Speech: Turia - Canterbury District Health Board
Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Health
Opening of the Canterbury District
Health Board Community and Public Health Office; 310
Manchester Street, Christchurch
Wednesday 29 February 2012
(Delivered on her behalf)
Mate atu he tētēkura; ara mai he tētēkura
When one frond dies; another rises in its place
This whakatauki refers to new beginnings. It is appropriate that I share this saying with you today, as we all gather for the opening of the new Canterbury District Health Board Community and Public Health Office.
I would like to acknowledge Mr David Meates, CEO, Canterbury District Health Board, the staff from the Canterbury DHB Community and Public Health, and all others who have come here today to celebrate this new beginning.
As we all know, on 22 February 2011, Canterbury experienced an earthquake of magnitude 63 on the Richter scale with the biggest impact in Christchurch city. A State of National Emergency came into effect on 23 February 2011 and remained in place for nine weeks.
It was a time of tremendous stress, and suffering. Buildings were flattened; family homes rendered uninhabitable; the physical casualties were of a scale few found able to comprehend. But by far the most devastating event of all was the tragic loss of 185 lives – families from across the world instantly united in an unimaginable grief. Aue taukuri ee.
But like the legendary phoenix from the ashes, it was also a time in which a new spirit of hope and resilience emerged from the rubble. It was a spirit of whānaungatanga; a common unity that we knew from days gone by,
Through our darkest days, we remembered and restored to ourselves, the connections that bound us together as this community stepped up to support each other and lend a helping hand. Suddenly we thought to watch out for our neighbours once more; to pull our families close together, to take up our collective responsibility to care for our own.
This Community and Public Health office were part of that response.
Their expertise in emergency management, public health and health protection, and their dedication and commitment went beyond the realms of duty; to truly care for the wellbeing of those many, many families who were in such need of care.
During a time when their own offices were inaccessible and many were themselves ‘camping’ in temporary homes and facing personal stress, hardship and loss, Community and Public Health staff ensured that Christchurch residents were supported and assisted.
Environmental health is a key part of the work of Community and Public Health but for most people it has become easy to overlook the importance of fundamental things like drinking water quality, food quality and sewage management in our day to day lives. However, since the earthquakes, the Canterbury community has come to have a much greater appreciation of the importance of sewage disposal and safe drinking water, which were a key part of the public health earthquake response.
I am aware that Community and Public Health has a number of important roles but I want to focus on just one aspect of the response.
Following the February earthquake there was also extensive damage to infrastructure, particularly in the eastern suburbs, which included both drinking-water and sewerage systems. This posed a further threat to the health of Christchurch residents. Suddenly basic amenities which we took for granted were destroyed, adding further confusion and distress.
Within Christchurch city there are 167 wells pumping 50 million cubic metres of water per year. There are 1500km of pipes and 117,000 connections. The water supplies serve 19 communities, over 400,000 people.
The water supply had already been damaged by the 4 September 2010 earthquake. Although water services had been restored, many of the repairs were temporary, and the system was operating at reduced capacity when the February 2011 earthquake occurred.
The water supplier, Christchurch City Council, had to restore a supply of safe drinking-water as soon as possible. Because the Council had so many other urgent and essential tasks, Community and Public Health played a critical role in helping to ensure that Christchurch residents had safe and adequate water.
And I want to really mihi to you all today, for your commitment and your dedication in helping to restore a sense of normalcy in a very abnormal situation. I think it will take quite some time to forget those images of long queues of people lining up with their containers for water – and the entrepreneurial spirit of some of our communities as they tried to make sure everyone had enough.
There was, of course, always the danger of disease. Community and Public Health staff implemented a series of key actions to protect the public from an outbreak of waterborne disease. This included:
issuing advice to boil water
• making sure there were alternative water sources like water tankers – and these water collection points were also able to be used to provide advice and information for neighbourhoods and for practical help like handing out hand sanitiser
• progressively chlorinating the water supply as equipment and supplies were available, prioritised on the basis of structural damage, water quality and numbers of people affected
• intensively monitoring water quality
• providing consistent public health messages – and reviewing how effective the messages were
• maintaining surveillance and responding to reports of gastrointestinal disease.
The best measure that we have of the success of this response is that there were no waterborne disease outbreaks reported following the earthquakes.
The Christchurch City Council and Community and Public Health deserve to be recognised for their responses, both initial and on-going, that were made to the extreme risks that the earthquakes presented to the drinking-water supply infrastructure. The continued health of 400,000 people is a testament to their expertise, experience, and commitment.
As well as being hands-on in protecting health, Community and Public Health nominated a new Unsung Heroes Award to acknowledge the outstanding services of CityCare and the Water and Waste Unit at Christchurch City Council, following the earthquakes. CityCare received a huge ovation from the Public Health Association Conference acknowledging their role and commitment.
As a community Christchurch is still grappling with the challenges of rebuilding a healthier city, and public health has provided important tools and evidence for planning a better future for Canterbury.
Community Public Health has contributed significant public health skills and expertise to planning. You have developed a useful tool – the integrated planning and recovery guide- for the future development of Christchurch that focuses on healthy lifestyles and healthy communities.
Whether people are healthy or not is largely determined by their circumstances and environment. Health starts in the way we live our lives and is affected by the condition of the houses we live in, the safety of our neighbourhoods, our wider environment, our work, our education, and our relationships with friends and family, as well as our own health behaviours; all have an important effect on health.
This is also the basis of the philosophy of Whānau Ora.
Many of the early determinants of wellbeing are outside the health sector itself, and it is important that we continue working with other sectors, as the part of the health system that connects with other key organisations like CERA, Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, He Oranga Pounamu and MSD, as well as Partnership Health.
Community connectedness, with neighbourhoods getting together to help each other through challenging times, is also a critical element of ensuring better health outcomes. Public health staff, alongside many community providers have provided a valuable service in supporting some of our most vulnerable communities to stay connected following the earthquakes.
This integrated, community linked approach is consistent with whānau ora; supporting families and communities to achieve maximum health and wellbeing.
The move into the new building marks a new step for everyone in, Community Public Health, as you continue your significant contribution to the health of Canterbury after the challenging last eighteen months.
Mate atu he tētēkura, ara mai he tētēkura, one frond has now gone, and it is time for us all to wish you well in this - your new beginning in this office.
Media Release - 29/02/2012
100 Community and Public Health staff return to central city
Community and Public Health, a division of the Canterbury District Health Board, moved into refitted offices in Christchurch’s Central Business District today – more than a year after losing their former Chester Street premises to the February 22 earthquake.
premises, at 310 Manchester Street, have been converted from
retail and warehouse space into a permanent open plan office
capable of supporting 100 staff.
Evon Currie, Community and Public Health General Manager, says today’s opening sends a strong message to the people of Canterbury.
“Moving back to the central city after being without an office for 12 months represents a new beginning after what has been a very difficult year. It should send a powerful signal to the people of Christchurch that real progress is being made in the rebuild of our city,” Evon says.
Evon says it is symbolic that as staff move into their new office today, Community and Public Health’s old ‘red zoned’ office on Chester Street was being demolished.
“All over Christchurch people have been adjusting to the new normal and using their initiative to get things done in new ways. This is certainly true for the staff at Community and Public Health,” Evon says.
“Despite staff being scattered across what were some difficult working conditions– a room in the basement of Christchurch Women’s Hospital, a student flat in Riccarton, and in their own homes – the ‘can do’ attitude of staff has delivered for the people of Christchurch,” she says.
Notable achievements for the Community and Public Health over the last 12 months include:
• setting up and staffing Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) after the February and June earthquakes,
• increased surveillance to monitor trends on the notifications of disease
• keeping the public informed on the safety of our water and rivers, and on the prevalence of disease in general
• the release of the Christchurch City Health & Wellbeing Profile
• updating the Integrated Recovery Planning Guide (the Guide assists planners and communities think about health and sustainability at all stages of their planning)
• ongoing work supporting communities to increase their own resilience – for instance supporting the development of the Linwood North Community Social Services Hub, and the Rockers of Ages Choirs
• supporting 50 schools increase health and well-being considerations across all aspects of school life.
• collaborative involvement in the successful River of Flowers commemorations on the first anniversary of the February 22 earthquake.
• growing the Healthy Christchurch initiative (there are now more than 200 signatories and 12 ‘Champions’, with CERA’s Roger Sutton being the most recent appointment)