Council lifts game to bridge disaster plans

17:00, Jun 24 2014

A civil emergency in Hamilton could bring a bridge down and create traffic mayhem, or the city could face a wave of displaced Aucklanders if a disaster occurred up north.

The Hamilton City Council is working with communities to make sure they can cope if the unexpected occurs, and is developing a recovery plan.

A blocked or downed bridge would have "massive traffic implications", councillor Dave Macpherson said.

Cobham Bridge was particularly important as a supply route into the city.

"Cobham's the real pivotal one for us because it's the one that can wear the weight of the HTs [heavy traffic]. The other ones can't take that weight," crisis manager David Robson said.

Much of the emergency planning work in this respect had already been done but it was a matter of pulling it together into a local recovery plan, he said.


"It's [the plan] every aspect of getting back to normal again, or whatever normal is," Robson said.

That could include water provision, transport, taking care of roads and bridges, and how it would be financed.

And general manager for the performance group, Blair Bowcott, said the importance of the recovery plan shouldn't be underestimated.

"You look at Christchurch and the profile was all on the event. But the actual civil defence event only lasted for a period of a month or so, but the recovery lasts for years."

Hamilton could also be affected by a disaster in the Auckland area if people had to leave.

"The whole place would sort of empty out and they'd probably come south . . . and we would be the ones who would have to house these people and supply everything and all that sort of stuff," councillor Leo Tooman said.

The council is starting long-term work on planning how different communities around Hamilton would respond in the event of a disaster, with an external consultant.

It's a "substantial piece of work" looking at where assets were, for example a school which could be used as a welfare centre, or a food shop, Robson said.

There were around 12 geographic communities in the Hamilton area - divided into areas such as the central business district and Dinsdale - but a city plan was likely to be developed as well.

Hamiltonians were encouraged to make their own plan for what to do in a disaster situation, including what to do with pets or checking on vulnerable neighbours.

Many people would need about three plans - one for if an event happened while they were at home, one for the kids at school, and one for work.

They needed to be able to support themselves for up to three days before help arrived, he said.

Meanwhile, the council's emergency preparedness rating is also still on the rise after it bottomed out at 30 per cent in 2012.

The rating went up to 66 per cent in 2013 and an "indicative score" for this year is 71.8 per cent, to be officially confirmed later this week.

"There's two things going on here. Hamilton had a very bad score of 30 per cent [in 2012] and we've done a number of things to address that. The region had a terrible score as well," Bowcott said.

Civil defence and emergency planning in the Waikato region was heading in the right direction although there was more work to be done, he said.



Learn about disasters that can affect you

Make and practise a household emergency plan

Get emergency survival items together and maintain them

Have a getaway kit in case you have to leave in a hurry 

Waikato Times