15 November 2023

The three Wairarapa councils have released the Wairarapa review of the region’s emergency response to Cyclone Gabrielle, which was coordinated by Wellington Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group.

The scope of the review was to cover three main areas: governance (political oversight and accountability), operational matters (how CDEM Group members responded) and community outcomes (what impact these actions or inactions had on the community). The purpose of the review was to identify areas of future work to help improve the response capability of the region.

The report highlighted areas where the coordinated response delivered positive outcomes for the community, such as the level of support in rural isolated communities, delivery of food and medication, and evacuation efforts for severely affected properties.

Some areas highlighted for improvement include a more coordinated response across the three Wairarapa Councils needed earlier in the event to inform effective decision-making and effective use of limited resources; that local controllers from the three Wairarapa councils follow the agreed activation procedures outlined in the agreed concept of operations; and to ensure that the Wairarapa EOC functions effectively and provides the required level of service across the whole Wairarapa.

Carterton District Council Chief Executive Geoff Hamilton welcomed the findings of the report.

“We’re really proud of the staff at our three councils who worked tirelessly for their communities during this unprecedented emergency event,” Mr Hamilton said.

“As always, there are key learnings we can take away from events such as this, and it’s crucial we take onboard the findings of the report and implement them across Wairarapa in order to be better prepared for future emergency events.

“Wairarapa has limited resources during emergencies and a coordinated effort is key to the success of our response, resilience and recovery across our region.”

Masterton District Council Chief Executive Kym Fell said his previous experience in both Wellington and Whanganui councils highlights the absolute need for our communities to be prepared for weather events and disasters.

“My team and I welcome this report and its recommendations,” Mr Fell said.

“For our part, the Masterton District Council team are consistently looking at ways to improve education, community preparedness and our response and recovery processes.”

The report is publicly available here