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Christchurch New Zealand's most costly disaster: PM

by Staff Writers
Christchurch, New Zealand (AFP) Sept 13, 2010
The earthquake that devastated Christchurch was the most expensive natural disaster ever to hit New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said Monday,

As life slowly returned to normal in New Zealand's second largest city, Key said rebuilding after the 7.0-magnitude tremor on September 4 would be a long process.

"It will take many months and cost a lot of money," he told reporters. "Not all of it will be on the government's books but a substantial amount will.

"What is clear is that in financial terms this will turn out to be the most costly natural disaster New Zealand has ever experienced."

The government has estimated the bill from the quake clean-up will reach four billion dollars (2.9 billion US).

In a briefing note released Monday, the Treasury said the quake was likely to reduce economic growth by 0.4 percentage points in the September quarter.

It said performance was still likely to be positive, predicting annual growth for the 12 months to September would be 0.1 percent.

The city of 340,000 remains in a state of emergency, although most schools opened Monday, some offering trauma counselling for children who have experienced more than 300 aftershocks since the main quake.

Police, who reported a spike in domestic violence in the days immediately after the quake, urged stressed residents to seek help.

"We were incredibly lucky last week's earthquake occurred without any loss of life and it would be tragic if people allowed pressure to build up to the point where someone was hurt -- or worse -- by not seeking help," detective inspector Peter Read said.

The specially-appointed Minister for Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee announced legislation to cut red tape in the rebuilding process would be fast-tracked through parliament.

earlier related report
Rare kiwi hatches in quake-hit N.Zealand after shaky start
Wellington (AFP) Sept 13, 2010 - An endangered New Zealand kiwi that survived a buffeting in its egg during this month's Christchurch earthquake has hatched safely, in a boost to conservation efforts, officials said Monday.

Named Rickter, after the scale of the 7.0-magnitude quake, the chick hatched on Sunday at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.

"Our first egg hatch this year is one breakage that is a welcome relief after the recent quakes," Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said.

The ground-dwelling kiwi, the avian symbol of New Zealand, is threatened by a host of introduced predators including rats, cats, dogs, ferrets and possums.

Department of Conservation spokesman Rory Newsam said there were fewer than 70,000 kiwis left in New Zealand and the rowi, the sub-species to which Rickter belongs, numbered only 300.

Newsam said Rickter's egg rolled around in its incubator during the September 4 earthquake but rubber matting prevented any damage.

He said the chick would be taken to a small island sanctuary until it was about one year old and better able to defend itself, then released into a wildlife protection area on the South Island.

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