Monday, February 20, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: Cyclone Gabrielle: 'Our optimistic and resilient nature also prevents us from complaining and asking the questions that need to be asked'

Someone wrote to me over the weekend and made a really good point after I talked about the resilience of people last Friday. 

They said it was true, that often times a disaster can bring out the best in people or —as we're seeing with the looters— the worst, in some cases. But they made the point that a part of that optimistic and resilient nature also prevents us from complaining because we don’t want to appear as whingers when there’s always someone worse off. 

But as a result of that, they pointed out, the focus can shift away from questions that need to be asked. And as a resident of Hawkes Bay, these were his questions: what are the three things you need to be working in a disaster? Communications, power and roads, he said. What failed in Hawkes Bay, and continues to fail in many parts: communications, power and roads. 

His point was that in a disaster area when a civil emergency is invoked, why is it that one phone network could run and the other could not? He asked why phone companies were not forced to accept global roaming for the period of the disaster so that everyone, not just those on the working network could communicate. 

He pointed out the fragility of the Redclyffe substation site, as well as the expressway built across a floodplain, left at the same level as the flood plain instead of being built up. His point being, the questions needing to be asked are sometimes obvious ones, but the solutions won’t necessarily be simple. 

And we are seeing now, more and more questions coming to the fore, more and more people getting angry about their circumstances. Napier’s deputy mayor over the weekend said she was “going rogue” in pointing out that the Cyclone had ‘laid bare the lack of support and investment the Government’s given the city recently.’ She said ‘the slow erosion of government services in Napier over her lifetime was “embarrassing”, as was the 2 million dollar support package announced by the Government for East Coast communities,’ she said. 

She claimed Napier as a community had been abandoned by government from services they should have had. And she wasn’t the only one speaking out. 

Piha residents west of Auckland have said they feel isolated and angry, forgotten about. 

Hawkes Bay residents still without power or access are angry, Gisborne residents feel forgotten in many parts. 

There are areas where debate’s ensuing over who's responsible for what – is it a council issue, a central government issue or a transport agency issue? Who will own the issue and who will fix it? How much will be spent and is it enough? Is it as simple as to say oh well this is climate change – or are there infrastructure problems that exacerbated things? And if so, how do we track down all those issues and pin point exactly where they are? How do we plan for fixes and budget for them and execute them before another catastrophic event? How much gets politicized? And so it goes. 

So although people are resilient yes, I think they are starting to ask the hard questions and demand answers, and more than that – look for long term real fixes that go beyond short term band aid solutions.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.


Ewan McGregor said...

“He pointed out … the expressway built across a floodplain, left at the same level as the flood plain instead of being built up.” Well, whoever ‘he’ is doesn’t know what he is talking about on this one at least. I was at the opening of that expressway and the engineer pointed out that the expressway was at the level of the land so that in the event of a catastrophic flood the water would keep moving out to sea rather than forming a dam which would direct flood waters to a confined exit point, which would be even more flow in the rivers, rather than flowing evenly across the roadway. So we can celebrate one bit of visionary planning. Credit where its due.

Robert Arthur said...

Persons choosing to well in places such as Piha took an obvious risk. The tiniest mind coud see the susceptibility of the tortuous single access. Much the same applies to many of the cliff edge properties. Those cliffs were not made at Creation. Evidence of falls has always been obvious. Much of our insurance is too liberal.
A problem is that most persons only buy two or so houses in a lifetime and do not devote much of their time to the pros and cons of such matters. For less obviously at risk areas they rely largely on council permit processes. NZers also have a habit of relentlessly chipping away at any restrictions so that eventually removed. In Chch sea level notes on LIM caused uproar and were removed. On th eother hand over cautious flood plain rulings can devastate values. I comaplined about a ludicrous computer level on a property. It was (eventually) reviwed and hugely reduced. Despite the intake becoming blocked and extensive illegal sheds fences etc in the path the recent Auckland flood came nowhere near even the new boundary.

Anonymous said...

Likewise people don’t understand insurance. If you pay for insurance then you have financial support ( to extent of cover) if there is an event. If you don’t have insurance then you take all the risk. Yet it seems to be assumed that no insurance means you save on premiums and govern any and give-a-little will cover you. Risk management is part of the cost of home ownership.