Nathan Guy 'better off' for having farmed through a flood in 2004

Newly-appointed Civil Defence Minister Nathan Guy made a trip to Kaikoura in his first few weeks on the job to assess ...
Cameron Burnell/ Fairfax NZ

Newly-appointed Civil Defence Minister Nathan Guy made a trip to Kaikoura in his first few weeks on the job to assess the earthquake recovery.

He's farmed his way through a flood and is no stranger to dealing with "straight-talking farmers" - is Nathan Guy the country's most qualified Civil Defence Minister?

Guy's only been in the role a few weeks but has already paid the people of Kaikoura a visit where he donned his brand new Civil Defence jacket for the first time.

The Primary Industries Minister is stepping into the shoes of his predecessor Gerry Brownlee - the Government's man in high-visibility clothing in the aftermath of multiple quakes, floods and fires since September.

Nathan Guy, who is also Minister for Primary Industries, is no stranger to farming. He has his own land in Horowhenua, ...
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Nathan Guy, who is also Minister for Primary Industries, is no stranger to farming. He has his own land in Horowhenua, which suffered severe flooding in 2004.

Brownlee was heavily criticised last year after he told a Kaikoura farmer frustrated with the pace of the earthquake recovery effort that he was pissed off with his attitude and resented his comment.

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Guy says he's aware the job is a "very public and forward-facing" role but with a personality that's "quite calming" and a track record dealing with farmers in the aftermath of a disaster, he says he's got it covered.

Nathan Guy says there's a decent overlay between his primary industries and civil defence roles, which means he's ...

Nathan Guy says there's a decent overlay between his primary industries and civil defence roles, which means he's already used to dealing with stressed farmers following a disaster.

"I'm out on farms talking to rural communities most weeks and as a farmer myself I know in terms of stressful events actually any human being can be quite upfront and straight-talking so I'm well prepared for that and used to it."

In 2004 about 1000 acres of Guy's Horowhenua farm was under water for about three weeks.

"That caused a lot of stress for my family and our local community. I've farmed through a very significant event and I think I'm better off for it."

Civil Defence hasn't been short of problems and Guy says the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) set up under Brownlee's watch to identify issues with the system is well underway.

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 "On the whole the system works really well. There are some lessons learnt on the back of certainly Christchurch, Kaikoura, Port Hills fire and Havelock North fire and I'm sure there will be lessons learnt out of Edgecumbe as well," Guy said.

Getting clear and fast information to people in an emergency is the biggest challenge but a new tool to help with that should be rolled out by the end of the year.

While Guy says it's not the "panacea", cell broadcast alerting, which allows Civil Defence to send push alerts to people's phones during an emergency, will be a big step in the right direction.

"There will always be people with smartphones on the ground that get information quicker. This is just another tool in the tool box, whether it's social media or the radio, this isn't going to detract from all the information flow at the moment."

"It won't be the panacea. New Zealander's need to understand that personal responsibility to do with Civil Defence is really important. If they suspect a tsunami they should get out - even before they necessarily get an alert from the government or local council," he said.

Being in the spotlight when things go wrong "comes with the territory" as a minister and Guy says the country's had it's "fair share" of disasters.

"I'm hoping and touching wood there aren't anymore for 2017. On average we have about 20,000 earthquakes a year and New Zealanders feel about 200 of them. It just so happens we've had a lot more in the last 12 months or so - up over 30,000. These are very unusual times."

Guy says he's ready for whatever comes his way.

"I've got a lot of water stored at my house, I've got the Civil Defence pack that I've purchased, I've got cash sitting in that Civil Defence pack because I've been caught out before with a power shortage where  eftpos goes out."

"Personally, I'm very prepared and I know at any hour of any day my phone could go off saying there's a Civil Defence emergency in some part of New Zealand." 

 - Stuff

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