Forum learns from earthquake volunteers

  • Jo Goodhew
  • Chris Tremain
Community and Voluntary Sector Civil Defence

Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain and Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew have responded to concerns raised by volunteers about the challenges they faced providing assistance during the Canterbury earthquakes.

A range of organisations attended a Civil Defence Volunteers Forum in Christchurch, including the Farmy Army, the Student Volunteer Army and the Grace Vineyard Church. Officials from government agencies also attended.

“The extent of spontaneous volunteering is a new phenomenon that Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups had not previously experienced,” says Mr Tremain.

“Many of the volunteer organisations expressed frustration that the more formal CDEM structures were not flexible enough to channel the skills and energy being offered by spontaneous volunteers.

“Among other solutions identified, it was suggested that dedicated volunteer co-ordinators be established within CDEM to provide consistent liaison and communication points. These co-ordinators would need to identify which volunteer groups were emerging as key players during the early stages of a response. This would ensure that evolving volunteer networks have the resources to assist in a more co-ordinated way and be directed to specific tasks.

“The forum was a wonderful opportunity to learn some valuable lessons. I am confident these lessons will be reflected over time, with CDEM organisations changing the way they work with spontaneous volunteer groups,” says Mr Tremain.