Auckland flooding disaster: Mayor Wayne Brown under fire for late response to extreme weather

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown is under fire over how long it took him to declare a state of emergency on Friday despite extreme rain causing flooding, landslips and damage across the city.

Auckland was lashed by extreme weather from Friday afternoon but a state of emergency wasn't declared until nearly 11pm. 

Brown faced criticism over his relative silence during the deadly flooding. But in a late-night press conference, he rebuked claims he didn't act fast enough. 

"There has been some speculation I could have acted sooner, but I couldn't," he said. "This is a formal process not to be taken lightly."

Brown said the flooding was "intense" and covered much of the wider region. He said careful assessment is "important" and shouldn't be rushed. 

"It would have been irresponsible for me to rush ahead of the requirements and recommendations of the professionals."

"This is not something that you just respond to the clamour of the public," he added. 

Brown's comments came after National leader Christopher Luxon urged him to declare a state of emergency to allow emergency services to properly respond. 

"I'm urging Mayor Wayne Brown to declare a state of emergency for Auckland now," Luxon tweeted on Friday night. 

"This will give our brilliant emergency response teams the tools they need to respond. High tide hits after midnight and we need a list of evacuation centres for folk to head to."

Luxon wasn't the only one urging Brown to take action. Councillor Josephine Bartley also called for a state of emergency to be declared and criticised the mayor's lack of action. 

"You just have to look online to see the chaos out there. No need to wait. Declare a state of emergency," Bartley tweeted.

Bartley also tweeted an email she sent mayor Brown urging him to declare a state of emergency. 

"Declare a state of emergency now. I’m getting families from Māngere area asking me what to do because their homes are flooded so they are in their neighbour's home with many other people, they can’t get out of the street as it's flooded and family can't get in to get them out either. So they are sitting ducks. They ring 111 and are told that emergency services are overloaded and can’t get to them right now," she said in the email. 

"Where are the evacuation sites to let people know where to go? Has Red Cross got involved as they can set up emergency welfare centres?

"This is terrible organisation for an emergency management, so many families, especially in Māngere scared and vulnerable wanting to know what to do and their families are scared trying to get to them themselves. Not telling me to tell families who are stuck in flooded streets to post videos on the emergency management Facebook page."

Auckland Councillor Richard Hills also called for Brown to declare a state of emergency, sharing a photo of the inner city underwater. 

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman also lashed out at Brown's response on Twitter on Friday. 

"People are forced to evacuate their homes in distress with high travel risk and emergency workers are desperately organising to help, while our mayor has been totally absent, then comes out with THIS gem?!!" Ghahraman tweeted alongside an image of a quote from the mayor saying "we need the rain to stop, that's the main issue". 

The state of local emergency came into force immediately and expires in seven days. It allows Auckland Emergency Management (AEM) to access powers they would not normally be able to. AEM can now make calls that override the usual decision-making processes.