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Published: 2010-02-12 00:00:00

The Waikato Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Group says it is carefully reviewing challenges presented in a new report highlighting the need to increase funding and improve the culture, leadership and coordination of the group.

The report, by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM), is based on surveys and interviews with Waikato group members. Many of the findings back up the group’s own analysis of its operations carried out last year. The group has already begun to address a number of the issues raised. It is likely that Environment Waikato (which acts as the administrating authority on behalf of the Waikato CDEM Group) will propose in its 2010-11 Draft Annual Plan an increase in the funds it uses for Civil Defence to help the group address the report’s recommendations.

The Waikato group area – the largest and most complex in New Zealand - faces a diverse range of potential natural hazards including river and coastal flooding, tsunamis, erosion, land instability, earthquakes and volcanic eruption. The group represents 10 local councils and EW and is divided into three regional emergency operating areas (Thames Valley, Waikato Valley and Southern). About $1.5 million a year is spent on Waikato CDEM activities.

The ministry’s report said the group performed well in the management of short-term emergencies but needed to improve its capacity to manage a long-term, region wide event and meet business-as-usual obligations under the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act.

Group chairman Peter Lee, who attended a workshop on the report today, said he was pleased to see the ministry applauded the group’s short-term emergency management.

"But the ministry’s warts and all analysis of wider issues shows we have a lot of work to do to ensure we’re better prepared for a long-term event and that we fully comply with all relevant civil defence legislation.

"That’s a challenge the group is keen to respond to promptly and EW, local councils, emergency services and other agencies will work together very closely to lift our collective game on civil defence. We had already identified many of these issues ourselves last year and we have already started to address them."

Mr Lee said an immediate priority was stepping up political and executive leadership, improving relationships within the group and properly funding the Group Emergency Management Office (GEMO), just recently transferred to EW, so it could deliver the expected outcomes highlighted in the report.

The report says the civil defence function in the region had been a relatively low political priority and that the GEMO was under-resourced for the size of the population and the region's significant natural hazard risks. (The GEMO provides administrative, technical and planning support to the group, and a Group Emergency Operations Centre is responsible for coordinating support for region-wide emergencies.The group is ultimately governed by a committee of mayors and the chairman of EW.)

The ministry evaluated the group’s performance against the four goals of the national civil defence strategy: increasing community awareness, understanding, preparedness and participation in civil defence emergency management; reducing hazard risks; enhancing capability to manage emergencies; and enhancing capability to recover from emergencies.

The report said a number of areas needed urgent attention including:

· Getting funding that better supports the desired outcomes of the CDEM plan.

· Having leadership which sees civil defence as a high priority, understands and implements its role, and works to improve the culture of the group

· Better links between governance and operations and increased clarity of their roles

· Promotion of CDEM in councils, and integration of CDEM programmes into all council plans

· Formalising arrangements for the planning and management of recovery after emergencies

· The promotion of coordinated, comprehensive public education and public information activities

"These and other ministry recommendations will be given significant attention in coming months," Mr Lee said.

"We are committed to further developing the civil defence infrastructure in our region."

Media contact:

Peter Lee 027 488 1466