Civil Defence Emergency Management director John Hamilton,
of Wellington, briefed civil defence counterparts at the
Queenstown Lakes District Council last week on readiness
and responses to natural disasters. Photo by James Beech.
The national controller in charge of the response to the
Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 says tourists in
Queenstown are a boon to the economy, but a burden in an
Civil Defence Emergency Management director John Hamilton, of
Wellington, advised the Queenstown Lakes District Council on
Friday what the role of the Ministry of Civil Defence and
Emergency Management is in an emergency and how ''the four
Rs'' of risk reduction, readiness, response and recovery
''We're talking about leadership in the emergency response,
so I've been asked to reflect on my role, which in
Christchurch was the national controller during the
Mr Hamilton said the council had ''a pretty good handle'' on
The Lakes district had unique impacts in an emergency, such
as the number of visitors who were likely to be be unprepared
to the same extent as residents, isolation from major centres
and restricted access, but has managed flooding and rock or
Mr Hamilton said legislation held local Government
responsible for ''the four Rs'', with the ministry assisting,
although every district had its own hazards and risks and
council Civil Defence staff needed to think about how to
''We know tourists are the basis for the economy here, so you
want to make sure there are mechanisms in place which can
find a balance between not scaring the daylights out of them,
but be able to deal with them.
''There are translations of all our messages about being
prepared available, but if we went to Shanghai, we wouldn't
read them either, so who would be available on the local
radio station to provide messages in an emergency to
non-English speakers?'' he said.
As Christchurch demonstrated, Lakes district residents would
be the first to deal with an emergency on their doorstep.
The council would set up its emergency operations centre at
headquarters on Gorge Rd and the ministry would activate its
national plan, which includes reconnaissance using military
''At the same time, at the community end, all that
information is gathered by the council's ops centre, they use
whatever resources available to go to the worst-hit area and
then, if necessary, pull in national resources to assist,''
Mr Hamilton said.
''The operational priorities are standard, as they were in
Christchurch. Find and help the injured, make sure people
have access to a modicum of shelter, food and water and from
there on you make sure you have access rearranged.''
Mr Hamilton said tourism was significant not only to New
Zealand's economy, but also its global reputation.
''We know you can't stop earthquakes or tsunami, but you can
do things to be better prepared to minimise the consequences,
so that's what we're saying here.
''Think about the risks, think about what you might be able
to do as part of the contribution to preparedness and then if
it did come about, you're already stepped up the ladder.''