NZ resilience in the face of adversity


This is what resilience in the face of adversity looks like.

Cyclone Gabrielle was a slap in the face that many of us are still grappling with the concept of, let alone the ramifications.

It sometimes seems as though each time things are just starting to look better, something else comes along to give New Zealand another good kicking.

Those metaphors seem appropriate given the recent statistics that say family harm is up by some 60% in those areas most affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. For many, the stress is unmanageable.

When things get grim, it would seem that many turn on the people around them, when it seems like we should all be pulling together.

It’s easy to get caught up in that tendency towards self absorption, to get stuck on “How has this affected me”?

And to think of yourself first, that’s fair enough, in an emergency sometimes you have to look after yourself first just so you can look after other people.

And it’s easy to go all doom and gloom!

When you do so though, you blind yourself to the good too.

I have a friend who was incredibly proud of how he had set up his new house. About a month and a half ago he was posting photos of his dedicated gaming room, showing off what must have represented years of work, painting tiny little miniature figurines and specialist hand-built, table sized landscapes to display them all on.

It’s all destroyed now!

His posts though have all been in good humour, he thinks he might be able to rescue maybe 20% of the figures. He’s chosen to focus instead on the relief efforts, the volunteers and how lucky he is that his family is safe.


I think that’s the core of what resilience is, to shake yourself out of the “woe is me” mentality and instead look outside to see how you can help others and how they can help you.

We are often told that being stoic, that ‘toughening’ up or showing grit, displays the true measure of a person. I believe that is just the sign of a very lonely person though. I believe that you show your true self when you reach out to help however you can.

When you recognise that no man is an island, that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay but to be able to recognise when other people have it worse. That’s when you can show your true character.

There is going to be a lot of rebuilding, there are going to be less presents from the government to the general public as they focus on things like buying back unsafe land and building stronger infrastructure given the likelihood of more extreme weather events in the future.

New Zealand is not yet done with Cyclone Gabrielle and we won’t be for some time. There is going to be a lot of anxiety in the future, I fully expect that I will get a few calls from people wanting help dealing with a crippling fear of future extreme events.

There will be job uncertainty as entire industries have been destroyed. Short term, many who lack savings and live paycheque to paycheque will have been devastated even if they weren’t directly affected.

Even my own business, safely having dodged the weather, is down massively thanks to bigger emergencies and internet connectivity issues. I’ve been thankful every day since.

We are all in this together though, and we are stronger, to quote former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, as a team of 5 million.

Love her or hate her, she was right. The best way to heal ourselves is to reach out to each other and, maybe it’s naïve of me to think so, but I believe that exemplifies the core of New Zealand values and our potential resilience in the face of adversity.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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