Article by CAITLIN SALTER – The Wellingtonian

Thorndon Residents Association is planning for a resilient community. At a meeting for Thorndon and Pipitea residents in September 2014 the idea of developing the suburb’s own disaster response programme was raised. From there it worked with Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (Wremo) to develop a community response plan.

Committee member David Middleton said community civil defence arrangements were important. “We are an inner-city community and have Wremo as a community member [the office is based in Thorndon], so it’s appropriate we’re at the forefront of this,” he said.

The report sets out hazards Thorndon and Pipitea could face, such as earthquakes, floods and tsunamis, and recognises special features and strengths of the area. The aim is to reinvent civil defence in communities and educate residents on what to expect from civil defence in an emergency.

Sam Rippley, Wremo’s emergency management adviser, said there was an unrealistic perception of what civil defence could offer. “New Zealand has an interesting legacy of civil defence centres and there is a longstanding expectation from people about what they do,” he said. “But they haven’t been really active since World World II.”

Thorndon residents are looking into developing a community emergency hub – a term used in some international practices for revamping the civil defence model. An emergency hub is a centre for community self-help, information-sharing and action co-ordination during the crucial early phases after a disaster. The current civil defence centre in Thorndon is in Thorndon School.

“Essentially we need to update a civil defence idea that is outdated,” Middleton said. Thorndon was part of the corridor through which people were likely to travel when evacuating the CBD in an emergency, he said. Since identifying the risks, the association has focused on creating a resilient community. “Concentrating on hazards takes you so far, but we have to look at how the community can provide for its residents in an emergency.”

Rippley said Wremo was working with many groups about community preparedness. “From our end it’s not about saying, ‘You’re all alone’. It’s recognising the realistic capacity of a government after a disaster and what communities need to do.”

Thorndon Residents Association is hosting a community workshop on June 22 at Wremo in Turnbull St to review the community’s disaster preparation.