Expert would welcome overhaul of emergency response system

Source: 1News

An emergency management expert would welcome changes recommended to the response to national emergencies, saying the standard of services currently varies from place to place.

A new report to the Government calls for an overhaul of how the emergency response to disasters is carried out, following mistakes made during the Kaikoura earthquake and Christchurch Port Hills fire. 

New Civil Defence Minister, Kris Faafoi, says the review recommends the Government look at starting up a new agency which would supersede the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management as it stands now, "to help implement some of the modernisation".

The report, commissioned by the last government, also recommends the ability to declare a "major incident' to draw public attention to an event without invoking the powers of a state of emergency.

Every group which is defined by the regional council boundaries has different structures and different ways of doing things

—  Emergency management expert Steven Glassey

It also recommends establishing a set of skilled professionals to be 'fly-in teams', and creating a new 24/7 alert and warning centre. 

Emergency management expert Steven Glassey says he would welcome changes to Civil Defence. 

"Every group which is defined by the regional council boundaries has different structures and different ways of doing things. And this means that in some areas they receive good services, in other areas they may not," Mr Glassey told 1 NEWS.

At the time of the Port Hills fire in February 2017, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel criticised the emergency response.

"People don't know what's going on. And when they don't know what's going on rumours fly. And exactly the same thing happened after the earthquakes," she said.

The fire destroyed homes and claimed the life of a helicopter pilot who was fighting the flames.

The Minister says the emergency response system as it stands now holds up well and he's "absolutely confident" it will continue to do so.

"But there is room for improvement. Obviously that's what the review team has found," Mr Faafoi said.

Civil Defence has also faced recent criticism for teething problems with its new emergency alert system. 

The Ministry of Civil Defence refused to address the report's criticisms yesterday, but in a statement said it looked forward to working with the Government to support effective responses in emergencies.

Those involved in emergencies will have four months to put their thoughts forward before the Government decides what it will do.