Cyclone Gabrielle: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand could do better at preparing for telecommunication outages

  • 24/02/2023

Chris Hipkins says the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle has revealed an area where New Zealand can do better in terms of disaster preparation and response.

The Prime Minister is in Northland on Friday to meet with emergency responders and officials who responded to the several large weather events to hit the region over the last two months.

While there, he told media it is critical "equity is at the heart of our response" to cyclone damage, noting because of New Zealand's topography, "often some of our poor communities have been built in areas that are most susceptible to natural disasters". 

"We've also got to think about that in terms of our preparations for disaster response," he said.

Overall, he said he believed the response to Cyclone Gabrielle has highlighted strengths in disaster response and recovery, but also "some areas that we can do better on".

He said preparation for telecommunications outrages is one example. 

Following Cyclone Gabrielle, larger pockets of the North Island were without communications due to breaks in important fibre lines and outages at cell sites. 

"That's an area I think there are some clear lessons to be learnt around," he said.

"I do want to, however, just take a moment to thank those people who were out there restoring telecommunications and restoring power across the country. 

"We've seen people out there all hours of the day and night in all weather, the lines companies, the telecommunications companies, getting people reconnected and I think as a country, we should really extend a very warm thank you."

Speaking earlier, Hipkins said, "we've realised just how much we rely on being able to communicate with each other and how dependent we've become on those cellular lifelines".

"We've got to have a better system for getting them back up and running immediately after a disaster. Starlinks have been great, but the idea that we have a whole lot of Starlinks ready to go when something like that happens so we can do that much faster, I think that's going to be really important."

The Prime Minister also continued to stress the need to make New Zealand's roading network more resilient as "we are likely to see more extreme weather events." 

He's previously acknowledged some roads may have to be rebuilt in different areas. The Government on Monday announced a $250 million investment into the National Land Transport Fund to help with the network recovery.

Watch the Prime Minister's full standup above.