Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management director John Hamilton, Waikato Civil Defence Group joint committee chair Hugh Vercoe and Waikato police were given a briefing by Group Controller Lee Hazlewood and his staff.
Mr Hamilton said the Waikato Group – involving the regional, city and district councils - is to be commended for the funding and effort it has put into making improvements in recent years: "The degree of professionalism and enhanced capacity seen today shows the Group is well-positioned to respond to a big event."
Mr Vercoe, the mayor of Matamata-Piako, said the ramping up of civil defence capacity and capability in the region follows a ministry report several years ago which identified a need for improvements.
Before that report the Waikato Civil Defence Group emergency management office (GEMO) based at the regional council in Hamilton had only one full-time officer, a part time manager, a part time administrator and several regional council staff providing part-time support. The GEMO's role is to help co-ordinate emergency responses in large scale disasters and also to provide support to local Civil Defence operations based at district councils.
Following the ministry report, the Waikato Group agreed to an increase in GEMO funding and increased resources.
"The GEMO now has seven full time staff dedicated to areas such as training, exercising, information systems, operations, lifeline utility coordination and business outreach. The appointments include the full-time professional Group Controller Lee Hazlewood who oversees and co-ordinates all aspects of the group's operations," Mr Vercoe said.
Other key appointments include managers responsible for co-ordinating recovery from disasters, public information management and public education.
Also, the increase in GEMO staffing has supported the wider Waikato Group to undertake strategic planning in areas such as professional development, evacuation and spontaneous volunteers. A number of activities developed by the Group recently are now seen as best practice across the Civil Defence sector.
Mr Hazlewood said special effort has gone into a Group professional development strategy, which provides a basis for the training and development of CDEM staff across all roles, along with the establishment of highly trained and experienced incident management teams. "A recent public information management course for about 20 personnel across the region is an example of the increased work being done in these areas."
Also, Mr Hazlewood said the regional council has been able to ensure that all GEMO staff are now cost effectively housed in a dedicated Group Emergency Coordination Centre (GECC) at regional council offices in Victoria St.
"This particular location allows for several key regional council business-as-usual resources to be made immediately available to the GECC in a major emergency or disaster, thereby reducing the overall cost normally associated with establishing a dedicated response capability.
"The location includes training rooms that can be converted to call centres within minutes, meeting areas that can be utilized for planning rooms, and catering facilities that can service 24-hour operational needs all within the same space. There's also capacity for other agencies to use the centre as well if necessary.
"The way the new centre is structured means that we have flexibility to re-locate it in response to a major disaster or due to new developments in emergency response infrastructure in the region," said Mr Hazlewood.
This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.