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New Emergency Coordination Centre officially opened

Wednesday 6 September, 2023

The official opening of the new purpose-built Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) Te Manawa Whakarauora was held at the new location on Potae Avenue today.

A crowd of around 100 people gathered, who were representatives from iwi, hapū, Police, St Johns, Fire and Emergency NZ alongside councillors and management from Gisborne District Council.

The building was blessed by Anglican Ministers Ruawhaitiri Ngatai Mahue and Haumoana Kopua-Irwin before the official ribbon was cut.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz acknowledged tangata whenua, iwi chairs, hapū leads, regional agencies, Tairāwhiti Emergency staff and the volunteers who come together to support our communities in times of crises.

“Thank you on behalf of our whole community. It’s a tough journey we’ve all been on, but this is a celebration today.

“The new building is a dedicated space that is ready and equipped for our partners and emergency response teams to jump straight into action when an emergency response is needed.

“Because we can’t do it all on our own.”

Mayor Stoltz says recent events show that a facility like this is absolutely necessary.

“It’s a place where we can coordinate the support our community needs and deserves.”

Gisborne District Council Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher Swann thanked partners, contractors, and members of the Coordinating Executive Group for Civil Defence who were strong advocates for this building.

The project first got off the ground in 2019.

“It would take staff around two to three hours to set up Council Chambers if an emergency was declared, and being within a tsunami inundation zone we needed to provide an alternative site for the safety of our people during disasters.”

The new facility is now situated in Lytton West Village on Potae Ave – well clear of flooding and inundation zones.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Chief Executive Dave Gawn says the weather events Tairāwhiti has endured this year have been almost unprecedented around New Zealand.

“However, this is what’s happening more and more now around New Zealand.”

Mr Gawn says the focus of emergency management in this region is the Hikurangi Subduction Zone, which has the capacity to deliver a megathrust earthquake over the next 50 years.

“It’s not if but when. I take my hat off to Nedine and Rehette because it’s all about relationships and a huge amount of effort has been put in to be as prepared as you can possibly be in this region.”

Tairāwhiti Emergency Management Manager Ben Green thanked Te Aitanga a Mahaki acknowledging the whenua of where the building stands.

Mr Green leads a team of four who include, Kumeroa Papanui-Tuhaka, Marcus Tibble and Dallas Haynes. During a state of emergency response, the team can swell to more than 100 made up of volunteers from Council and the community.

“We’re intensely proud of what we do and why we do it – and that’s to keep our community safe.”

The name change from Civil Defence to Tairāwhiti Emergency Management also adds a layer of professionalism to the management team.

The opening event was also a chance to present Ian Hunter with two Long Service certificates of 20 and 30 years of service to Civil Defence. Mr Hunter became a Civil Defence volunteer during Cyclone Bola and was supported by whānau at today’s presentation.

At the entrance to the new ECC are four pou by carver Noema Te Hau.

“When I knew about the ECC being built I offered to create pou for this whare. Made from Totara, from my partner’s whenua in Wharekahika, I had a vision that you would see them as you came through the gate.

“My hope is the four Atua will weather and grow old along with this whare, and I would koha that we tie our waka up at the gate, and in passing the four Atua we focus on supporting the team here to do their mahi.”

The pou are:

Tawhirimatea - Atua of weather

Tangaroa – Atua of the oceans

Papatuanuku – Mother earth

Ruamoko – Atua of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Picture below: Speakers at today’s ceremony were from left Mayor Rehette Stoltz, GDC CE Nedine Thatcher Swann, NEMA CE Dave Gawn, Tairāwhiti Emergency Manager Ben Green, and carver Noema Te Hau.

ECC opening speakers 6 Sept 2023