Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee wants to ensure the new emergency management structure for the Region is robust enough to cope with major events.
The Committee met this week to clarify the Council’s Civil Defence responsibilities during the 18-month transition to a new emergency management structure and beyond. The Council has existing responsibilities for Regional emergencies under a 1983 law, which gave it responsibilities for co-ordinating, preparing, responding to and recovery from a Civil Defence emergency of Regional significance.
Under the new arrangements, Environment Waikato’s primary role will be administrative support and planning through the Emergency Management Office, and operational response will be undertaken by the three territorial-based Emergency Operating Areas, based on the Waikato Valley, Thames Valley and South Waikato.
Natural Hazards Programme Manager Brendan Morris said one major difference in the new law was the necessity for all local authorities and emergency services in the Waikato to collectively work together towards comprehensive emergency management.
Under the new set-up, the three Emergency Operating Areas would respond to any Regional emergency so there would no longer be a requirement for a Regional Civil Defence Committee, a direct advisory role to the district and city councils, Regional Civil Defence plans or approval of local plans.
During the transitional period until May 2005, Environment Waikato will continue to undertake Regional planning and response to events, he said. There were advantages in moving the regional response function towards the one favoured by the Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, including a dedicated, purpose-built operations facility and allowing Environment Waikato to focus on hazards, risk analysis and planning.
Councillors were concerned about basing the Waikato Valley Emergency Operating Area on Hamilton City when Environment Waikato had the Regional expertise. Cr Jim Howland said he was concerned that the centre was ‘illogical’.
Cr Lois Livingston said the Council needed to ensure the structure was robust enough to cope in an emergency.
Civil Defence Ministry representative John Titmus said a robust process was set up for arrangements to transition the regional response role, and that Environment Waikato would be involved in developing the new arrangements. He was confident the plan would be suitable for the next 18 months while the regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan is under development.