Hayden Dunne, Area Manager for Blenheim, reflects on the days that followed November 14, 2016, and how it really feels to be there when it counts.

At 12.02am, for two minutes a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped across several fault lines from Culverden to Seddon.

“In those first hours, and even days, there isn’t much insurers can do. The focus is on making things safe and getting a picture of what needs to be done so you can start putting together a plan. In those early days, it’s your local response crews; civil defence and Fire and Emergency NZ that are most relevant,” says Hayden.

“I remember arriving to see our first client that day and his immediate reaction was to ask what damage we needed to see first. I’ll never forget the look on his face when we told him we were here to see him—and see what he needed first. Of course, most clients, even those with half a roof will tell you the neighbour has it worse.”

Hayden says there’s nothing quite like the way local communities rally together to help each other in a crisis. “Getting in and out of Kaikoura was a challenge. It was near impossible to get hold of a vehicle or accommodation for our assessors.

Clients loaned us their cars; I remember pulling up to farm gates in a fantastic old V6 Holden Commodore—bright blue. I left a box of beers in the boot before returning it”.

The FMG team rented a home from a local client and set up a temporary office, flying on a small plane into Kaikoura airport. From there they set to work organising tarps, generators and other essential items farmers needed most at the time.

“Wi-Fi and phone coverage was virtually severed,” says Hayden. “I remember one of our clients, who’d almost lost his commercial business, had macgyvered a sat-phone, and helped cart supplies in and- out by providing space for helicopters to land.”

The power and impact of the quake provided some eyebrow raising moments as the assessors went about their work. During a client visit, Hayden noticed four, odd looking ceiling dents, just above a huge pendant light fitting. “We then realised, they were caused when the light swung up and hit the ceiling. Now, this was a heavy pendant and meant some serious shaking.”

Many people will remember the story of the stranded cow and her calf that attracted huge media attention locally and around the world. “Our clients who owned the property were kept awake at night by hovering helicopters taking photos. Unable to sleep, and for her wellbeing, our client started writing a story. ‘Moo and Moo and the Little Calf too’ which went on to be a New Zealand best seller!”

FMG facilitated some 30 odd information and community evenings in local halls. “We were prepared for a bit of a grilling but we didn’t get one. Most people wanted to yarn or ask questions.”

Hayden says in times of stress and uncertainty following an event like the Kaikoura earthquake it’s the human connection that is so critical to helping people get through it.

From the Kaikoura earthquake, FMG received:

3699 claims

Total cost: $208 million