Storm stirs up dis­cus­sion

Kaikoura Star - - FRONT PAGE -

This may be one of the valu­able lessons learned for fu­ture events, she said.

Kaik­oura po­lice sergeant Matt Boyce says he was in ra­dio con­tact with south­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and the NZTA web­site was up­dated with road con­di­tions as they came to light.

‘‘Some in­di­vid­u­als may not have known, but we were in con­tact with po­lice out­side the district.’’

He be­lieved the fact the West Coast was more sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected could have been the rea­son the me­dia did not fo­cus on Kaik­oura.

‘‘We could look af­ter our­selves . . . what else could you do bar get­ting con­trac­tors to fix [the roads and tele­phone ca­bles]?’’ he said. Boyce said Kaik­oura could have asked for ex­ter­nal as­sis­tance had it been re­quired, but for­tu­nately Kaik­oura still had power and the phone lines and in­ter­net were only out un­til Satur­day morn­ing thanks to the Cho­rus tech­ni­cians who worked through the night.

Both the St John am­bu­lance ser­vice and Kaik­oura District Coun­cil had satel­lite phones work­ing on the day. How­ever any­one in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion would not have been able to ac­cess 111 via phone if their lines were down.

Boyce said telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies do ev­ery­thing they can to en­sure 111 calls are con­nected to the ser­vice re­quested, al­though if all else failed, it would be nec­es­sary to re­port the emer­gency in per­son, which is why a po­lice of­fi­cer was man­ning the po­lice sta­tion through­out the re­cent out­age. It is un­der­stood a con­trac­tor was also sta­tioned at the tele­phone ex­change to take 111 calls and re­lay them to the na­tional line via satel­lite phone.

Re­gard­ing med­i­cal alarms, Martin Fox, cus­tomer ser­vice cen­tre man­ager at St John’s Auck­land head­quar­ters, said the sys­tem did have back- ups for sit­u­a­tions in­clud­ing loss of power, and loss of land­line. In a sit­u­a­tion where a per­son’s cell­phone was not work­ing a rel­a­tive’s would be used. How­ever this would not have cov­ered the very worst-case sce­nario as seen in Kaik­oura when ev­ery­one was with­out phone cov­er­age.

Kaik­oura Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade chief Ian Walker was not im­pressed with the way things un­folded and said com­mu­ni­ca­tion should have hap­pened sooner. The first he knew of the out­ages was when he went to use his phone on Fri­day morn­ing and dis­cov­ered there was no cov­er­age. He was not im­pressed that he had not been in­formed.

‘‘ I was bloody hor­ri­fied,’’ he said. ‘‘ All emer­gency ser­vices should have been no­ti­fied as soon as they knew the fi­bre op­tic ca­bles were down.’’

The im­pact of the storm came as no sur­prise to those who had lived in the district long enough, he said, and road clo­sures and other mea­sures had not been put in place early enough.

‘‘ All emer­gen­cies through­out his­tory in Kaik­oura have al­ways been caused by ex­cess rain com­ing from the north. It’s known as con­trac­tors’ rain be­cause of the slips it causes.

The roads and rail al­ways go. And the rivers al­ways come up quick too.’’

As early as Thurs­day morn­ing the bri­gade was called out to a van stuck in one of the fords on Post­mans Rd, and this road should have al­ready been shut, he said.

NZ Trans­port Agency main­te­nance con­tract man­ager Barry Strat­ton con­ceded there were pos­si­bly some de­lays in clos­ing the roads be­cause of the telecommunication prob­lems.

The agency re­lied on in­for­ma­tion from on-site con­trac­tors to make such de­ci­sions based on its emer­gency pro­ce­dures and con­tin­gency plan man­ual.

Con­trac­tors were out on the roads stop­ping mo­torists and en­sur­ing their safety, he said.

The road be­tween Christchurch and Kaik­oura was not shut, which many people have since ques­tioned, be­cause it meant trav­ellers were stranded in Kaik­oura once they ar­rived and those who had planned to drive to des­ti­na­tions fur­ther north were un­able to in­form friends or ac­com­mo­da­tion that they were not turn­ing up.

Mr Strat­ton said clo­sures were put in place at points where mo­torists have ac­cess to food and shel­ter, and were safe to wait in Kaik­oura un­til the high­way could be re­opened.

In a let­ter to the edi­tor last week, Scott Robertson said lo­cal businesses would have liked to have been able to in­form trav­ellers ar­riv­ing in Kaik­oura about the sit­u­a­tion as it un­folded, but they didn’t know any more in­for­ma­tion than the trav­ellers did.

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