” and stating that “We must do all we can to support those children as much as we support their families as we continue to rebuild.” Earlier today Ardern announced a $28 million three-year mental health programme to support children affected by the quake.
The Prime Minister finished with a pledge to the people of Christchurch. “The promise I want to make today is that the whole country is just as behind the people of Canterbury today as they were with you on that tragic day seven years ago. We are with you as this city and the people move into a future that is marked by hope and by a sense of optimism. We continue to stand alongside you as you rebuild a city that captures the spirit that has flourished over the last seven years. Incredible things have happened amidst the rubble,” she said. “You were creative, greening the rubble, building strong community connections, an invigorated arts community. They are all powerful legacies and legacies of your experience. As you move forward with your recovery we will stand alongside you. We will do all we can to support you. And no matter what, we will never, ever, forget, and we will keep their dreams alive.”