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Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence response to be reviewed

Rural Support 7

Following the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle, planning is underway for an independent operational review of the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management (HBCDEM) Group’s response.

At the peak of the disaster, communities, local emergency operation centres and emergency services experienced the extremes of isolation with the loss of critical roading, power and communications infrastructure. Through this isolation in the hardest days of the cyclone’s impacts, a shared regional understanding of what happened across communities is yet to emerge.

The HBCDEM Group Joint Committee governs HBCDEM on behalf of the region’s five councils. Hawke's Bay regional councillor Hinewai Ormsby, Chair of the Joint Committee, announced the review today, saying it is vital to identify the lessons from this event and bring together a common understanding of what happened in the region.

“The impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle on our region have been devastating and far reaching, first and foremost on our people, particularly those whānau who have lost loved ones,” Hinewai Ormsby said.

“The HBCDEM Group Joint Committee members – our region’s mayors and I – are committed to an independent, fair, and transparent review of HBCDEM’s operational response to Cyclone Gabrielle. 

“This commitment, responsibility and accountability is expected and needed by our communities.  While still early in the event, it is important we move with pace on this review, to ensure our communities are prepared for any event in the future,” Hinewai Ormsby said.

Wairoa District Council Mayor Craig Little said the purpose of the review is to assess the performance of HBCDEM’s emergency response across the entire Hawke’s Bay region, covering the lead-up to the Cyclone and through to the demobilisation of the Group Emergency Coordination Centre, which will occur at the end of April.

“This review will look at the systems and processes, roles, and responsibilities of the HBCDEM Group members and partners. We need to ensure a common understanding across the whole region of what occurred, identify the lessons from this event and understand what is needed to improve resilience for all our Hawke’s Bay cities, towns and communities,” Mayor Little said. 

Kirsten Wise, Mayor of Napier City Council, said while HBCDEM was still focussing on the response and transition to recovery, it was important to initiate the review now. 

“Capturing and considering the key findings from emergency events is a vital part of helping ensure our region is prepared and able to respond well for the next one. It’s also important we collect the experience of responders early, so that we can use this data to inform further lessons for the emergency management system, not just in Hawke’s Bay, but across the whole country,” Mayor Wise said.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said: “We have heard from our community about how important this review is. As well as looking internally at the HBCDEM Group’s performance, it is crucial to consider the organisational learnings and observations of the many partners involved in the operational response.

“This event has had significant impacts on our regional community and requires a whole-of- community-response,” Mayor Hazlehurst said.

“It is important that all local councils, Treaty partners, and partner agencies involved in the operational response, conduct reviews of their own responses and share these openly, recognising we all play a role as part of the civil defence emergency response.

“These reviews will sit alongside and connect into the wider HBCDEM review to make sure the voices from our wider community are included.  We must share the lessons learned from this event,” Mayor Hazlehurst said. 

Alex Walker, Mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, said the Joint Committee expects central government to hold its own review into the response.

“As a National State of Emergency was declared, we are yet to hear from the Government regarding their intent around a national review, but should one be initiated, our operational review will need to complement and inform that process,” Mayor Walker said.

“We would welcome any central government review, to ensure the system continues to learn, improve, and provide the best possible outcomes for our communities.  

“In the meantime, we as Joint Committee members will look for ways to engage community input and address their questions in a meaningful way through the design phase of this review,” Mayor Walker said. 

The review will be undertaken by independent and experienced emergency management professionals, with the Terms of Reference expected to be finalised in the coming weeks. 

17 April 2023

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