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Civil Defence bureaucracy sparks community response plan

People were shovelling silt and families were baking to feed them. But Civil Defence was refusing to allow the distribution of homemade food for fear of contamination.


The Civil Defence decision, during the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, angered Burwood-Pegasus Community Board member Tim Baker. He objected to the bureaucracy of it.

“We told them to get lost, we’re giving this [food] out,” Baker says.

Since the earthquakes, Baker and other Aranui community members have taken his objection further by creating their own emergency response plant that will cut through bureaucratic processes.

“We don’t have to worry about red tape,” Baker says. “By being autonomous you get away from that nonsense.”

Civil Defence and Emergency Management manager Murray Sinclair says the reasoning behind the tight food regulation during the earthquakes was to prevent the outbreak of easily contractible diseases.

“To prevent such outbreaks the messaging going out was that food should be prepared in health approved kitchens only,” Sinclair says.


Community spirit has always been strong in Aranui.  After three years of development, the plan is nearly complete. It will operate alongside Civil Defence while remaining independent.

The response plan was developed by Baker with the Aranui Community Trust Incorporated Society (ACTIS), pastor Steve Hira, Avondale Primary School principal Mark Scown and Christchurch City Council Strengthening Communities Advisor Natalie Dally.

The plan, Baker says, will provide essential information, volunteer help and aid in response to any future disasters that may occur. Coverage includes the Aranui, Avondale, Bexley and Wainoni areas.

The group has put together a list of 4,500 properties to check in the event of another disaster.

“If there was another earthquake like September or February [2010-2011], we could quickly go out… 50 people would knock that out in about a day,” Baker says.

Five thousand information booklets on the emergency response have been printed and are being distributed around the community.

A ‘living document’

ACTIS manager Rachel Fonotia said the plan will be reviewed every six months and constantly updated with necessary information.

“It’s like a living document,” Fonotia says.

Avondale Primary School Principal Mark Scown has joined the scheme to help the response team polish the plan.

“They’ve done a lot of work but I’d just go through and… critique them,” Scown says.

Baker says the group plans to erect flag poles that could act as beacons in the event of a disaster. A pink flag would be flown instead of the New Zealand flag to let the community know volunteers are needed.

“Isn’t that better than putting your name on a database?” Baker asks.

The community response group has drawn enquiries from all around the country.

“The majority of communities don’t have a plan,” Fonotia says.

People in the community can be a part of the volunteer community response team by contacting (03) 963 7070 or by going to the Aranui Community Trust Office at 37 Hampshire Street.

_By Graeden Meek