Civil Defence HQ may be relocated

The Waitaki civil defence headquarters in Oamaru may be shifted for major emergencies because the present site is not adequate.

The Waitaki District Council at an extra ordinary meeting on Tuesday is to consider a proposal to use the top floor of its headquarters building in Thames St for its partial or full emergency operations centre for the whole district.

The civil defence emergency centre is located behind the Plunket building in Severn St. The office area is cramped but extra space is available in surrounding halls.

The council proposed spending $500,000 next financial year to build a new emergency management centre, but only if it was feasible.

A report for Tuesday's council meeting said that, after a review by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, an alternative site was needed.

Now, it will consider using the council chambers on the third floor. The Severn St premises would continue to be used by emergency staff and the new centre would be used only for full or partial activation or training exercises.

At other times, it would still be available for council meetings and councillors.

The council will also consider entering into discussions with St Kevin's College about using its auditorium as an alternative emergency centre.

If the council gives the go-ahead on Tuesday, staff will prepare a proposal to relocate the emergency operations centre and for the use of the college's auditorium.

Emergency services manager Chris Raine said emergency staff and personnel were interviewed about the premises behind the Plunket Rooms and they said it was adequate only for low-level monitoring of an emergency event.

The operations centre needed to be relocated for a partial or full civil defence activation, staff and personnel said.

"Taking into account risk factors and mitigation to meet a risk - for example a tsunami or flood - the most suitable site is the council chamber on the third floor of the headquarters building," Mr Raine said.

Emergency staff were nearby in the headquarters building, along with council staff to handle inquiries and security for access could be assured.

There was good information technology and emergency electricity supply for the headquarters building, along with plenty of space fortasks such as briefings and media conferences.

Mr Raine said the council chambers would be a "non-dedicated facility" - equipment, computers, telephones, radios and whiteboards would be brought in for emergency management.

The Severn St premises were adequate for day-to-day use and monitoring the early stages of an event.

"It is too small for any full activation," he said.

While neighbouring halls could be used as a stopgap measure, that was not a long-term solution.

As an alternative headquarters, St Kevin's College had a comprehensive computer system, a large auditorium to house staff and large grounds for emergency vehicles and helicopters. It was also well away from a tsunami or flood zone.

Mr Raine said the proposal was cheaper than spending money on a new centre.

Although the council had budgeted $500,000, it was likely to cost between $750,000 and $1 million.

Using the council chambers would involve buying radios, roof aerials and establishing links to the council's computer and phone systems.

While the cost had yet to be fully evaluated, it was estimated to be about $10,000.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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