By ROBYN BRISTOW
Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley is critical of legislation and regulations which saw local communities and those with comprehensive local knowledge “steam rolled” following the 7.8 magnitude North Canterbury earthquake on November 14.
He says “well-meaning” people from all over New Zealand came to the district once a civil defence emergency declaration was made and “steam-rolled” over local communities and local people like himself.
The local Hurunui community lost total control of the district under the system once Civil Defence legislation and its processes were put into action at local, then Canterbury level.
“I have an intimate and wide knowledge of the infrastructure of our district, the people and where they live and their needs.
“But I had no power or authority and was not used to inform the decision makers, who came from outside the district. Decisions were being made by people who had relatively little or no understanding of the local community. I now share Bob Parker’s frustration.”
“It is bizarre. Those trusted to look after their communities are sidelined. That is why I felt so bad.
“The community trusts you and suddenly you are irrelevant because the ability to help them is totally removed from you,” says Mr Dalley.
Frustration over the prolonged restrictions on the Inland Road, which was formally transferred to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) yesterday allowing for restricted travel, also concerns Mr Dalley.
“The conservative nature of restrictions on the road has been significantly driven by the Health and Safety regulations that place a huge responsibility on the chief executive officers of organisations who have to bear personal risk.
“The community needs to know and the country needs to know the implications of the regulations. A community is now suffering from those because one person is put in a position of responsibility. It is universal but in this case it is the NZTA chief executive.
“Two years ago it might have been quite different and there would have been more appetite for risk. However, it is the world we are living in and we can’t hide from it,” says Mr Dalley.
He was commenting as the Hurunui district moves from the response phase to the recovery phase.
Mr Dalley says the solution lies somewhere in having assistance available but not having others come in and take over.
“There should be support coming in to work beside you but with the way the system is set up, the system takes over.”
His comments also come as the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group (CDEM) emergency declaration, which has been in place for two weeks, is renewed for a week to allow for a “seamless and orderly transition” back to local control.
“It seems the pragmatic thing to do,” says Mr Dalley.
Community meetings will continue for as long as they are needed to ensure a two way flow of information about insurance and EQC, mechanisms and contacts.
NZTA is working closely with the Hurunui and Kaikoura District Councils to ensure the right balance of access, safety and progress with road works is made on the Inland Road.
NZTA is funding the work to restore the Inland Road, strengthen and upgrade it to Class One standard (no big rigs).
“Restricted access will take place over the next two weeks as repairs and improvements are made. It will be upgraded to include extra passing lanes and road strengthening to assist the flow of traffic,” Mr Dalley says.
While work is being done, a registration system will be in operation allowing light vehicles to travel into Kaikoura from 8am to 10am and out of Kaikoura from 2pm to 4pm.
Access is restricted to essential infrastrucutre and NZ Defence vehicles on Saturday and Sundays.
NZTA manager Pete Connors says a website has been set up or people can phone 0800 444449 to register to be included on the supervised convoys.
Mr Dalley says access will cover vehicles such as essential services, local landowners, emergency services, essential business, GPs, vets, the Rural Support Trusts, service industries and Fonterra milk tankers for collection from Kaikoura only.
“It will be a big improvement. There will clearly be delays while they work on the road. Regrettably it should have been in place some time ago.”
Mr Connors says the focus is on securing the Inland Road, a lifeline for Kaikoura, and restoring access via SH1 from the south as “soon as possible”.
The Inland Road was clearly a unique situation, but a significant part of the district’s farming community lived along the road, along with residents of Mt Lyford.
“The Hurunui District Council had no ability to service the needs of those people. We had farmers between Waiau and Mt Lyford without water for six days, but were refused entry at the road block to deliver water to the community over a piece of road that was serviceable
and not dangerous. There was no need to close the entire road.
“It was unreasonable to restrict access on the grounds of taking care of people’s safety.
“The reality was people did access the area and were not accounted for as they found alternative ways of getting behind the cordon.
“They are then at more risk because no-one knows they are there and safety is more compromised than if they had been given controlled entry,” Mr Dalley says.