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NZ Army to explain civil defence failure

NZ Army to explain civil defence failure

The full facts are yet to emerge concerning the limited rescue operation at the CTV building on 22 February 2011, a former regional councillor says.

Rik Tindall, who was Environment Canterbury's Civil Defence and Emergency Management portfolio chair until April 2010, seeks more answers for the grieving families, friends and public.

The coroner's inquest for the Canterbury earthquakes closed in December, with critical questions aimed at NZ Fire Service performance. Tindall finds these neither fair nor sufficient explanation for how the rescue stalled.

“We owe it to everyone, living and dead, to discover what went wrong,”  Tindall says. “Why did civil defence organisation fail so badly that day?”

From what he knows of response structure, authority and responsibility at the disaster site were not the Fire Service's as argued, Tindall explains.

“As at the Pike River coalmine, fatality meant that NZ Police should have had command over the CTV scene, which their inquest evidence states wasn't the case. It is clear that Police, as well as the Fire Service, were overwhelmed at that time, with available resources over-stretched.

“At that point it became Civil Defence duty to give command of the area to military administration, as the only agency resourced with ability to move the stack of rubble in time. The evidence shows this never happened, and everyone regrets the lost, short opportunity to save more lives.

“So the question is, where were the Civil Defence and Army responses, to relieve the Police and Fire Service and accelerate the rescue effort on February 22nd?”, Tindall asks.

His conclusion, pending contrary information, is that the capacity lost in many areas through government intervention in Environment Canterbury, to make a special private case of water, added terribly to the toll that day.

Tindall points out, “what was definitively a regional emergency – one spanning three council territorial boundaries – was never managed as such, intentionally. A strange mix of city and national emergency was fudged, to accommodate the ambitions of Mayor Parker and Prime Minister Key, instead. This sudden political dis-organisation, of long-established best practice for coordinating emergency services, made the hole through which prompt rescue plummeted. This best explains the shocking confusion that cost trapped lives as 23 February dawned. Parker and Key should be ashamed.”

Tindall requests that all NZ Defence Force and Civil Defence reports, of their actions from 22 February 2011, be immediately made public. “All levels of government must be held fully accountable,” he firmly recommends.


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