Staff sent to quake scene

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The Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group has responded to the Kaikoura earthquake by deploying expert staff north to help. Dunedin-based regional manager Chris Hawker and Clutha district emergency manager Brendan Smith travelled to the Canterbury Civil Defence Centre in Christchurch on Tuesday evening. From there, they were to be deployed as needed in the response-and-recovery operations. Speaking before his departure, Mr Hawker was unsure exactly where he would end up, saying ‘‘it will just be where the need is most’’. Queenstown Lakes District Council communications manager and Otago group public information manager Michele Poole was deployed to Marlborough on Monday. Mr Hawker said he would be assessing whether additional resources could be provided by the Dunedin City Council, such as building assessment staff or engineering resources. ‘‘We are also going to be looking at what resources we can use to support the recovery effort further,’’ he said. Staff had already expressed a willingness to help if required. Mr Hawker is one of the cadre of nationally qualified civil defence controllers, and gained a great deal of experience in emergency response management as a result of the Christchurch earthquakes.
‘‘The most important thing is to support our colleagues further north,’’ he said. ‘‘In these kind of events, no region has all the resources that it needs, so it is really important that we all step up and help each other. ‘‘It’s a long haul. In these situations it is more often a marathon than a sprint.’’ Mr Hawker was keen to get the message out to Dunedin people to be aware of the dangers of a tsunami after a staff member had to move people away from the beach during Monday’s tsunami warning. ‘‘They had gone down to have a look, which is very disappointing,’’ he said. ‘‘People should be heading for the hills instead.’’