Six months after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck central New Zealand, New Zealand Red Cross continues to work closely with the people affected and assist their recovery.

Generous Kiwis, as well as corporate and international donations, raised $3.5 million for the Red Cross 2016 November Earthquake Appeal, all of which will be spent helping affected residents recover from the disaster.

New Zealand Red Cross acting Secretary General Anne Smith says the next 18 months will see an increase in the number of locally-led Red Cross programmes and initiatives rolled out in the quake-hit Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough regions.

New Zealand Red Cross outreach

“We learnt from the Canterbury earthquake recovery that addressing the well-being and emotional needs of residents is crucial for the effective recovery of a community after such a significant event,” she says.

Red Cross staff and volunteers have conducted a comprehensive outreach programme across the earthquake-hit regions, visiting every home in Kaikoura and surrounds, as well as Seddon, Clarence, Kekerengu, Hawarden, Waikari and Culverden. Red Cross also partnered with the Rural Support Trust who undertook outreach to all rural areas across North Canterbury and Marlborough.

Findings from this door-knocking initiative have helped shape the direction of the Red Cross November 2016 Recovery programme until December 2018.

“This is a complex recovery. Our outreach teams discovered that different communities are facing their own unique issues and it’s important that we identify and address these needs effectively instead of applying a one-size-fits-all approach,” Anne Smith says.

“For example, we are running drop-in centres in Kaikoura focused on providing young parents and earthquake-affected residents a place to talk and connect. This helps break the sense of social and geographical isolation people might feel and provides a safe place where they can talk about the issues they’re facing.”

In Marlborough – particularly communities like Seddon – outreach teams found that a high number of children have sleeping troubles and the residents are exhausted by the daily aftershocks.

“To help address these needs we’re hosting free well-being workshops and psychological first aid courses, as well as providing children’s books that carry strong preparedness and anxiety messaging to libraries, schools and early childhood education centres.”

The $1,000 Damaged Home Grants Red Cross launched in December 2016 saw Red Cross receive 400 applications and distribute $341,000 to affected residents. To be eligible, applicants had to have been living in yellow- and red-stickered homes or were required to evacuate for seven days or more following the November 14 earthquakes.

Dr Rob Gordon

During March Red Cross conducted a series of recovery workshops with renowned Australian disaster psychologist Dr Rob Gordon across Christchurch, Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough. An estimated 200 people attended the six community sessions where Dr Gordon to explain the recovery process and provide practical tips to aid each person’s recovery. Red Cross initially brought Dr Gordon over for a series of workshops following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquakes; his talks reassured people that their responses were normal and provided a safe place to discuss their experiences and emotions.

The 14 November 2016 earthquake killed two people and affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents in Hurunui, Kaikoura, Marlborough and Wellington.