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Fundraiser to help rebuild Christchurch

Rugby stars visit to promote the sport ahead of New Zealand World Cup


It seems like ages ago that the world’s attention was focused on the destructive effects of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that caused widespread damage and multiple fatalities in Christchurch.

In Korea, the Kiwi Chamber and Australian Chamber of Commerce will host a Rugby Charity Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on April 13 with proceeds from the event and auctioned items going to the government-sanctioned Christchurch Earthquake Relief Fund.

During an exclusive interview, New Zealand Ambassador Richard Mann told The Korea Herald that the cost of rebuilding the country’s second-largest urban area is forecast to reach about $12 billion.

“They’re going to have to rebuild huge amounts of infrastructure,” he said. “There is a desire to rebuild some of the iconic heritage buildings; they will rebuild the Christchurch Cathedral.”

Mann added that a number of other buildings will not be saved while at the same time, city planners are examining what kind of structures would be needed for a region that was hit with two massive earthquakes in the span of nearly six months.

For the ambassador and many of the embassy’s New Zealand staff, the earthquake hit close to home.

“I have a brother and sister, nieces and nephews, an aunt that had to be evacuated from her home and sent to live in another city.

“My sister has got a severally damaged home; every individual affected has to start rebuilding their lives,” he said.

Last week, New Zealand authorities reported that the death toll rose to 169 with the expected final count to reach around 182.

“In the case of my sister, she is staying with a neighbor whose house is ok,” he said thankfully, adding that New Zealanders “have been fantastic looking out for each other.”

While the effects of the Christchurch earthquake is estimated to knock gross domestic product growth back by 1.5 percentage points, there is a silver lining in 2012 as rebuilding gets underway and the city’s recovery efforts bring a sizeable boost to residential, commercial and infrastructure investment.

Mann noted that the rest of the country is open for business as usual.

“The international airport in Christchurch is open so tourists are able to travel through to visit the rest of the South Island,” he said.

“The perception that the whole country fell over is not the case,” Mann marked.

Nicknamed the Garden City, Christchurch is one of those rare gems in Oceania where colonial-style buildings decorate a landscape that is separated by the meandering Avon River and shadowed by the ice-capped Southern Alp mountains on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

“I’ve been amazed how many people in Korea have come up to me and said that they visited Christchurch and fell in love with the place,” he said. “We will rebuild.”
New Zealand Ambassador Richard Mann (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
New Zealand Ambassador Richard Mann (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)

Just a few weeks ago, the Songpa district raised 30 million won to help its Sister City.

The Korean government was quick on the draw donating reinforced plastic sheeting, tents, collapsible plastic jerry cans, blankets, power generators and a forensic victim identification team.

Next week’s event is likely to be the biggest Rugby promotional event in Korea and will feature two rugby legends ― Sean Fitzpatrick, an official New Zealand ambassador for the World Cup and former All Black captain, and Australia’s Eddie Jones, former head coach of the Wallabies.

Both will discuss not only rugby, but what the sport means to Korea, the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

“Asia will be a growth area for the sport of rugby,” said Mann. “Japan (which hosts the games in 2019) is the strongest at the moment, and you can see the sport build up in Korea as well as in China, and Hong Kong has long hosted the sevens.”

The two Rugby icons will visit a local university with a leading rugby team and the foreign community rugby club Seoul Survivors to provide coaching and training.

Finally, they will be on hand at the main event to speak and promote the upcoming New Zealand Rugby World Cup, held from Sept. 9 to Oct. 23, and sign autographs and memorabilia for donations.

Proceeds of the event will go towards the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal fund.

Due to the recent earthquake in Japan, money raised by one of the auctioned items will be donated to the Japanese Embassy’s earthquake relief fund.

“While New Zealanders are worried about Christchurch, we are thinking about the tragedy that has befallen Japan as well,” said Mann.

New Zealand and Australian cuisine and wines are on the menu.

Raffle and auction prizes include a trip to the United States to watch National Football League and National Basketball Association games, Rugby World Cup tickets, flights, hotel vouchers, golf gear and a slew of other prizes.

For inquiries, call Lukas Beech at (02) 725-3905 or email chamber@kiwichamber.com.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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