I had the opportunity to join the PM's flight today over the parts of the South Island hardest hit by last night's earthquake.
It was a sobering journey. This massive force of nature has seen huge land slips and blocked our main national highway in many places. Seeing hundreds of metres of rail tracks ripped off their sleepers and pushed across the neighbouring road was jarring. This is going to be a long and expensive repair job.
I had the chance to talk to locals in Kaikoura, a town heavily dependent on tourist traffic and now totally cut off by road. They were in good spirits notwithstanding. Although some knew of locals whose homes were damaged, everyone I spoke to was relieved to have got through the big shake physically unscathed. In true kiwi spirit, they were looking out for each other. Clean water is needed along with a safe waste water system. Much effort is going into helping tourists stuck there right now to continue their journeys.
But then the question is 'what happens next?' A huge effort is required to get roads into and out of Kaikoura open to keep the travellers coming, not to mention keeping basic supplies moving.
I saw the best of the kiwi ethos in Kaikoura today, the 'no nonsense, roll-your-sleeves-up, help-your-neighbours, get-on-with-it' style. When I asked one chap and his wife how their family was bearing up, he told me how he had checked on all the neighbours in his street straight after the first quake, then later in the morning when it was light went round again to see everyone was okay. This is what gets communities through disasters like this.
If you'd like to help out with the recovery effort, you can donate to the Red Cross' appeal here.