'Blamestorming' not proper response

23:27, Apr 29 2014

"Blamestorming" they call it in the corporate world, and for the second time in two months the Christchurch City Council appears to have engaged in it while parts of the city filled up with floodwater.

An appropriate name given its inclusion of the "storm" word, blamestorming is the art of collectively finding someone to blame for something nobody else is willing to own up to.

In a nutshell, it is an attempt to divert attention from the real issues of the day.

So, as the rain poured down on Christchurch and much of the region yesterday - soaking and then flooding the usual spots around the Flockton Basin, the Avon and the Heathcote rivers - the council blamed weather forecasters for not predicting rain of such magnitude, saying it had been heavier than forecast.

In the floods in the first week of March the council did exactly the same.

Those accusations have been entirely unwarranted. On both occasions there was ample warning of heavy, prolonged rain - bad enough to cause flooding - from MetService and other forecasters.

Two other rain events between these were also warned about, although predictions of a deluge from former Tropical Cyclone Lusi were a little too pessimistic.

A council spokesman told me yesterday the comments about the "inaccurate" forecast were based on predicted versus actual rainfall graphics on MetService's MetConnect website.

It would be wrong for the council to base its emergency response actions on this data, which are largely raw computer model figures unmodified by human forecasters.

Instead it should be taking notice of the actual severe weather warnings issued, in which forecasters take into account all the best advice from differing computer models and then add in their experience and gut instinct.

If the council is not using these warnings - which in this case cautioned of more than 50mm of rain and high intensity falls last night - then that is extremely concerning when it comes to its preparation and response for future events.

Christchurch must surely now be heading towards its wettest autumn on record, with more than 250mm of rain falling since the end of February.

That's getting on for half the city's annual average rainfall in just two months.

Unless there is a major turnaround in the weather patterns, it seems possible there will be further heavy rain and flooding events during the winter months.

For the council to glibly blame the forecasters, especially when they were right, is to make light of the real issues that need dealing with - the state of the city's drainage and localised land subsidence post-earthquakes.

Affected residents cannot be expected to continue coping with this heartbreak every time the city gets 20mm or more of rain in less than a day.


The Press