Council sends helpers to Christchurch

Dunedin City Council building inspectors have responded to a plea for help from their weary Christchurch counterparts, with an initial group of four yesterday heading north to the earthquake-stricken city.

Council-owned company Delta Utility Services' senior management team has also travelled to the city to do what it can.

The council has sent Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker a letter of support, offering staff, material resources and help for students from Christchurch living in Dunedin.

Things moved quickly as the day progressed, with deputy mayor Syd Brown saying at 1.30pm yesterday Dunedin was waiting for the call from Christchurch, but just one hour later, chief building control officer Neil McLeod and three building inspectors were on the way.

Council development services manager Kevin Thompson said Dunedin had offered assistance to the Christchurch building control team on Saturday.

The council was told there would be a response to the offer on Monday and, with "their guys about to hit the wall" with the amount of work required, the offer was accepted.

"We've sent four for a start. When they get on the ground we'll decide if more are required."

Mr Thompson said there were 190 buildings in the city, commercial rather than residential, that the group would help inspect.

He understood those buildings were in the central business district.

At least half of the council's building control team - about 15 people - had indicated they were willing to drop what they were doing to help out.

"They [Christchurch] are a fellow council; that's the big thing. These guys are flat out."

Mr Thompson said at this stage, the response would not affect building inspections in Dunedin, as inspectors were "on top" of their work.

That would only change if staff were required in Christchurch for an extended time.

Cr Brown called a press conference yesterday to explain Dunedin's response to the tragedy.

A communication to Mr Parker and district councils said as a close neighbour, Dunedin would look after students from Christchurch who would be concerned about the plight of their families "as though they were our own".

"Rest assured also that not only are we thinking of you, but we're ready, in a heartbeat, to come to your assistance should our help be needed."

Cr Brown said the council could offer building inspectors trained in post-earthquake building safety evaluation, water response crews, and any other services required.

Christchurch had been "handling the catastrophe very well".

There did not appear at this stage to be any damage in Dunedin from the earthquake, although civil defence and rural fires manager Neil Brown said that might become clearer in the next few days.

At a council infrastructure services committee meeting yesterday, Cr Paul Hudson said Delta staff, from linesmen to drainage staff, would be made available as required to assist.

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