Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2nd Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference 2008

July 29 and 30 was spent at the 2nd Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference. You'd think that with "Australasian" in the title it would be held somewhere warmer, where people wear thongs, not jandals, and sound like the cast of Neighbours. But not this time. This year's conference was held in Wellington, so instead of catching a flight to sunny Australia, I caught the train into town and walked to Te Papa in the rain.

There were some quite interesting subjects presented by people from Australia, the US, and other parts of the world. There were a few which stood out for me.

Planning how to rebuild after a major distaster - building back better - not necessarily replacing things as they were - some things were essentially poorly placed to begin with - taking some social responsibility as to what replaces things. Hurricane Katrina examples of areas of significant cultural heritage being replaced with casinos on the beach front - not good. Hopefully we can do better.

Legal issues around natural hazard information - This one was quite relevant for us - especially with regard to the new tsunami information that is becoming available. Once we know that a property is in a potential hazard area we have a responsibility to let the owners know - even if that means that property values drop. The thing is, the hazard risk has pretty much always been there, we're just letting people know of the risks that they may face, so that they can be better prepared. We'd get into more trouble if we didn't tell you.

Community resilience through co-operation - Disasters often span district boundaries. We were given examples from Australia of how municipal authorities were finally joining together to deal with events in a cooperative way, sharing resources, rather than duplicating efforts. Fortunately, in New Zealand, we've been doing this for quite some time, and even have it built into our legislation. It's nice to be ahead of the curve for a change! Go us.

The Mayor of Gisborne gave us a run down on on the quake in December 2007.

There was also a presentation on the Northland floods of 2007, which could very well have been retitled the Northland floods of 2008, and run in real time. The weather was quite attrocious that day. The Metservice had their rain radars on display constantly in the display area, so we had a constant update on how the storm was progressing whenever we had a break. Some of the EMOs were having to rejig flights so they could get back to their districts to deal with it all.

A well-spent two days.

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