Grey District readiness for a major catastrophic event: Grey District Council
Report prepared by Ian McCahon, David Elms, Rob Dewhirst, Hlekiwe Kachali
On behalf of the Grey District Council, August 2012
This report supplements the 2007 report “Grey District Lifeline Plan: Community and Council, and deals with lessons to be learned from the experience of Christchurch in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. Activities following a disaster have two distinct phases: response and recovery. The response period lasts for a very few weeks and is essentially the immediate emergency period. It deals with rescue and with getting the basic lifeline services of water, power, roading and so on up and running, albeit in an interim fashion. During the recovery period that follows, the aim is to restore the community’s economy to normal functioning – although it might be a new normality.
The 2007 Report focussed primarily on lifelines. When we set out to work on this 2012 report, we found that for the most part the lifelines in Christchurch had performed much as expected, and a good deal better than would have been the case had the earlier lifelines projects resulting from the publication Risks and Realities not resulted in hardening and protection of most of the infrastructure. To our surprise, we found that the major problems and difficulties arose not in the response period but in recovery. Accordingly, the present report focusses on the lessons to be learned for recovery from a disaster. We tackled the issue from a systems point of view – that is, we looked at the problem as a whole, trying to find gaps, misconnections, unbalanced relations and so on. To find the necessary information we talked with a number of people intimately involved in recovery. They were generous with their time and eager to help. The details of the Christchurch experience produced a number of lessons of a general nature, applicable to any disaster situation. The question was then, how could these lessons apply in the specific context of the Grey District? We are not sufficiently familiar with the District to give specific recommendations. This could only be done locally. Instead, we looked generally at ways in which Grey District is different from Christchurch, then set down a number of issues which we believe the District should consider, in addition to the lessons. The report ends with a recommendation that Grey District holds a workshop to discuss the lessons and how they might apply locally, particularly aiming to come up with a prioritised list of practical steps that could be taken to ensure that when disaster hits – and it will – the District recovers in an orderly and effective way, avoiding as far as possible the problems shown up in Christchurch. The following section summarises the lessons and issues, also listed in the main body of the report, grouping them into six major areas of concern.