Government forks out $5.2 million to improve disaster response

Canterbury's recent natural disasters have prompted the Government to fork out $5.2 million for 'rapid response teams' to support communities during emergencies. 

The Ministerial Technical Advisory Group's (TAG) review of the country's emergency response after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake and 2017 Port Hill fires showed the need for better communication during a disaster, Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi said. 

Following the Port Hills fires, Fire and Emergency New Zealand commissioned an  independent review into their operational response, which found while fire-fighters did a lot of things well there were areas that needed to improve. 

The TAG review released on Thursday called for improvements on how the country responds to disasters and emergencies.

Mr Faafoi said the Government's response needed to be robust and specific to ensure people are protected and to learn from the disasters.

The improvements will include 'fly in teams' - four specialist nine-person squads with event controller, communications and science skills who will be drawn from across agencies and civil defence groups to provide immediate support.

A further $1 million in new funding will be put into other initiatives including $250,000 to fund the business cases for a new emergency management facility and $400,000 each to fund a common operating picture across the sector and work on the required legislative changes.

Mr Faafoi said the TAG review recognised the current system was fundamentally sound, but needed a number of improvements.

"We're seeing a growing number of events and risks in a complex environment and that demands that we clarify, strengthen, modernise and professionalise our response. 

"We've also seen in the past nine years New Zealand's ability to respond to emergencies has changed considerably  there's new technology, new ways of working, and learnings from the experiences and challenges we have faced."

The TAG review was not a reflection on the contribution of volunteers and professionals who respond to emergencies, he said. 

"This is about ensuring the system is fit for purpose in 2018 and the years ahead," Mr Faafoi said.

Strengthening the national leadership, putting people at the heart of the emergency response system and making it clear whether regional or national bodies are in charge during an emergency are all a part of improving the system.