Quake response faulted
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
"Weaknesses and tensions" between the Christchurch City Council and Civil Defence after the February 22 earthquake "put people and property at risk", an independent review into the emergency response has found.
The report into the Civil Defence Emergency Management response to the disaster, released yesterday, found the response "can justifiably be regarded as having been well-managed and effective".
However, it said "the duplication of control . . . between Christchurch city [council] and the regional [civil defence group] was not only inefficient but put people and property at risk".
It recommended local government play no part in controlling future emergency responses, but that has not been adopted by the Cabinet.
The Christchurch City Council (CCC) and the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) group were "dysfunctionally divided" after the September 4, 2010 earthquake response, it said.
A "forced marriage" between the two after the February 22 quake "caused a degree of confusion, inefficiency and duplication. Cohesiveness was never fully achieved despite the efforts of many of the staff".
National CDEM director John Hamilton said there were some "tensions" within the Canterbury group before the February 22 disaster.
"If those tensions had been allowed to continue into the response itself, it would have made it difficult to co-ordinate and manage the response."
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the dysfunction may have been due to one person. .
"There was a person in [Canterbury CDEM] who was subsequently invited to move on . . . and I think a number of those difficulties could be sheeted back to that corner.
"It [the CDEM conflict] wasn't something I was hugely aware of. It was more within the Civil Defence group [rather than council] from where I was standing."
Hamilton said combining regional emergency management teams with the national team he headed was a challenge.
"It's like putting a team on the rugby field who have never ever played together before. You've got everybody from the All Blacks to the juniors from Aranui."
Despite the scale of the disaster, problems were "avoidable", he said.
"We should have thought about it [and] we should have practised it. The truth was we hadn't but we have now got recommendations and some things to pick up here."
Hamilton said a recommendation to take emergency response control away from authorities such as CCC was not necessary.
"If we were to adopt the recommendations the review has made it would have the tendency to take away from the council its responsibility . . . to manage the response as well as the readiness and the recovery."
A recommendation that Civil Defence come under the control of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was also not needed, he said.
"If we were to move, while we may gain some profile we would miss out on the capacity and the support that we receive from a much larger department [Department of Internal Affairs]."
Recommendations accepted included training "a small cadre of personnel" in senior emergency management in disasters, closer links with businesses and community organisations in emergency response and the ongoing promotion of disaster preparedness.
The review made 108 recommendations.
A plan to implement the rest is due next month.
Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain said the review showed emergency services worked well overall, and their efforts were "courageous".
"There is always room for improvement and the report identifies some issues that need attention. These include management and control of the response, and gaps in training, capability and communications," Tremain said.
Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel criticised the timing of the report, at the end of a Parliament recess week, and lack of consultation. "This should be cross-party, this sort of stuff . . . if we are to genuinely learn the lessons."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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