A Word from the Hurunui Mayor, Winton Dalley

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Five weeks and another Christmas and New Year have flown by since my last column where I explained the transition from the response to the November 14, Hurunui earthquake emergency, to the recovery plan.

I also thanked all those who made contributions in any way to assist our community. Assistance is still being received and we are very grateful and appreciative for everyone’s ongoing support.

I’ve heard claims that much was learnt about responding to, and managing natural disasters from Canterbury’s tragic earthquake six years ago. I see little evidence.

Hurunui’s earthquake damage extended over several thousand sq km. The worst destruction is invisible to the public – its extremities two hours by road from the Local Civil Defence Headquarters, three hours from Canterbury Group Headquarters, where all decisions were made from Day Two.

Isolation of our villages and large number of remote farming families was compounded by loss of landlines and already sparse mobile coverage.

Most roads and bridges in the area were initially impassable and electricity cut for some time, any communication or access was difficult.

Reality is that every event is unique, while basic emergency structures may be fine; every event requires individual management and local knowledge.

Because of the incomparable differences between City/Urban situations and vast, remote, sparsely populated rural areas, it’s not possible to impose arms length urban based decisions without adverse consequences.

Our rural people have a huge capacity to look after themselves and their families, to take care of their neighbours, take pragmatic action and make sensible decisions to deal with chaotic, dangerous and frightening circumstances.

To have our peoples lives and access to their homes and businesses totally controlled by authorities three hours away with no local knowledge is insane and dangerous.

I’m led to believe these decisions were about managing the authorities health and safety risks; my response is they simply transferred unacceptable risk to my community.

Transferring those risks caused huge unnecessary and unacceptable stress and impeded sensible access to the very things most desperately needed – change is essential.

Our focus for the present however, is to assist our community to deal with their immediate needs as soon as possible.

Planned information meetings and media communications will assist with this.