New Zealand's CUs Seek To Recover (Again) From Latest Quake

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand's credit union community is rallying to support CU members throughout the small island nation who were affected by last Monday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake, centered here.

The international CU community is also responding, with the World Council of Credit Unions establishing a fund that is now accepting donations.

New Zealand has 21 CUs, including two in Christchurch-New Zealand Credit Union South, or NZCUS ($112 million), and Christchurch Emergency Credit Union ($1 million)-that were most directly affected. The two CUs together have about 30,000 members. It is the second earthquake to hit the region in five months.

Speaking from their headquarters in Auckland, about 400 miles away from Christchurch, New Zealand Association of Credit Unions' CEO Henry Lynch told Credit Union Journal last week that because of electrical outages many ATM networks were still down, making it difficult for members to get access to cash.

According to NZCUS' Facebook page, the CU was refunding fees for using other banks' ATMs until their own machines were working again. Additionally, CUs throughout the country are expected to contribute to a relief fund, and Lynch said that the NZACU planned to donate NZ $10,000.

"Obviously everyone is very shocked about the situation and worried about their families and everything like that," Lynch said. But the people of Chirstchurch "are a pretty hearty lot. After six months following the other [earthquake], it's about pulling together, and that's what everyone is doing down there. And the movement within New Zealand is helping in every way they can. As you know, that's the credit union philosophy."

Lynch said that because of the earlier quake, many New Zealanders were better prepared for this one. The emotional effects, however, such as fear of aftershocks, high anxiety and difficulty sleeping-were still problematic for many.

NZCUS is working on coordinating emergency relief loans for their members, as well as running a text message campaign seeing if members need emergency cash. The institution has one branch in Christchurch, which was forced to close due to the quake. Officials are in the process of finding a temporary replacement center.

"Things were starting to get better in Christchurch before the quake," said Lynch. "There was a feeling of moving forward and that things were getting better, but now it's a situation where it's made people take stock of their lives again."

Donations can be sent to: Canterbury Earthquake Relief Fund, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 5710 Mineral Point Rd., Madison, WI 53705, USA, or online at www.woccu.org/give.

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