'Kia Kaha Christchurch' - Jim Bolger

Former Prime Minister and chair of the US NZ Partnership Forum hails Chritchurch

On February 22, 2011 there was a quiet opening of the fourth US NZ Partnership Forum in AMI Stadium, Christchurch.

Organisers had expected demonstrators representing the NZ Not For Sale Campaign. But they didn’t show up.

Prime Minister John Key, former Prime Minister and chairman of the NZ US Council, Jim Bolger, and David Huebner, US ambassador gave the opening addresses.

Mr Bolger made a joke about the shaky city and advised delegates to follow the directions of staff in the “unlikely event” of more earthquakes.

A couple of hours later the overseas visitors experienced one of the most violent upward movement earthquakes ever recorded.

By late in the day the shaken delegates had all been herded together and were leaving the city on special flights.

Today, NZ US Council chairman, Mr Bolger, paid tribute to the extraordinary efforts of individual Cantabrians, the police and rescue services, personnel from the US Embassy and base, New Zealand officials, the RNZAF, the Forum event management and security team as well as NZ US Council staff.

"At the time of the earthquake Forum delegates - over 120 senior government, business and community leaders from both countries, as well as 20 young Americans and New Zealanders - were scattered at over 10 locations being entertained to lunch. Partners of Forum delegates were all over the city," Mr Bolger said.

"Some delegates narrowly escaped serious injury. All were severely shaken. None were seriously harmed.”

Mr Bolger said the American delegates continue to feel a special bond with Christchurch.

"Our counterpart organization in the United States, the US NZ Council, has collected more than $US5.1 million for the earthquake recovery effort through its American Friends of Christchurch programme. This amount is expected to grow as US donors continue to make contributions. American delegates are also gathering at an event at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington."

"All Forum delegates from the United States and New Zealand remain committed to building the relationship and join together to say “Kia Kaha Christchurch!" Mr Bolger said.