Hurunui Is Prepared for the Big One

Civil Defence in Hurunui is reassuring residents it is prepared to help the district get through should an earthquake strike closer to home after two big shakes in Canterbury in six months.

Emergency Management Officer, Allan Grigg, says the district’s civil defence response has been tested with flood events in recent years, and in particular in 2008, and as a result the structure is well practiced and personnel well organised and trained.

“We have a solid support base in our district with a number of longstanding personnel who not only know our district and its needs, but have significant experience in emergency events including supporting Christchurch through both the September and February earthquakes.

“We also expect our residents to be well prepared in the wake of the two significant events that have impacted on our neighbours, which have reinforced so very clearly why we need to have a plan and enough water, batteries, and other essential supplies on hand to see us through at least the first 72 hours before help arrives.”

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says while he is aware many in our district are feeling nervous and anxious in the wake of the quakes, it is important we are prepared to cope with any emergency.

“While we escaped relatively unscathed in both September and February, both events serve as a timely reminder no area of New Zealand can expect to be immune to the vagaries of nature. Indeed Hurunui has had enough experience with storms and flood events, to understand that better than most.

“Our district also sits on fault lines that have played up in the past and there is always a chance they will do so again in the future.

“What our community needs to know is that the all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure if that happens we can and will manage. There is no need for alarm. Council staff are trained and experienced in emergency response. We are here and will be there for you.”

Winton Dalley says the district’s civil defence capability is highly regarded with many staff and volunteers providing valuable support in welfare, planning, building and public information during the Christchurch earthquake responses.

“We have a strong local civil defence organisation, and well trained first responders in police, fire, ambulance, search and rescue, and medical centres – all of whom have been contributing their expertise and knowledge to helping our neighbours in both the September and February response and recovery phases.”

At the same time he reinforces the need for all residents to also be in a position to look after themselves and neighbours in the first instance, during any emergency.

“If we have learnt anything from the Christchurch experience, it is that it does take time for emergency services and back up to reach people, especially where infrastructure including roading is badly damaged.

“We need to rely on each other and look after each other, something I have every confidence our community will respond to. I have seen that community support demonstrated first hand after the 92 snow and 2008 flood, and now also the support and helping hand our district has so willingly offered to its neighbours 50 kilometres away.”

In the event of a civil defence emergency in the Hurunui, Sector Posts would be immediately activated across the district and an Emergency Operations Centre, that would gather information on the impact and resulting critical issues and resourcing, would be established in the Hurunui District Council offices in Amberley.

Once it is known what and where the issues are the EOC can start planning and prioritising resources to address problems.

While police, fire and ambulance would respond immediately, Emergency Management Officer, Allan Grigg says the planned response does take time “and in some cases days as we have seen in Christchurch, and until then our community would be largely on its own.

“While per head of population Hurunui is extremely well resourced, our ‘Achilles Heel’ is the tremendous size of our District, with damaged roads and bridges posing a significant threat to our road access and telecommunications. This could take days, weeks or even months to deal with, depending upon the scope of the emergency.”

Welfare centres would be opened as needed, as emergency shelters in the initial days of the event, with arrangements made to coordinate government department assistance from the likes of WINZ, IRD, EQC and Housing New Zealand.

The Hurunui District Council website shows the planned location of Civil Defence facilities around the District, although these locations may change with little notice, depending on the type of event and extent of damage.

For further information contact:

Allan Grigg

Emergency Management Officer

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0024

Winton Dalley

Mayor

Hurunui District Council

P: 03 314 0011