Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Questions over civil defence plan for east Auckland

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Howick Local Board deputy chairperson Bo Burns, left, and Howick ward councillor Sharon Stewart. File photos supplied

The severe damage the recent storm caused to Auckland is raising questions about whether a plan is in place to help local residents respond to such an emergency.

Four people lost their lives and numerous homes were damaged by floodwaters and landslips across the city due to the torrential downpour that struck on January 27.

Mayor Wayne Brown was publicly criticised by councillors for his initial response to the weather emergency and a lack of communication with residents.

The situation led Howick Local Board deputy chairperson Bo Burns to write to Howick ward councillor Sharon Stewart asking to be sent a copy of the official civil defence plan and “standard operating procedures” for east Auckland.

Stewart chairs the council’s civil defence and emergency management committee.

It serves as the city’s “strategic forum for civil defence and emergency management planning and policy” and is responsible for establishing the region’s emergency management structure.

“I have been asking for this information for 3.5 years and know the previous board and chair Adele White has also,” Burns wrote to Stewart.

“This was ramped up for me specifically over Covid and questioning what was the ‘plan’ for our area, what were our roles as local leaders, what stakeholders were included in this plan and where was a live and ever-evolving document that could be accessed by officials. To date I have had nothing.”

Burns told Stewart Civil Defence officials were planning to meet and talk with the board in May.

“That’s a little late now. I have major concerns we do not have a firm plan in place to ensure we ‘the leaders’ know when, who and where to go and lead people to safety.”

Stewart’s written response to Burns states each Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) group in New Zealand is required to have a group plan.

The plan is a statutory requirement under the law and the current plan by the Auckland CDEM group came into effect in August 2016.

Stewart said the plan’s title is ‘Working together to build a Resilient Auckland’ and it’s publicly available on the Auckland Emergency Management website.

The only reference to the Howick ward in the 92-page document relates to a map of a city showing each ward’s boundaries.

Stewart told Burns she believes that because every community is different, each local board in Auckland should develop its own plan.

“It was always the intention for the 21 local boards to each develop their own, custom-made, emergency response plan.

“As of today, I’m not aware of any local board having completed that task as Covid and lockdowns disrupted a lot of those work programmes.

“These concerns have been discussed with Civil Defence staff last year and this will be re-examined when they do the new emergency plan, which is currently being reviewed by the Auckland CDEM group.

“The draft document will be made available for public consultation in due course and the consultation period will be advertised prior to this.”

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