Systemic failure in New Zealand emergency response is confirmed by repeat avoidable tragedies in Christchurch, unmitigated disasters under National-led government. Full responsibility lies with them and with everyone who has been selfishly and ignorantly voting support for corrupt sheer incompetence in central and local government: a regional despoliation shared between greedy empire-builders of Beehive and town hall.
With an eye – they happily admitted at the time – only for increased irrigation water for dairy profits from Canterbury, John Key, Gerry Brownlee and Bill English – backed by Christchurch and Canterbury mayors – have completely dropped the ball in every aspect of good governance in the region, since they destroyed its democratically elected council in April 2010.
Since then, because of this, many people have been unnecessarily dying due to the fragmentation of effective civil defence that the central and district governments have collectively caused. That is abysmal and completely unacceptable performance. Heads must roll. Starting today. For public safety.
The lazy, corrupt, ignorant incompetence that characterises New Zealand government has to stop: it is deadly at fault. The same confused fire-cordon-and-response failings that cost lives in the levelled Canterbury Television building on 22-23 February 2011 re-appeared on 14 February 2017 in the Port Hills fires. The failing is in leadership and co-ordination, not that of hands-on responders: a communication and collaboration failure in the back office, from the top down. It is a man-made sabotage of effective regional response that John Key et. al. never imagined was going to be needed or could bite them so very, very hard. Now it very much has. The pattern of functional decay is thoroughly exposed.
News media could stop deflecting attention away from National’s gross mis-leadership and culpable manslaughters in Canterbury. Or remain accessories. Stop promoting self-advancing, opportunist and incompetent mayors.
Ask how the CTV building fire cordon was managed in February 2011. Was it effective in Police hands, as prescribed by an emergency site that had fatality? Or were fire crews excessively stretched without backup, then investigated as blameworthy? Were the fire responders made scapegoats, then and in February 2017?
Ask especially what action council took to check building safety and to cordon off hazards after 4 September 2010. None was apparent as a loud sigh of relief led into an ill-fated Boxing Day Sale, to satisfy city retailers, instead. Criminal negligence and liability rests here and instead we see knighthood reported? Not good enough by far.
Without remedial action at the governance level, New Zealand’s coming grand disaster – the Alpine Fault movement and its follow-ons – will only be all the more lethally tragic. Proposals to centralise emergency response are to save who time instead of getting on an aeroplane? And what happens then when Wellington gets badly hit? No confidence, at all, as it is unearned yet.
Action summary: What public safety requires most, without delay, is –
all communities developing skills and means to organise, represent and keep themselves safe,
National out of central government,
Labour out of local government
– monopolies are never, ever healthy or helpful.
Event overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Port_Hills_fires
Monday 13 February 2017
c4:30pm Fire broke out in Lansdowne Valley, Selwyn District, spreading rapidly.
c7pm Fire broke out on Marley’s Hill to the north, in the Christchurch City Council area.
Scrub fire breaks out in Christchurch
Two fires on Christchurch’s Port Hills stretch fire crews, destroys house, force evacuations
“Fire Service spokeswoman Lyn Crosson.. said an area of 400 by 400 square metres was burning at Summit Rd near Marley’s Hill. At 10pm, Crosson said the fire was still burning uncontained and residents on Summit and Worsleys roads were being evacuated. ‘Crews are currently working to prevent it jumping Summit Rd,’ she said. ‘Summit Rd will remain closed for the night.'”
Tuesday 14 February 2017
Not enough was done from dawn, by far, while confused officials argued jurisdiction.
Evacuation set #1 of 3 was ignored – emergency not declared, despite it already spanning two populated districts in very dry weather.
SDC-1. Tai Tapu/Port Hills fires – update 10.30am “Two fires are continuing to burn this morning in the Tai Tapu/Port Hills area – one in the vicinity of Early Valley Road/Lansdowne, and the other in the Marley Hill area near the Summit Road. The fires cover an area of around 700 hectares. Fire status The Early Valley Road fire started yesterday evening at around 6pm. It has since crossed Summit Road around the Kennedy’s Bush area and at some other points. It is principally being fought by air with support from ground crews. Today crews will focus on protecting structures and controlling the fire, and protecting Kennedy’s Bush. The Marley Hill fire started in a car park around 7pm last night and spread west along the Summit Road area overnight. Protection of structures and the Christchurch Adventure Park and are also a focus for fire fighting. Both fires are now being managed by one Emergency Operations Centre based at Selwyn District Council’s Rolleston Headquarters as well as on site control points… Around 24 properties were evacuated last night with evacuations remaining in place currently. Tai Tapu School was opened last night to receive evacuees but closed last night with all evacuees staying with friends and family except for one family who accommodation was arranged for. No further evacuations are anticipated to be needed currently. One house has been confirmed destroyed by the fire, with a structure destroyed and one other house slightly damaged. All affected structures are in the Lansdowne area” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/216187/Port-Hills-fire-update-10.pdf
Port Hills fires: Photos from inside the cordon – Selwyn Rural Fire response
Two fires rage on the Port Hills as one enters the Christchurch Adventure Park “fire retardant had been air-dropped on the top station earlier in the day. Selwyn District Council principal rural fire officer Douglas Marshall said the fire was ‘crawling through the under-matter at the bottom of the trees’ at the top of the park, and that fire crews weren’t too concerned about it causing a problem at this stage. A nearby crew is monitoring the situation. Firefighters earlier said two huge blazes in Christchurch’s Port Hills were now contained, although the battle to put them out was continuing. … The Selwyn District Council said the Marley Hill fire appeared to be largely contained on the city side of Summit Rd by 3pm. … Operations have slowed down for the night. Marshall said there was one crew monitoring the Marley Hill fire and three watching the one at Early Valley overnight. He was expecting it to be a quiet night as there was not much wind. … Twenty-four homes had to be evacuated overnight, and a group of children were among those rescued on Monday after becoming stuck near one of the fires. Selwyn principal rural fire officer Douglas Marshall said 11 helicopters and nearly 120 firefighters were working to contain the fires on Tuesday, and could be needed for another two or three days. Three two-member firefighting crews from the New Zealand Army had also been dispatched to help. ‘The second fire … [at Marleys Hill] is working around the radio mast that’s up in that area. It’s currently working down a ridge it’s probably the top end of the [Christchurch] Adventure Park area,’ Marshall said. ‘It’s not contained. It’s still burning quite strong. … A Fire Service spokesman said the Summit Rd fire had spread across 1.5 kilometres. The flames were too aggressive to battle in the dark, so firefighters working overnight concentrated on trying to stop it spreading further” http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/89376043/Two-fires-rage-on-the-Port-Hills-as-one-enters-the-Christchurch-Adventure-Park
2.30pm Sugarloaf helicopter crash and pilot death. Flying halted temporarily, stakes raised greatly.
Helicopter pilot dies while fighting Christchurch wild fires “Douglas Marshall, principal rural fire authority officer at the Selwyn District Council, said the accident was a tragedy. ‘Firefighting is difficult and dangerous work … our thoughts are with the deceased [person’s] family at this time.’ He said it was possible a number of pilots involved in helping to douse flames would want to stand down following the accident, and authorities were respecting that decision. In a statement, Selwyn District Emergency Management said the Marley Hill fire remains contained, although ground crews are monitoring activity along the Summit Rd. The other fire at Early Valley is also contained, but there are some spots of fire burning downhill from the ridgeline above Governors Bay and Allandale. Helicopters will continue to operate until nightfall tonight and from first light tomorrow. The area of both fires combined as estimated at about 580ha.”
SDC-2. Tai Tapu/Port Hills fires – update 3pm “The Marley Hill fire appears to be largely contained on the city side of the Summit Road. Parts of the Early Valley Road fire have crossed the Summit Road towards Governors Bay. Current activity across both fires is focused on efforts to protect structures and prevent the fire from spreading.” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/216188/Port-Hills-fire-update-3pm-14-Feb.pdf
SDC-3. Tai Tapu/Port Hills fires – update 6.30pm “The current situation with the fires are that the Marley Hill Fire remains contained, although ground crews are monitoring activity along the Summit Road. Significant effort put into the Early Valley fire today has resulted in it being effectively contained, although there are some spots of fire burning downhill from the ridgeline above Governors Bay and Allandale. The New Zealand Fire Service is undertaking active structure protection in this area. Helicopters will continue to operate until nightfall tonight and from first light tomorrow. No further structures have been lost beyond those reported earlier.” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/216189/PORT-HILLS-FIRES-6pm-update-14-Feb.pdf
Wednesday 15 February 2017
Governors Bay evacuations overnight by Civil Defence; that fire contained, residents returned.
Evacuation #2 of 3 was ignored – emergency not declared.
Smoke then fire broke out in a big way in the Cashmere Valley and Port Hills south-west of Christchurch city.
Chaos had been unleashed which led to panic, mass evacuations, misinformation and terrible overnight fear.
Evacuation #3, widespread in panic and south-west Port Hills areas affected, was acted upon:
6pm A local emergency was declared jointly by the Selwyn and Christchurch mayors.
Port Hills fires: Live updates – extract
“1:00am Marley’s Hill fire escalates, as fire spreads downhill through the forest.. within 150m of Sign of the Kiwi
3:00am 700 Governors Bay and Allandale residents evacuated. Governors Bay School which is closed today
5:00am Fire seen close to the chair lift at the Christchurch Adventure Park
7:00am City council activates the Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the welfare operation
8:00am Helicopters are filling up monsoon buckets in the Heathcote River, corner of Hoon Hay Valley Rd and Cashmere Rd
9:00am –We’ve broken its back’: Governors Bay chief fire officer Andrew Norris
9.09am Health warning over smoke
9.27am Helicopters are using water from ponds and dams on farms in the Lansdowne area to fill monsoon buckets to fight the Early Valley Rd fire. Two helicopters can be seen in the air above the fire and two others are refueling.
10.34am Conditions are fine and dry as firefighters continue to tackle fires on the Port Hills. MetService forecaster Cameron Coutts said winds were gentle, at about 17km/h, at the moment and had been blowing south west for some time. A north east change with 37km/h winds should hit the hills from about mid-afternoon, before dying down tonight
12:30pm Technicians are waiting to get access to transmitters that operate the city’s emergency services dispatch, including ambulance and police. Power was lost on Monday at the Marley Hill location and it is operating on batteries
1:56pm Power outages across the city
2:30pm: More fire service resources are being sent to the Christchurch Adventure Park, to assess if structures can be saved
3:00pm Victoria Park is being closed as thick smoke billows from the Christchurch Adventure Park
3:10pm Fire units are on their way to Worsleys Rd, Kennedy’s Bush, after reports houses are being threatened
3:15pm Fire crews are currently working to control a flare up in Worsleys Spur area in the vicinity of the Christchurch Adventure Park.
3:25pm Police are evacuating residents from homes on Worsleys Rd near Summit Rd. Three houses are under threat from the fire. A Cashmere resident described it as an ‘inferno’
3:31pm Helicopter resources are stretched and one is not available at the moment to drop water on the Christchurch Adventure Park
3:59pm Police have cordoned off Westmorland at Cashmere Rd and are urging people to prepare for an evacuation.
5:10pm Reports of residents being evacuated from the Cracroft area.
5:18pm Police have confirmed houses on Kennedys Bush Rd and its intersecting streets are being evacuated. Residents are heading to Pioneer Stadium
5:28pm Fire service has just issued a directive for all vehicles to get off Dyers Pass Rd
5:32pm Fire fighters say the blaze will ‘punch’ its way out of McVicars Plantation and hit the first corner of Dyers Pass Rd below the Sign of Kiwi before dark
6:00pm A command centre has been set up at the Sign of the Takahe
6:15pm The mayors of Christchurch and Selwyn have made a joint decision to declare states of emergency in the areas
6:22pm Fire fighters battling flames at the Christchurch Adventure Park only have about an hours worth of water left. Crews are scrambling to get more water to them
6:41pm There are unconfirmed reports that Pentre Tce, by the Sign of the Takahe, is being evacuated
6:50pm Cashmere Rd is now closed from Kaiwara St to Kennedys Bush Rd due to evacuations in Lower Cashmere, Cracroft, Westmorland and Kennedys Bush
9:39pm Fire fighters at the Sign of the Takahe cordon are telling residents above the landmark to leave their homes as the fire spreads, with reports it has moved into Victoria Park
9:44pm Canterbury Regional Controller Neville Reilly has been deployed to the Christchurch Civil Defence Emergency Operations Centre to head the overall response to the fires
9:55pm Authorities issue urgent evacuations: ‘Residents in the area from the Sign of the Takehe to Victoria Park should evacuate their homes immediately. Authorities are advising that the fire has crossed Dyers Pass Road into Victoria Park. Police and the Defence Force are evacuating properties in the area. We are also evacuating the south side of Cashmere Road to Kennedy’s Bush Road, and to Hoon Hay Valley Road'”
SDC-4. Tai Tapu/Port Hills fires – update 10am “Overnight increased fire activity was reported around midnight in the area above Governors Bay. Multiple fire units were called in from around the region to assist in firefighting and protecting properties. At approximately 3am fire and police evacuated around 107 residents from the Allandale area near Governors Bay, due to the fire risk. The Christchurch City Council has activated an Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the welfare operation which includes a welfare centre at the Governors Bay school.” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/216190/Port-Hills-fires-update-10am-15-Feb.pdf
SDC-5. States of Emergency-declared in Christchurch and Selwyn “The Mayors of Christchurch City and Selwyn District have made a joint decision to declare States of Emergency in their respective areas in relation to the Port Hills fires. The declaration follows the evacuation this afternoon of 200-300 residents as the fire shifted closer to residential properties. It is no longer just a significant rural fire on the boundary of the city. It is now a city issue with suburbs being evacuated. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says a city response is also required to ensure the safety and welfare of residents… Selwyn District Mayor Sam Broughton says, ‘we acknowledge there has been a huge effort responding to the fire to date, however this declaration recognises the seriousness of the situation, and this will allow us to provide all the assistance necessary to respond to the unfolding situation. The district and the city must work together to manage the situation and address the different challenges the fire is creating in each area.'” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/216191/States-of-Emergency-declared-CHCH-Selwyn-15-Feb.pdf
SDC-6. Port Hills/ Tai Tapu fire update: Residents should be prepared to evacuate – update 7.15pm “The Marley Hill fire has spread extensively down Worsley Spur, causing extensive vegetation burning in the Christchurch Adventure Park. The fire is approaching the residential area of Westmoreland.” http://www.selwyn.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/216192/Port-Hills-fire-update-7.15pm-Wed-15-Feb.pdf
Port Hills fires: Some south west suburbs evacuate
Port Hills fire: Homes destroyed, more residents evacuating
Homes destroyed, families evacuated as Christchurch fires spread “More than 1000 residents have fled their homes and at least eight properties have burned to the ground as a huge wild fire rages on in Christchurch. Terrified residents ran clutching precious belongings or bundled children into cars as the black smoke ballooned from the flames tearing through tinder dry scrub land. Several fires have now merged into one which is threatening dense residential housing. The blaze is estimated to have scorched more than 1850ha of land and is still growing. A state of emergency was declared in Christchurch and Selwyn, the Defence Force was deployed and health authorities issued warnings to vulnerable residents as black smoke drifted across the city. Civil Defence revised down the number of homes destroyed on Worsley Spur tonight to at least three after earlier issuing a statement saying 40 homes had been lost. A spokeswoman said the error was the result of misinformation being given to a rural fire officer and was revised following a ‘correction from the police on earlier information’. The incorrect figure was widely reported earlier tonight by media and made it into some copies of the morning Herald. Little information was available on how the error occurred but hard questions will no doubt be asked of authorities in the morning” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11801058
Live: Fires continue to rage through Christchurch’s Port Hills
State of Emergency declared “Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn District Mayor Sam Broughton made a joint decision to declare the State of Emergency. It follows the evacuation of 200-300 residents as the fire shifted closer to residential properties in the south-west. Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee has announced New Zealand Defence Force personnel have been asked to assist with fighting the fires. Ms Dalziel said a city response was also required to ensure the safety and welfare of residents. ‘Christchurch needs a multi-agency response given the seriousness of the situation. We need to be able to draw on all the resources possible to give our residents confidence in the ongoing response.’ Mr Broughton said: ‘We acknowledge there has been a huge effort responding to the fire to date, however this declaration recognises the seriousness of the situation, and this will allow us to provide all the assistance necessary to respond to the unfolding situation. The district and the city must work together to manage the situation and address the different challenges the fire is creating in each area.'” http://www.star.kiwi/2017/02/state-of-emergency-declared-city/
Editorial: Why did it take so long to declare state of emergency? “The terrifying change on Wednesday afternoon, which saw the situation deteriorate rapidly, shows there can be no room for complacency or confusion among those in charge of dealing with the emergency… Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee expressed frustration that a state of emergency was not declared earlier by the Selwyn District Council, the lead agency in fighting the fires, or the Christchurch City Council, within the boundaries of which much of the burning land is situated. The emergency was eventually declared on Wednesday evening when flames threatened city suburbs, then destroyed more houses and forced mass evacuations. It was obvious to anyone that the situation was getting worse not better, when the amount of smoke rising from the hills expanded enormously. Questions will now need to be asked whether the Selwyn Rural Fire Authority acted decisively enough and quickly enough, deploying all available resources. For instance, it seems that tankers, equipment and personnel had been on standby at Burnham Military Camp, but could not move, by law, while the army waited for a request from the civil authorities that was slow in coming. Criticism of emergency services at the height of a crisis is easy to make and often ill-advised. However, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned from this emergency, and the various authorities will need to take an honest and hard look at themselves when it is over… people deserve the best possible leadership, and bosses who will take timely and decisive action to make their task easier.”
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/89454212/Editorial-Why-did-it-take-so-long-to-declare-state-of-emergency Comment RT – “Yes, it was the neutralisation of regional government by district and central government in cahoots, that left hills residents so dangerously out on a limb. Without that unseemly plot, collaboration and resources could have been swung in, through ECan CDEM services, from first light on the Tuesday to stop the fires cold. Shameful top-level performances, yet again: so ready to blame front-line fire-fighters, as at the CTV building collapse. Beyond shame, a deregulating City and Beehive are culpable!”
Thursday 16 February 2017
After lower Sugarloaf had flared it soon went dark, with Victoria Park more flame-free overnight. But a day of downgraded hazard was needed for assurance that the fire was burning out up there, while it burnt on more strongly in the Adventure Park valley below and with the western fire areas more at risk under prevailing easterly wind conditions. A day of extended, thus exaggerated, panic pending better official reports from the fire fronts that were slow in coming – very formal conservatism characterises response from start to finish. ‘Safety first’.
Port Hills fires: Live updates – extract
“12.59am The Port Hill fires have now merged into one, developing significantly during the afternoon and into this evening. At least three additional houses have been destroyed in the area of Worsleys Rd
2am Six people from Pentworth Pl in Westmorland have been evacuated and are sleeping over at Te Hapua, which has been opened for evacuated residents, along with Nga Hau e Wha Marae. It appears most people that have been evacuated have found their own accommodation. In addition to rural fire staff, a group of 86 made up of 50 New Zealand Police and 36 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are working overnight on the Port Hills Fire response. They are doing evacuations, joint patrols and reassuring people in the areas impacted by the fires
3.25am There are still some very active fire fronts up on the Port Hills, but not as many as there were prior to midnight. A large number of fire crews have been on the ground working hard to protect properties overnight. A drop in fire activity can also be attributed to a decrease in temperature and a rise in humidity. Helicopters are expected to start an aerial attack at first light. Approximately 400 households have been evacuated in the areas around Victoria Park/Dyers Pass Road, Worsleys Rd, Westmorland and Kennedys Bush
4.55am Police are now evacuating residents downhill of the Sign of the Takahe on Dyers Pass Rd as far as and including Kiteroa Pl and Pentre Tce. Residents will be contact directly by police who are in the area now knocking on doors. If you feel unsafe, you are advised to self-evacuate. Police have continued to express concerns about traffic and people in the area and directed all non-residents to stay away, keeping it clear for emergency services
6.06am More than 1000 residents have fled their homes and at least eight properties have burned to the ground as a huge wild fire rages on in Christchurch. Several fires have now merged into one which is threatening dense residential housing. The blaze is estimated to have scorched more than 1850ha of land and is still growing.
6.24am The latest report is the fire has spread to the harbour side of Sugar Loaf. Evacuations are continuing on the Port Hills with a total of 450 properties officially evacuated. Others have self-evacuated as the fire spread overnight
6.44am Helicopter crews are starting to rejoin firefighting efforts. Aerial teams could be seen leaving the Christchurch Airport area at daybreak on Thursday
6.46am Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee will arrive in Christchurch on Thursday morning. He has been critical of how long it took for a State of Emergency to be declared and questioned why rural firefighters were in charge of a fire inside the city boundaries.
6.55am Around 126 homes remain without power due to the fire
7.30am Broadcast provider Kordia has activated its disaster recovery plan as the fire engulfs land around Sugar Loaf. It has activated its disaster recovery plan and is transporting spare equipment to Christchurch
7.52am Military help for Christchurch is on standby – but hasn’t yet been asked for. Lieutenant Colonel Rob Loftus said almost 40 Defence Force personnel are on the ground so far. The Defence Force has been helping out with evacuations. Civil Defense minister Gerry Brownlee said it is up to the Fire Service to ask for further help – he is concerned they’ll leave it too late, Newstalk ZB reports
9:22am The Civil Defence bunker at Parliament is being activated
11.19am The impact of the fires on people is starting to be felt. Canterbury Civil Defence Controller John Mackie said they received a report of five incidents from health services. He said health and welfare services are also turning their attention to the psycho-social impact of the fires
11:32am More fire appliances are being called to the Christchurch Adventure Park to help battle the fire
12:12pm Firefighters in the Christchurch Adventure Park have setup monitoring stations at the base of the chairlift and cafe as a contingency plan
12:15pm Flames 6 to 8 metres tall are threatening a house at Kennedys Bush. Two fire crews are on the way
12.17pm Fire crews on Worsleys Rd have lost water pressure and are attempting to get it back
12.45pm Prime Minister Bill English and Gerry Brownlee are in the air surveying the fire scene
4:29pm Firefighters are calling for more water tankers up Kennedys Bush Rd to assist fighting the fire. They have asked for 4WD vehicle specifically. Firefighters have noticed another flare up
7:24pm Cordons remain in place with police and Defence Force staff patrolling
10:09pm ‘While there are still areas burning out of control, the fire is contained within the 2075 hectare area.'”
From the archives: A tale of two boys
Port Hills fire: 11 homes destroyed, 1000 people evacuated
Christchurch Port Hills fires: What you need to know on Thursday
Watch: Christchurch wakes to a city ablaze
Map: The extent of the blaze
New video shows devastation at Christchurch Adventure Park
Mayors defend actions after Minister Brownlee criticism “The two mayors met with Brownlee today and afterward Dalziel defended the handling of the fire, saying she and Broughton had declared the state of emergency to ensure people took it seriously when told to evacuate rather than because of the need for more resources. ‘We did that together not because it was needed for any resources to be brought to bear but because it was to give people confidence that when the Police told them they were to evacuate, they were to evacuate: this is an emergency.’ She said there were already sufficient resources in place to fight the fire and the state of emergency was called within an hour and a half of the mayors being advised people were being evacuated”
Friday 17 February 2017
Editorial: Lack of information on Port Hills fires excruciating “Some will say that when a crisis of this magnitude hits, people need to get on with dealing with it, rather than telling people what is going on. This is misguided. Reliable information is crucial in dangerous times – to calm public anxiety, to mobilise resources from within the community, to tell people to move when they need to, and to warn people to stay away at times. … Fear and hysteria are more likely when people are ill-informed. In Christchurch this week, the state of emergency was declared 48 hours after the fires started, after mass evacuations began and only after a serious escalation of the blazes which might have been foreseen in a worst-case-scenario risk assessment. Civil Defence guidelines state that states of emergency should be declared ‘early rather than late’ – advice which seems to have been ignored in this case. No-one can doubt the bravery and dedication of those on the front lines, but there seems to have been blocked lines of communication at the strategic level. Maybe part of the problem is that New Zealand, a country of just 4.5 million people, has multiple layers of authorities and agencies with sometimes conflicting roles. The fires have burned across the boundaries of Christchurch City and Selwyn District, which is why the state of emergency was declared jointly by mayors Lianne Dalziel and Sam Broughton. How long did it take them to co-ordinate that decision? Could a single authority have done it more quickly? Brownlee had the power to declare an emergency himself, as did the wider-area Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, but they did not do so. The Selwyn Rural Fire Authority was the lead agency in fighting the fires, which seemed incongruous once houses in Christchurch city suburbs began to burn. There has to be a swifter and simpler way of dealing with emergencies, and in letting people know how to react. That needs to be one of the lessons learned from these fires.” http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/89503846/editorial-lack-of-information-on-port-hills-fires-excrutiating
Civil Defence Minister believes state of emergency should’ve been declared earlier
Port Hills fire: ‘Impact is the biggest in NZ history’ “The fire broke out on Monday night and was at it’s peak on Wednesday afternoon when two huge columns of smoke started to build, intensifying the flames and pushing crews to their limit. ‘A lot of people are asking why we weren’t putting water on it while it was burning away,’ said Rural Fire sector boss Phil Crutchley. ‘We were looking at 100,000 kilowatts of temperature per square metre – any water we put on that just evaporated. We just pulled back, it was just too dangerous. There was nothing we could do that would have stopped that.’ As a result, homes were lost and other properties damaged – but he made no apology. The columns had the power of two atomic bombs behind them and there was nothing on earth that could have been done to take the guts out of them.”
Beginning of Port Hills fire: How McCarthy Contractors responded when they first saw smoke “Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton conceded there were communication problems between the different fire organisations in Canterbury, and declaring a state of emergency took too long.”
Firefighters were sent home early from Christchurch fire response, union says “New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union Secretary Derek Best has called for an independent inquiry. He said firefighters were sent home for 90 minutes at nightfall on Monday after they had contained but not extinguished the fire. Just an hour and a half later they were called back to the scene, but it was too late. … an inquiry was needed not just into the fire services but into the entire disaster response. ‘Really the same issues from the Christchurch earthquake are still present.’ … Early Valley Rd homeowner Ken McKenzie believed … ‘If action had been taken quicker and we’d got more resources to the site … it should have been able to be stopped before it headed towards town. ‘If they got helicopters and bulldozers in, it could have been stopped. The issue I have is pretty much the organisation, the level above – there’s something drastically wrong.'” http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/89546268/firefighters-were-sent-home-early-from-christchurch-fire-response-union-says
Port Hills fire: Firefighters ‘needlessly’ called away
‘Tomorrow it will hit me’: Emotional firefighter describes Port Hills fire fury “exhaustion and low morale among the firefighters in the first few days.. But when the fire became contained, the mood changed.”
Analysis: What could have been done to stop the Port Hills blaze? “Canterbury Civil Defence controller John Mackie says officials were ‘just going by the book’ when leaving the initial response to the fires to Selwyn’s rural fire team, rather than Christchurch officials. ‘That’s prescribed in the act… the responsibility for the rural fire lies on the authority in whose area it starts – even though it may cross a boundary, that jurisdiction doesn’t change.’ Mackie says Canterbury’s Civil Defence group set up an emergency operations centre early on Wednesday morning, as Governors Bay came under threat, and made the case for a state of emergency when evacuations started to increase later that afternoon. Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel denies officials were too slow to declare a state of emergency, saying work on the declaration began ‘from the moment we were advised that people were being evacuated from their houses’. There was no issue of firefighters lacking in numbers, Mackie says – it was simply that they felt they had the fire under control, before the weather began to conspire against them. ‘The rural fire officers were saying that they had ample resources available: it was only when [there was an] escalation of the number of people being evacuated, and the [increased] risk to urban residents, that was the main reason for the declaration.’ But couldn’t there have been more helicopters with monsoon buckets in the air, or firefighters on the ground? Not according to Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton, who says there are more choppers available than there is room for them. ‘We’re at saturation point in the sky – there’s not another helicopter that could fit in the space safely.’ … Labour Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson says lessons from the response to the fire can wait until after it is extinguished for good.”
Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp, TV1 – ‘Nationalise Civil Defence, scrap regional CDEM’ http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/mike-s-view-communication-hopeless-during-christchurch-fire-disaster-video-6515331 – This simplistic view is circulating amongst those distant from response, where the instinct to ‘make the chaotic situation sensible’ overrides grasp of reality.
In disasters, scale overwhelms sensibility. Reporting can far from keep pace. So many moving parts and uncertainties are involved that synchronisation is not possible. Responders are overwhelmed, trying to face down the unleashed hazard. Every scrap of resource is needed. This can include many, many volunteers. These are ground factors that will never be fully known, understood or controlled at a distance.
Hosking and Brownlee’s wish for centralised civil defence would be to put many more people in much greater harms way, without the ability to confront and respond to their own challenges immediately, directly and collectively, on the ground they discover and face. That is why what the mis-leaders want hasn’t been the case.
The regional system of response escalation simply needs to be understood, supported and made to work. This starts with identifying and removing the particular empowered obstacles to regional civil defence who oppose and inhibit it, to great public detriment. Look to the statements and behaviour of all the local mayors we’ve had especially. City has consistently undermined region, so far. Unacceptable.
Saturday 18 February 2017
Christchurch City Council and Civil Defence held a first large meeting with evacuated residents, in Spreydon’s South-West Baptist Church gymnasium on the Saturday morning ending a fiery week. Attendees were mostly from Kennedy’s Bush and very distressed. Easterly winds still held their homes most at risk, that they hadn’t really understood until this point. Recently-buried asbestos on private land was of great concern and news to most residents too; ECan fronted to say this had been approved. Every evacuated area was represented at the meeting where information flow was roundly criticised and a single online up-to-date source demanded; also, hourly email updates from council on what was happening. These started around mid-day the next day, semi-hourly. Collated: https://ccc.govt.nz/the-council/newsline/show/1406
Council’s primary goal out of this meeting was to break it down into more manageable, evacuated street by street meetings (which took place the following Thursday, 23 Feb). Next to the fire, residents were being hosed down now. They were understandably angered by inept emergency response leading to property damage, disruption and loss. After 90 minutes many were were walking out though and an outside corridor large informal meet-up ensued. The city mayor wanted to join it as the back of the gym audience hadn’t been connecting with the front, unheard due to poor microphone sharing and crowd engagement. Dalziel was peremptorily reminded by those still seated though, “We’re the ones paying attention!” and had to continue on-stage for a later closing.
John Key’s government had sacked the wrong council, for private profit, early 2010. A regional response would have been more powerful, sooner, with likely much better results than this very obvious fire response debacle.
Communications and cordons heavily criticised at Port Hills meeting “Dalziel promised that the council would review the response and do better in the future. The meeting came a day after the professional firefighters union told media they could have extinguished the fire on Monday, had they not been sent home for 90 minutes.”
Port Hills fire: more than 100 properties still cordoned
Sunday 19 February 2017
Port Hills residents clean up and clear out
Parts of Christchurch’s Port Hills likely to remain closed for several weeks
Mark Reason: John Key goes from PM to shameless salesman in record time “Who knows what Key believes in, although certainly investment in himself and engagement of us seem near to top of the list” http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/opinion/89532461/Mark-Reason-John-Key-goes-from-PM-to-shameless-salesman-in-record-time
Monday 20 February 2017 – one week on
‘Nobody wants a dead hero’: celebrated Christchurch fires helicopter pilot Steve Askin farewelled http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/89581850/funeral-for-celebrated-christchurch-fires-helicopter-pilot-steve-askin
Firefighters could have died if not pulled back during Port Hills blaze “When you’ve got that amount of heat coming up the hill and big boulders rolling down the hill, what do you think is the right call in that situation.”
While Christchurch burns, Wellington talks “‘bringing together rural, urban, volunteer and paid urban firefighters into one national organisation for the first time’. The new Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) will mean ‘a much better standard of service delivery, a much better deal for our rural and volunteer firefighters and a much better deal for New Zealanders’ … The response in Christchurch suggested an uncoordinated system. Who should have called a state of emergency and when, exactly? Why, Brownlee asked, were the rural fire services leading things? ‘I’m perplexed as to why you’ve got the Selwyn District or rural firefighters running things inside Christchurch City Council district boundaries’ … The updated law, after advice from firefighters, will clarify that letting a fire burn can be a valid response to a fire. … only NZ First was opposed to moving this legislation on to the next phase. … Two reports from Australia have convinced him [Clayton Mitchell] that mergers of urban and rural services favour the urban culture at the expense of rural. Do we risk driving the rural volunteers away?” [emphasis added] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/89488611/while-christchurch-burns-wellington-talks
Port Hills fire evacuations: ‘Nothing ever seems to change’
Dunne responds to criticism of Port Hills fire
Christchurch Mayor criticised for lack of information
Port Hills resident frustrated at lack of information
Civil Defence ‘failing’ to give Port Hills residents vital info
Mike Yardley: Response to Christchurch fires from officials ‘rudderless’ “as the past seven days have unfolded, a multitude of alarm bells have been rightly rung about the cack-handed response and somewhat rudderless leadership from officialdom. The acting Civil Defence Minister, Gerry Brownlee, was far from alone in feeling ‘perplexed’ at the belated nature of the state of civil emergency being declared. Social media lit up on Wednesday afternoon, as the inferno raging across the Port Hills seemingly galloped out of control. Hundreds of residents vented their increasing dismay and disbelief at the apparent failure of the Selwyn and Christchurch mayors to get to grips with the enormity of the ever-billowing threat. Individuals were pleading with Mayor Dalziel and senior city councillors, via their Facebook pages, to urgently declare a state of emergency. It took a further two hours after Westmorland was suddenly evacuated at 4pm, before the declaration was issued. Some hillside residents had packed and were ready to self-evacuate at 1pm. They could see the situation gravely deteriorating, first-hand.”
– Yardley’s anti-ECan positioning has long blinded him to insight into defective regional response. Use what we have, don’t hinder it! Yardley’s wanting “declaration issued much earlier in the afternoon” is a joke. First thing Tuesday was the right time, the only time to have hit the fires from the air with everything possible and cauterise the threat. A declaration then would have been entirely reasonable, given the extreme dry hills risk at this time and that fire spanned two district boundaries – the ECan CDEM action trigger, purportedly. Declaration early Tuesday and military resources were available as regional council options, but ECan naysayers like Mike and Gerry have it firmly in a sealed box, held captive and useless. At least Huntsbury remained safe. Not.
John Campbell on RNZ Checkpoint – ‘What went wrong? It depends who you ask’
Hundreds of people waiting to return home after Port Hills fire
– helping Ruth Dyson provide cover for ongoing National-Labour CDEM botches,
Fire and Emergency Bill would provide clarity in major events
Tuesday 21 February 2017
Port Hills fire – Update Tuesday 12:20pm: State of Emergency extended
“‘this remains a serious situation that requires a significant and coordinated multi-agency response,’ the Mayor said. ‘While the State of Emergency terminates tomorrow evening, we are mindful of the significance of 22 February to the Canterbury community and as a result we agreed it was appropriate to consider the status of the State of Emergency today.’ The extension automatically lasts for seven days, but can be terminated earlier. The Joint Committee will meet on Friday to consider the transition to recovery. That will be an appropriate time to reconsider the need for the State of Emergency to remain in place”
State of Emergency extended: ‘The fire is not out’
Wednesday 22 February 2017
Christchurch Civil Defence
Port Hills Fire – Update #8 – 5.30pm
“Fire progress: The Fire Service is pleased to announce that good progress has been made in controlling the fire in the Worselys Road area. Patrols will continue in the area, but crews will no longer be actively working in the area unless called in for a flare up. Residents are asked to help by being vigilant and to DIAL 111 IMMEDIATELY IF THEY SEE ANY SIGN OF THE FIRE REIGNITING. ‘Our crews have made great progress and we’re pleased to be able to pull back from the Worsleys area, but we really need people to keep a watch on things for us,’ said Fire Service Liaison Officer Bruce Irvine. ‘The more eyes we have out there looking the better.’ Fire services are continuing operations in other areas affected by the fire.”
Christchurch Earthquake Memorial draws on rich tradition of memorials around the world
Thursday 23 February 2017
Christchurch Civil Defence
Port Hills Fire – Update #3 – 1pm
“Fire operations: Fire services advise that 90% of the fire perimeter area is now considered to be controlled. Controlled is defined as bare earth or blacked out ground for at least 10 metres.”
Port Hills Fire – Update #4 – 1.30pm
“Free GP visits are being offered to people affected by the Port Hills fires, at the discretion of their General Practice team. This includes people who worked on or are still working on fire control and recovery operations. The offer period covers the 2 months from 13 February 2017, the day the fire started.”
24 February 2017
The science behind the South Island’s first fire tornado
25 February 2017
Port Hills fires recovery managers named
National portrait: Richard McNamara, the face of the Port Hills fires
26 February 2017
Port Hills fires rubberneckers ‘not welcome’, says Christchurch City Council
A good steady rain, this day – 5-12mm across the fire ground, low-high altitude.
Monday 27 February 2017 – two weeks on
Editorial: Civil Defence faces an uncertain future Fire and Emergency New Zealand – “after Fenz has expanded to include Civil Defence it could eventually broaden to cover ambulance services as well”
28 February 2017
Government, city council pledge $6 million to grow ‘resilience’ in Canterbury The Press
Wednesday 1 March 2017 – State of Emergency lifted at 6pm
Port Hills fires: State of emergency to lift, hill residents on alert for flare-ups
Saturday 4 March 2017
Devastated Port Hills now open to public by road
Fire perimeter now fully contained and controlled “Fire authorities working on the Port Hills fire are now confident the fire is substantially under control and are withdrawing overnight patrols.”
Thursday 20 April 2017
Port Hills fires finally extinguished “Fire authorities say the massive blaze that broke out on Christchurch’s Port Hills two months ago, burning through 2000ha of land, is now completely out.”
[Further editing may follow]
Port Hills fires exposed tensions and confusion within fire crews, but change will come The Press 10 March 2017 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/90275638/fire-reforms-will-change-way-fires-like-those-in-the-port-hills-are-fought + Firestorm graphical essay research https://assets.stuff.co.nz/interactives/2017/firestorm/
Live: Homes evacuated as Christchurch Port Hills fires rage out of control 16 Feb 2017
LIVE: Port Hills fire – Day 4 Radio NZ 16 Feb 2017
Port Hills blaze: Live updates Newshub
Christchurch Port Hills blaze in photos
Is Civil Defence really in control of the Christchurch fires? “it’s high time for less bureaucracy and more open and honest communication. Civil Defence does not want the blood of New Zealanders on its hands. Who can the public trust in times of national emergency? At the moment it’s the media” Newshub 16 Feb 2017 http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/02/the-burning-question-is-civil-defence-really-in-control-of-the-christchurch-fires.html
Mayors’ war of words with Brownlee over Port Hills state of emergency “Mr Brownlee said the most accurate information about the fire on Wednesday came from the media – not officials. Those in charge of the fire response have ‘got to learn’ from this experience, Mr Brownlee said. ‘I was in Wellington, not Christchurch.’ Prime Minister Bill English also confirmed there will be a review of the Civil Defence response and the delay in declaring a state of emergency.” http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/02/mayors-war-of-words-with-brownlee-over-port-hills-state-of-emergency.html
Patrick Gower: Port Hills fire shows Civil Defence a shambles yet again
Port Hills fire: 1000 people forced to evacuate “For the second time, James Frost has lost a home to disaster in Christchurch. He said he found out at 11pm on Wednesday that the fire had reached his evacuated home.. while most police officers were good, one of his flatmates was left in tears because of a police officer who ‘didn’t have the people skills to deal with the scenario'” http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/02/port-hills-blaze-evacuees-forced-to-leave-everything-behind.html
Port Hills community pulls together to find homes for animal evacuees
Port Hills family loses classic car collection, home in fire
Video: Social media reacts to Christchurch fire
 CTV refs.
Canterbury Television: New Zealand’s SHAME The Press 10 March 2017
September 4 #JUSTICE 4 #CTV families
Civil defence fail compensation due #JohnKey #NZ
#CTV inquest. 214 dead. #EQNZ #PikeRiver #Chch #quake