Turning hui into do-ey

Saturday 25 November, 2023

Nineteen communities across the region are about to receive specialist emergency equipment that will enable them to initiate a community-led response if they are cut off after a catastrophic event thanks to a united effort led by Tairāwhiti Emergency Management (TEMO).

Emergency Management group manager Ben Green, who initiated the project, says no other region in Aotearoa New Zealand has resourcing like Tairāwhiti.

On December 1-2 the public, along with MPs, Government agency representatives, stakeholders and more will have a chance to see firsthand what has been created for the region.

The kit includes water treatment units that can treat salt water from the sea or compromised water sources, mass first aid kits, and hybrid solar energy units, among other things.

“These have been compiled based on catastrophic risk planning,” says Mr Green.

“These are areas that will be cut off due to an earthquake or tsunami and will need to sustain themselves for some time.

“They will now be able to provide a safe source of water in lieu of relying upon water to be delivered.”

The water treatment units have been developed in Australia and configured for deployment into Tairāwhiti.

“These represent significant capability imbedded at community level.”

It has been a real joining of forces to ensure enough collateral for 19 sites across the region, with financial input and support from iwi, MBiE, Red Cross, St John, Te Puni Kokiri, Trust Tairāwhiti, Think Water, Gisborne Honda, and the Eastern Community Trust. “None of the $1.5 million spent on the emergency equipment has come from ratepayers and the co-funding aspect of the project has been a highlight of how to effectively leverage funding and knowledge across agencies for a common solution,” he said.

“We identified key community hubs that have the potential to be used in times of emergency.

“It’s taken two years of testing and development of the equipment to ensure we can provide capability for communities in emergencies.

“These are not containers full of shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows and generators that can be bought at a hardware outlet. A lot of research has gone into bringing this together, and while Cyclone Gabrielle was a disrupter it did highlight the need for different resource options.

“On the back of successive emergency events, that often brought with them the logistical challenge of supplying fuel across the whole district, we have developed a hybrid energy system to remove the reliance on fuel-powered generators.”

TEMO worked in partnership with Solarsense Ltd, a Rotorua company that had initially created a trailer-mounted solar design with fold-out panels and a satellite dish.

“However, that was changed to create portable equipment that can fit on a Hilux or in a Hughes 500 helicopter similar to what is used in Tairāwhiti.”

The hybrid energy kits come in large blue boxes that are designed to be portable and rugged enough to cope with the types of environments they will be used in.

The public is welcome to come and see the specialist kit at the Rose Gardens on Friday (December 1) between 10am and 3 pm and Saturday (December 2) between 9am-1pm.

“It’s great to see this project through,” said Mr Green.

“No other region in New Zealand is resourced like this or taken catastrophic risk planning through to such solid solutions.

“We will have more capability than other Government agencies as part of our support of our remote communities. This ensures the best chance for those sites.”

He encouraged people to come and see the regional capability that is being deployed far and wide.

“This turns the hui into the do-ey when it really counts and is particularly important when you consider there is a 25 percent risk of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami event in this region over the next 48 years.”