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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS

Canterbury Flooding—Government Response

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Prime Minister): Today I want to give an update to the House on the situation in Canterbury after the weather event and what the Government is doing to assist local communities in response and recovery. This has been a really tough time for the people of South, Mid, and North Canterbury, and I want to acknowledge how disruptive and distressing this flooding has been for the people impacted by this weather event. I’d like to recognise the extraordinary efforts of emergency management staff, first responders, volunteers, Ngāi Tahu, the Rural Support Trust, and community and rural leaders across the region.

A state of local emergency was declared on Sunday afternoon and remains in place for the region. Numerous roads and bridges have been damaged by floodwater, and rail lines are closed between Arthur’s Pass and Christchurch, Pines Beach and Christchurch, and Timaru and Christchurch. Over 100 people have been evacuated across the region, including 16 retirement village residents from Geraldine. The tremendous efforts of everyone involved in the response means this event has thankfully not resulted in any loss of human life.

The Government is committed to helping the region through its response and recovery to this event. We have already announced funding through the mayoral relief fund of $100,000. This will support those impacted by the heavy rain event in the region. And as the rain begins to ease and rivers begin to fall, rapid assessments will be needed to ensure that bridges and households are safe. The Prime Minister, and Minister of Agriculture, and the Acting Minister for Emergency Management have visited the region and surveyed the damage. We continue to be heartened to see community members showing such great support for one another. Many evacuated residents are staying with family and friends, and marae have played a valuable role by opening their doors to those who have needed support.

Earlier this afternoon, the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Damien O’Connor, declared a medium-level adverse event for the Canterbury region. Classifying the events as such will ensure funding of $500,000 for flood recovery measures, and it signals the Government’s ongoing commitment to support those impacted as they start to recover.

In addition, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is able to approve up to $500,000 per event for the use of Enhanced Taskforce Green to help with clean-up and recovery efforts following an adverse event. Enhanced Taskforce Green can provide funding to employ jobseekers to assist with the clean-up and can also be used to hire or purchase equipment and clothing needed for Ministry of Social Development clients to undertake the clean-up.

As the floodwaters recede and the scale of clean-up activities becomes clearer, MSD will be better able to understand the requirements needed and the needs assessments that are completed. The response has been extremely well managed at a local and regional level. The Canterbury region Civil Defence Emergency Management group has been leading response efforts. The National Emergency Management Agency National Coordination Centre has also been activated in support of the response. Local emergency personnel have been providing strong and welcomed assistance to the impacted communities. Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand have assisted in a variety of capacities as required, and I also want to acknowledge the New Zealand Army, who have provided 16 vehicles and 30 personnel across the region and two helicopters have been made available as well. St John Ambulance has deployed resources to Ashburton and Timaru.

Local rural support trusts, Federated Farmers, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and other rural agencies are also providing support as impacts on the rural sector can be properly assessed. Welfare services are available to help people with their needs. Coordinating people during emergencies is challenging, but it is taken in its stride and we thank those people for their work. Welfare has been delivered across the region and, again, local marae are supporting here.

The Government is strongly committed to supporting the Canterbury region as it recovers from this significant flooding event. We will continue to work with the region to identify needs and provide further support as is needed. Mr Speaker, I know that you and members across this House will join me in expressing our support and aroha to all of those impacted by this emergency.

MIL OSI