Cyclone commemoration day

This week marks a year since Cyclone Gabrielle caused devastation across the region, and as Hawke’s Bay councils prepare to commemorate the event, Hastings District Council has taken the opportunity to also discuss lessons learnt. 

At a meeting this week HDC reviewed the Civil Defence (CD) and Emergency Management (EM) response culture, which it mentioned had changed dramatically since February 2023.

Since the cyclone there is greater awareness of the need to maintain organisational readiness to respond to adverse events amongst staff.

Hastings District Council staff also mentioned a desire to have more exercises and training opportunities with the council committed to rolling-out its annual exercise programme by testing both the activation of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) Compass Team, depending on the nature of the disruption.

HDC is also in the process of compiling a Flooding and Tropical Cyclone Hazard Specific Plan, and the intention is to do it for all hazards over the next few years.

HDC is also awaiting the delivery of supplies (e.g., sleeping bags, stretchers, self-inflating mattresses, pillows, blankets, towels, toiletry bags, rapid relief packs, first aid kits) for both the Hastings Sports Centre and Flaxmere Community Centre so they can be setup as a Civil Defence Centres (CDC).

This was made possible through external grant funding received from the NZ Red Cross.

Two welfare support trailers (based on those used by NZ Red Cross) have been purchased using funding from a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) grant.

These trailers could be deployed to cut-off rural communities in need. Civil Defence wheelie bins (240 litre) with basic emergency supplies, and Hub Kits (40 litre plastic tubs) with basic stationery items, role cards, Hub Guide, Community Resilience Plan, start-up guide, area specific maps, etc. were procured with external MPI and NZ Red Cross grant funding received.

As communication was key throughout the cyclone, HDC has developed a strategy forwhen all forms of communications are down.

In the absence of both a national and regional communications strategy, HDC procured (with the assistance of an external MPI funding grant) 10 VHF radios with a three-year training and maintenance contract from Communicate, which is the same service provider used by the HB CDEM Group Office. These radios will be allocated to communities.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the week’s focus was on the people “who lost so much and still have a long way to go to recover”.

HB councils have organised services and gatherings this week, to enable people to gather to reflect on the effect of the cyclone, the hardships that were suffered, and how to continue to support those most affected.

On February 11, the first of the gatherings was a Volunteer Appreciation Day; a thank you and acknowledgment for their hard mahi over those first horrific days, and the weeks and months that followed.

“A year on, we reflected on our amazing volunteers whose courage, selflessness, kindness, generosity, and tireless hard work has helped us get through,” Hazlehurst said.

“Through both the response and the recovery our region united with a determined spirit; our people worked together to support each other, especially those in extreme need: NZ Fire and Emergency, Police, Civil Defence, the National Emergency Management Agency, the NZ Defence Force, Surf Lifesaving, volunteer search and rescue, helicopter pilots, and local groups and individuals from schools, marae, churches, community centres and more, who used whatever they had to save the lives of so many, and then shelter and feed our distressed people.”

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