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Published: 2008-02-26 00:00:00

The Waikato Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group is taking an active role in Exercise Ruaumoko, whose main exercise week is 10-14 March, culminating in a mock national emergency on 13 and 14 March.

Exercise Ruaumoko involves testing civil defence responses to a theoretical volcanic eruption somewhere in Auckland. At a time yet to be determined, the Waikato Group Emergency Operations Centre (GEOC) in Hamilton City Council’s Duke St facility will be formally activated to coordinate the regional response to whatever scenario emerges during the exercise.

The Waikato could be expected to take a large number of evacuees from Auckland should there ever be a natural disaster of this scale.

“The lead up to this exercise and the exercise itself involves us taking a hard look at exactly what resources we have available to help handle a mass evacuation of parts of Auckland,” said the Waikato CDEM Group chairman and Waipa councillor Peter Lee.

“We already have well-developed plans for emergency management support. But we are looking further at exactly what issues would arise if a national emergency response meant Hamilton and the Waikato’s population were suddenly swollen by tens of thousands of refugees from Auckland. We could, in theory, be looking at having to manage an influx of more than 100,000 people,” said Mr Lee.

One of the tasks was looking at exactly how evacuees would be managed over a period of many months.

“There are about 22,750 commercial beds available in the likes of hotels and motels across the region, but we’re also looking at what sleeping spaces we could utilise by putting down mattresses in places like halls,” he said.

“Other considerations include the availability of food and water, medical services, the ongoing education needs of school age children, sanitation, transport and policing resources - it’s a massive undertaking.

“While we have previously tested our ability to respond to local emergencies in the Waikato, this is the first time we have tested our response to being asked to help out with a major evacuation from somewhere like Auckland.

“We’re expecting we will identify some gaps in our capacity to respond and inevitably resources would need to come from central Government and elsewhere to help us cope.

“Ultimately any real event like Ruaumoko would need a national response, but we want to ensure that the Waikato is well-placed to contribute, both at a local level and as part of the national response to such a disaster.”

Reminder note to media:
In the event of a real civil defence emergency in the Waikato, particularly out of normal office hours, media are advised to ring Hamilton City Council on 07 838 6699 and ask for the Civil Defence Duty Officer.

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