26 June 2018
Clutha District’s civil defence preparations were tested today, in an exercise that simulated a 4.5 metre tsunami reaching the Catlins coast just hours after a severe earthquake in the Puysegur Trench off Stewart Island.
The scenario included notional evacuations of most of Clutha’s coastal communities.
Most of the Clutha District Council’s staff took part in the exercise, as well as Police, FENZ, St John’s and Southern District Health Board personnel. Several volunteers from local companies, including Silver Fern Farms participated.
Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan was on hand to declare a state of emergency and said that exercises were an essential part of his district’s preparations for real events. Flooding from the Clutha river was an ever-present risk, as well as other threats like earthquakes and tsunami. Every opportunity to practice responding to emergencies was valuable.
“Every single chance we get to go through the process reinforces our ability and confidence to cope when it’s the real deal,” he said.
Today’s exercise was the first of two civil defence mock activations in Otago this week, with Waitaki District Council practicing setting up its own emergency operations centre tomorrow.
Both exercises have been planned and organised by Emergency Management Otago in support of the Clutha and Waitaki councils.
Emergency Management Otago coordinates all the civil defence activities across the region. Director Chris Hawker said the exercises were an important part of building Otago’s capability to respond to emergencies, along with training for volunteers and helping the community understand their local hazardscape.
“In the end it’s all about the people,” Mr Hawker said.