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Cyclone Gabrielle response scales back, but the work continues


Six weeks on from Cyclone Gabrielle’s arrival in Hawke’s Bay, our civil defence emergency response has scaled back, but the work continues.

As the devastation was becoming clear in the early hours of February 14, our Group Emergency Coordination Centre was already activated, following several days of planning, national briefings, and regional coordination meetings.  The GECC is the everyday base for our 14 HBCDEM Group Office staff. Over the next few days, it expanded into a sprawling complex including six large multi-habitation units joined together to provide workspaces for local staff and the responders who surged into the region.  We quickly had around 150 staff working around the clock coordinating the response.

We are now transitioning into recovery, where our councils, Iwi organisations and other recovery structures begin to take over and work with their communities to build back from this disaster.

The footprint of our response has reduced accordingly.  

The “tent city” that occupied a section of Lyndon Road East has gone, with three of these shelters now tucked behind our building, helping provide space for the 50-odd staff still working in the GECC each day. 

We are in a vastly different place now than we were during the immediate response. The scaling back of our operation is a sign of the huge progress that has been made by our communities, responders, partner agencies, iwi and mana whenua and infrastructure operators across the region.

I want to assure you all that this transitional phase doesn’t mean we have ended the emergency response. We’re still working hard to ensure those that still need emergency food and supplies get what they need.

There are currently 1,500 people in 19 isolated communities who still need our support. They will carry on receiving essential welfare supplies until roads are re-established, bridges are repaired or replaced, and access is fully restored.  

At the peak of the response, we were coordinating up to 25 helicopter supply missions a day, using NZDF and civilian helicopters. We have streamlined this process into a regular schedule, with each community now receiving a supply drop, by helicopter or Unimog, once per week. Individuals can also contact their Community Hub Coordinator, or our response directly through our Welfare 0800 helpline to request support.

There is still a lot of work ahead for all of us, and there will, no doubt, be issues that arise to be dealt with.

A current priority for us is ensuring our isolated communities are fully stocked for the upcoming Easter break, and an ongoing focus is monitoring the weather. The important thing is that we’ve still got a team in place ready to respond to new developments.

Some of our communities have a long recovery journey ahead. In the meantime, we are still responding and working closely with councils, mana whenua and central government to keep our communities informed of our part and provide support along the way.

Ian Macdonald is the Group Controller for the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group. The Hawke’s Bay Cyclone Gabrielle Welfare Helpline is 0800 117 672. It operates 8am – 8pm on weekdays and from 8am to 4.15pm at weekends. 

4 April 2023

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