Civil Defence system passes critical test

  • John Carter
Civil Defence Earthquake Recovery

Civil Defence Emergency Management has passed its biggest test in recent history, Civil Defence Minister John Carter said today.

"Six days after the 7.1 earthquake hit Canterbury, most essential services are back in operation," Mr Carter said.

"This is due to the incredible efforts of the Canterbury Civil Defence Group, the Canterbury local authorities involved in this emergency and all the support agencies and volunteers that have mobilised to provide essential services and back-up.

 "New Zealand has an internationally recognised national civil defence emergency management framework and as Minister, I am proud to say it has been tested thoroughly over the past week and not found wanting.

"At the forefront of all the process, policy and legislation behind this framework is the safety and security of people, in this case, the people of Canterbury.

"People have been affected both physically and psychologically and the Government is committed to helping ensure their lives get back to normal as quickly as possible.

"Emergency management plans are tested regularly but it is not until there is a real-life disaster such as this earthquake and the ongoing aftershocks that we really know how well they work.

"With this particular emergency, the lead agency in Canterbury is the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group. This group is supported in Wellington by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, which is the lead agency at a national level.

"People on the ground in Canterbury are making decisions about their region.

"There is robust policy and legislation (Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002) to ensure firstly, a response to the event and then recovery. Procedures have been developed and tested over the past 15 years.

"Within 10 minutes of the initial earthquake on Saturday morning, the Canterbury Group kicked into action.

"By 5am on Saturday morning, the National Crisis Management Centre in the Beehive in Wellington was activated.

"The emergency management framework allows the civil defence emergency management group in the affected area to make decisions. They are supported by teams representing different agencies at the National Crisis Management Centre, which runs 24/7 during the critical early stages of the emergency.

"Decision making is consultative and measured. I have been impressed by the calm leadership I have seen throughout this operation.

 "It is of course, supported by a wide network of agencies. The Officials' Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) has met during this event to ensure critical information flows as it should. ODESC brings together the relevant government chief executives to develop strategic guidance for Government and provide advice to Ministers.

"Central to emergency management in New Zealand is an all-hazards, all risks, multi-agency, integrated and community focused approach."