The increasing volatility of climate-change driven weather has thrown the spotlight on maintaining lifeline services following disruption and potential threats to people and assets from the consequences of natural disasters.

Storms and flooding will become an ever-present threat, and the fault lines in the Wairarapa are a reminder of the earthquake risk that faces the region.

“We’ll need, among other things, to open our rail and roads as quickly as possible, keep drinking water flowing, enable food to be delivered, power kept live to the places that need it most and understand impacts on the wastewater system,” Greater Wellington’s Wairarapa councillor, Adrienne Staples says.

Making sure these services can be delivered in emergencies is the focus of the recently re-invigorated Wairarapa Engineering Lifelines Association.

Chaired by Cr Staples, Its core membership comprises Greater Wellington, Carterton District Council, Masterton District Council, South Wairarapa District Council, and network operators Powerco, KiwiRail, and Waka Kotahi.

These would be the key agencies in a natural disaster.

“Our core role is to understand the impacts of hazards on lifeline utilities and minimise them to enable the utilities to get on with delivering services during an emergency,” says Cr Staples.

“Our lifeline utilities collaborate through the association to engineer solutions designed to ensure they can protect the wellbeing of people who may face very challenging circumstances.

“Preparation for an emergency is often unsung but vital, and that’s where the association fits in. The better the planning the better the delivery and the lower the impact of an emergency on the community.”

The association has committed to an expanded budget and is at the stage of planning an ambitious collaborative programme of long term projects.

“While we will rely on lifeline services during an emergency, personal and household preparedness will be still be needed to get through during extended periods,” says Cr Staples.

“The message for people is to store water and food, think about how they would do without networked power and, generally, think about how they would manage until lifeline services resume following a major event.”

Visit the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office website for more information on WELA.

Visit the Greater Wellington Regional Council website for more information on hazard management and reporting.

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