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Prime Minister Key to account for civil defence failure

22 February, 2013

Prime Minister Key to account for civil defence failure

The New Zealand Prime Minister owes a personal debt to those left unprotected and who died in the Canterbury earthquakes, a former regional councillor claims. Rik Tindall was the last community representative for Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) at Environment Canterbury (ECan), before PM Key's move to accelerate commercial irrigation in the region displaced the elected, accountable council.

Mismanagement of CDEM, under Key's tasked ECan commission, left an organisational deficit after the 4 September 2010 quake that turned catastrophic come 22 February 2011, Tindall believes. “Key's culpability for deficient emergency response is very strong.”

Dismantling of the regional council and its CDEM capacity contributed to the scale of the tragedy, Tindall explains. “Event analysis, fair warning and preparation were stifled, to maintain business-as-usual in commercial Christchurch at the expense of public safety. As with the wreckage of ECan, Mayor Parker shared credit for civil defence disaster with the Prime Minister, but now adding promotional camera angles,” he says.

“A national emergency was called by Key after the 22 February quake, in an attempt to cover for the lost regional capacity to respond to a regional crisis. But the sudden, off-focus, ad hoc arrangements could not work so well as years of preparation might have indicated,” Tindall explains. “For example, the absence of the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) – apart from medics – from the CTV building rescue doomed it to failure; that was a connection expected through ECan CDEM, that never eventuated. City CDEM was under-resourced for what wasn't their job, creating foolhardy confusion and lost opportunity to save lives.”

Tindall sees the blame being shifted onto NZ Fire Service (NZFS) administration and its Urban Search and Rescue wing as passing the buck appallingly. “Late 2012's Canterbury Television inquest had that objectionable flavour, with NZFS in Wellington irrelevantly brought under scrutiny and NZDF notable for their absence as participant witnesses,” Tindall points out. “City CDEM had little functionality, in the event.”

“Let us remember the 185 lives lost in Christchurch, and respect them by bringing justice over their official abandonment,” Tindall says.

“With John Key’s personal fortune reported at fifty million dollars, he can afford to compensate the families of those whose lives his CDEM incompetence and hubris wasted, to the tune of $270,270.27 each. This he should immediately announce and pay, at this anniversary,” Tindall recommends.

“The take-home, 22 February 2013, Christchurch message for John Key is: 'Gamble with peoples' well-being, as you have so casually in Canterbury, and you lose; big time.'”


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