Marryatt defends council's role

MARC GREENHILL AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 16:28 19/10/2012

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LATEST: Tony Marryatt has defended his and Bob Parker's roles in Christchurch's post-earthquake emergency effort, saying he was ''really proud'' of the city council's response.

Christchurch East MP and Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel today told a forum on national emergency management at Auckland University that the city would have been better prepared for the quakes had the mayor and chief executive understood the council's role in a major disaster.

She said the Government's recently released independent review of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) response to the February 2011 quake was ''too important to be buried''.

''We know that a culture of an organisation is framed by its leadership, and in Christchurch we saw a 'business as usual' approach after September 2010, which the literature confirms is anathema to recovery,'' Dalziel said.

''It was made clear in the report that the duplication of control and emergency operation centres between Christchurch City and the regional CDEM group was not only inefficient but also put people and property at risk.''

Marryatt said Parker did a ''tremendous job'' and the council performed to his expectations.

The executive team was split between the emergency and operational duties.

''When it comes to the organisation, I've always had a view that you can't put all your staff into the emergency recovery because you've actually still got a business to keep running,'' he said.

More than 3000 staff were ''wondering what happens to them'', and buildings and facilities needed to reopen.

''Lianne is quite right. I do focus on business as usual because that's what ratepayers expect. They still expect facilities to be open, the water to keep running and libraries and pools to be open,'' Marryatt said.

In Wellington, every mayor and chief executive contributes to the regional CDEM group. In Canterbury, three of the nine councils have delegated the role to a councillor, including Christchurch City.

Dalziel said Marryatt was the only council chief executive who delegated his role.

Marryatt said he kept ''a foot in both camps''.

He did not act as a civil defence controller but attended briefings and moved his office to the emergency post at the Christchurch Art Gallery. Four members of his executive team were trained controllers.

''In my opinion, it worked well and the organisation delivered,'' he said.

The 108 recommendations from the Government's report will be summarised next month in a corrective action plan.

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