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USA visit reinforces our civil defence approach

2 November 2006

USA visit reinforces our civil defence approach

Civil Defence Minister Rick Barker said today that discussions with America's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and with civil defence staff in Hawaii and New Orleans have reinforced New Zealand's approach to disaster and emergency management.

Rick Barker witnessed recovery efforts in Hawaii following the recent earthquake centred around Oahu, and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

“Discussions with civil defence staff in Hawaii reinforced that New Zealand has the right approach to the management of major or catastrophic events," said Rick Barker.

“In Hawaii, civil defence staff highlighted that the model of local control with regional and national support really does work. This confirms our direction and belief when we rewrote the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, implemented the National Plan and encouraged the development of regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups".

Rick Barker said that the devastation in New Orleans resulting from Hurricane Katrina, which hit on 29 August 2005, is sobering.

“New Zealand has been warmly thanked for its generosity and support at the time of Hurricane Katrina," said Rick Barker.

"The New Orleans visit allowed me to see first-hand an agency managing recovery from a major event".

In Washington Rick Barker met with David Paulison, Director of FEMA, to discuss opportunities for both FEMA and the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management going forward.

“My meeting with David Paulison made it clear that the USA and New Zealand share like issues, have similar approaches to mitigating them, and reinforced that civil defence in New Zealand is headed in the right direction," said Rick Barker.

"The meeting was highly productive and conducive for the development of closer engagement and information sharing. From New Zealand's point of view, there is a prime opportunity to tap into a body of knowledge being developed on a massive scale.

“The US experience confirmed the importance of public education programmes such as “Get Ready, Get Thru” and “What’s the Plan, Stan?”, which ensure that the public appreciate the real risk of catastrophic events and that individuals and families need to be self sufficient for at least the first three days.

“I was very pleased with the discussions in the US and I am looking forward to a closer relationship and sharing of expertise between the two countries,” said Rick Barker.

ENDS

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