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Urgency needed in revamp of civil defence comms

Hon Dr Nick Smith MP
National Party Acting Civil Defence Spokesman

17 May 2006

Urgency needed in revamp of civil defence comms

“Rick Barker needs to tell the public which radio stations they should listen to in an emergency,” says the National Party’s Acting Civil Defence spokesman, Nick Smith.

“Just yesterday Mr Barker confirmed he has still not yet signed a memorandum of understanding with Radio New Zealand, even though the new Civil Defence Emergency Management Act was passed in 2002.

“If Civil Defence doesn’t yet have an arrangement with RNZ, and it doesn’t appear to have one with other radio outlets, then who are the public supposed to be listening to?”

Dr Smith says the advice in the back of the phone book is that people should ‘listen to the radio for information and follow civil defence instructions’.

“This is totally outdated advice. Which radio station? And how do listeners know when they’re hearing a live programme versus a pre-recorded programme?

“Is Mr Barker negotiating similar understandings with the other big broadcasters? And why hasn’t this happened before now?”

Dr Smith says Mr Barker claimed in Parliament yesterday that the criticisms being levelled at the national emergency response plan were histioric.

“I understand that is absolute codswallop. The concerns from regional civil defence bosses are live issues, and they are frustrated the Minister continues to ignore their advice.”

Dr Smith says it is hard not to conclude that today’s tsunami preparedness exercise is little more than a belated exercise in political damage control.

“It’s happening during office hours and they’ve had plenty of warning so it should be okay. But during the only ‘live’ operation recently the Ministry was found wanting.

“Mr Barker needs to understand that natural and unnatural disasters can happen at any time. His Ministry needs to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and by that measure they have completely failed.”


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