Mayor calls for civil defence levy

North Canterbury Mayors Dan Gordon (Waimakariri, left), Marie Black (Hurunui) and Craig Mackle ...
North Canterbury Mayors Dan Gordon (Waimakariri, left), Marie Black (Hurunui) and Craig Mackle (Kaikōura, second from right), met with Local Government Minister Simeon Brown (centre) and Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey on Friday. Photo: Supplied by Waimakariri District Council
A Canterbury mayor is calling for a civil defence levy to help councils respond to emergencies.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon raised the idea of a levy based on the Earthquake Commission model with Local Government Minister Simeon Brown, during his visit to Rangiora last week.

The levy would likely be charged with insurance premiums, but nothing has been resolved at this stage.

Mr Gordon was joined by fellow mayors Marie Black (Hurunui) and Craig Mackle (Kaikōura) and Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey.

The Government is preparing new legislation to update the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (2002).

The Waimakariri District Council has spent $10 million of unbudgeted expenditure over the last years due to severe weather events hitting the district.

‘‘I outlined to Minister Brown my desire to see a levy in place for civil defence emergencies, similar to that of the Earthquake Commission model,’’ Mr Gordon said.

‘‘This would help alleviate some of the huge costs faced by local authorities in the wake of extreme weather events and natural disasters.’’

Mr Gordon said the idea had previously been raised with Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency and Emergency Management and Recovery Minister Mark Mitchell.

A recent Canterbury Civil Defence and Emergency Management committee meeting found the region’s mayors were wary of new legislation introducing centralised control in an emergency.

‘‘We have a very good system in Canterbury,’’ Mr Gordon said.

‘‘The system we operate isn’t broken, but there are things which may be beneficial to other parts of the country.’’

He said Canterbury had shown resilience in its response to earthquakes, weather events, fire and drought.

Mrs Black said the latest flood events in Hawke’s Bay showed the importance of good communication between councils.

‘‘Often it is the district council which bares the brunt of support for its community in a natural disaster, as we are more in touch with our community.

‘‘Your own neighbourhood is the cavalry coming to support you, it is not about waiting for the cavalry to arrive.’’

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016 reinforced how important local systems were in an emergency, Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said.

While there was good support from Christchurch and Waimakariri following the earthquake, it was local people who stood up and organised stuff.

‘‘When people talk about large-scale events, like if the alpine faultline goes off, you know support is going to go to Christchurch, but it may not come out to the rural areas.

‘‘So it is all very well having centralised systems. We all need to be masters of our own destiny.’’

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said the Government was open to new ideas on how local government "can better deliver for the communities they serve, and I have passed their views onto officials".

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.