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A state of emergency declared for Waikato

A state of emergency declared for Waikato

Praneeta Mahajan

13 February 2023

In response to the growing threat from Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle and other local declarations, a state of emergency has been declared for the Waikato Region just now.

Declaring a state of emergency gives Civil Defence staff special powers to deal with the emergency, including the ability to evacuate residents at high risk of impact.

The decision follows two local states of emergency declared this afternoon for the Waikato District Council and Hauraki District Council. Thames-Coromandel District Council has also been in a state of emergency since the Auckland Anniversary weekend.

Taupō District Councillor Anna Park, who also serves as Waikato’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Joint Committee Chairperson said that the decision to declare for the region is a pragmatic one and is not intended to alarm people.

She said, “In fact, just the opposite. We want to reassure people we are taking the response seriously by throwing the weight of the region’s resources behind it.”

Councillor Park said that coordinating the regional response allows the group controller to help prioritise the allocation of several resources, including emergency and contracted services, to the most impacted areas of the region.

She said, “Given the severity of the cyclone, the growing number of local declarations, and the closeness to other heavily impacted areas such as Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, we felt this is the right next step.”

Waikato District and Hauraki District make the call

Waikato District Mayor Jacqui Church said that the council’s decision to declare was made with the safety of the public forefront of mind.

She said, “With the worst of the weather due to hit overnight, we want to ensure that we are ready to respond taking whatever action necessary to keep our people safe. The decision was made based on modelling and a risk assessment which indicates several areas of high risk, including low-lying areas near the Waikato River at Port Waikato.”

However, Waikato District Council is urging residents not to wait for authorities to tell them when they need to evacuate, a sentiment echoed at the regional level.

In an announcement by the District Council, Mayor Church mentioned, “If there is surface flooding in your area and you see rising water, do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater. It is also important to remember to never try to walk, play, swim or drive in floodwater and, if someone’s life is in danger, call 111.”

Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams said that the main areas of concern for his district are the coastal and low-lying areas. He said, “By declaring a state of emergency, we are empowering our staff to be able to manage any situation that develops in a way that keeps our people safe and protects property from harm.”

“The district is already saturated and the rainfall being predicted will likely isolate our communities and cut off access to the Coromandel through Waihi,” said Mayor Adams. “Please avoid all travel, stay safe and have an evacuation plan ready.”

Declaration for Waikato Region as a whole

Civil Defence Group Controller Julian Snowball said that the declaration of an emergency across the region does not mean they will be using legislative powers everywhere. “The region-wide declaration simply enables my team to effectively coordinate the significant responses already occurring in the north of our region.”

For other councils in the Waikato, the regional declaration does not automatically trigger a change to their current response arrangements.

He said, “For the most part, most people in our region will not be impacted further by the regional state of emergency.”

He reminded people that the worst of Cyclone Gabrielle is to come tonight and to continue to heed the warnings coming from Civil Defence. As long as you’re not in immediate danger, then stay at home and bunker down. Bring in or secure any loose objects on your property, bring your pets inside if you can, and just look out for each other.”

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