Yesterday I presented the last of my “GROWTH” seminars for Accountants in Christchurch, New Zealand. You may know that Christchurch has been hit with 3 devastating earthquakes in September 2010, February 2011 and June 2011. In total 181 people died in these horrific ‘acts of nature’. The city has had around 7,000 smaller earthquakes since the earth starting shaking last September.
Since we started this seminar tour in March my touring crew and myself were always looking forward to the last event yesterday. Not because it was the last event but because we did it for free. We wanted to help the people of Christchurch a little and give something back. We have had over 1,500 Accountants attend the tour and yesterday we had 104 Accountants from 35 firms attend and it was a raucous and exciting day. Everyone enjoyed themselves and many new ideas where learned – hopefully they will be implemented.
On Tuesday evening my friend Phil took us for a drive around the city where the earthquake did the most damage – it’s called the ‘Red Zone’. I had only seen images on TV and I did not know what to expect. It was surreal and very disturbing. Driving around we saw building after building destroyed or falling down. We saw beautiful churches destroyed. We saw schools, shops, hotels, offices – all destroyed.
Phil told us stories of how the people of the city are coping. In one example he said there have been 6 schools destroyed so the kids are ‘sharing’ schools. At one private school the boys go to school from 7am to 12noon and then the girls go to the same school from 1pm – 6pm.
I have travelled to Christchurch around 2 dozen times over the years and stayed at many of the hotels in the city centre. I have presented seminars to hundreds of people in those same hotels. They’re all gone or deemed to be demolished. Even today in the local newspaper a further 1000 properties have been deemed to be ‘inhabitable’ and will be destroyed. Thousands upon thousands of houses and buildings to be demolished.
I elected not to take photographs as I wanted to show the city and the people in it some respect. But to give you an idea what it was like just watch the movie “I am legend” with Will Smith. It was just like that. Very very disturbing. An entire city centre with no lights, no people, no cars, no movement of any kind.
The images will last in my memory for a long long time. I said to Phil “I have had enough. Please take me back to my hotel, I can’t take any more of this”.
It was interesting meeting the people at my seminar yesterday. I did not know what to expect. Were they going to be up, down, angry, motivated? We had a huge snow fall the day before so being a free seminar 27 people didn’t show due to treacherous icy conditions on the roads. That was OK – the 104 that were there were the ones that mattered.
What I found was that they were very resilient, tough and keen to get on with business. Many told me stories of how their offices where in the city centre where the quake hit and now they are now relocated into sheds, homes, temporary offices, shared offices, warehouses and any space they could find. One of the conversations I had with a partner of a firm went like this:
“We just kicked things into gear. One partner was in charge of IT, one office space, one files and the other making sure the clients are OK”
And that was the mood of the day – they just got on with it.
The people of Christchurch have been slapped in the face in a major way. They have been beaten up, knocked down, knocked down again and they just get back up and get on with it. They are not complaining about their lot in life. They are not complaining about their personal housing damage or moaning about people or clients. They are just getting on with it. Too many people complain about their lot in life. When life slaps you in the face, spare a thought to the people of Christchurch who have lost their houses, their businesses, their entertainment, their schooling and for many their friends and family.
I for one have been very inspired with this level of resilience. Thank you Christchurch for allowing me to do what we did yesterday.