Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said he accepts the recommendations of the independent review into the response to the Auckland Anniversary floods, and will work to ensure the panel’s recommendations are implemented.
Former Police Commissioner Mike Bush and the independent review panel found that Auckland Council’s emergency management system was not prepared for an event of the magnitude and speed that occurred, and a series of problems aligned to create a system failure, particularly in the initial 12 hours.
“The tragic events of January 27 have affected us all deeply. Four people lost their lives, and hundreds have lost their homes. I have acknowledged that I dropped the ball that night – the communications weren’t fast enough, and I was too slow to be seen. I stand by my previous apology to Aucklanders,” Mayor Brown said.
The report confirms the Mayor signed a declaration of local emergency immediately upon being advised of the need for that declaration, and that emergency services did not require or request an earlier declaration.
Other problems with the Council’s preparations and response were also set out in the report, which included mayoral office staff not receiving timely and accurate information about events as they unfolded.
“I accept that I should have been more assertive in demanding information, so that I could provide Aucklanders with public safety advice, practical support, and reassurance. I assumed that the systems were better than they were.
“The preparation wasn’t good enough – that’s clear from the fact that some of the planned Civil Defence Centres flooded on the night which contributed to delays in establishing the sites. That just shouldn’t happen, and we need to make sure we can set-up those sites faster in future,” Mayor Brown said.
As advised by the independent review panel, the recommendations of the review should be implemented immediately to ensure better preparedness for the next severe weather event, which could occur at any time.
“I want Aucklanders to know that I am focused on making sure that we all do better,” said Mayor Brown.
“I also want to acknowledge Auckland Emergency Management and Council staff, first responders, councillors and local board members, iwi, community leaders, and everyday Aucklanders who stepped up. The report is not focused on individual staff, who did exceptional work in very difficult circumstances.
“In previous mayoral terms, the council has significantly reduced funding for Auckland Emergency Management and known problems at the time of this flood were still being addressed. My proposed budget seeks to address some of that funding shortfall to bolster our response capability.
“I campaigned on a promise to fix Auckland and I am committed to fixing this problem by sponsoring the review of Auckland’s Emergency Management prevention preparedness and planning, and ensuring the urgent completion of the Auckland Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group Plan.”
Statement from Auckland Council Chief Executive
Auckland Council Chief Executive Jim Stabback said that he, the Council’s executive leadership, and emergency management staff will consider the report’s findings and recommendations and report back on an implementation plan.
“As with any emergency response, we welcome the opportunity to review how our systems performed, what worked and what didn’t, what we can learn, and how we will immediately make improvements,” said Stabback.
“Recommendations that can and should be easily or immediately implemented, will be. In some cases actions are already underway.
“We cannot ignore the fact that this event was unprecedented. The size and scale of the event, its unexpected intensity, and the complexity of gathering a clear picture of what was unfolding, especially in the first 12 hours, made this event unlike anything we have experienced before. We were not as well prepared for it as we could have been.
“We remain committed to ensuring Aucklanders are prepared for an emergency and being ready to respond when the worst happens.
“Throughout this response, our staff have worked tirelessly, with professionalism and compassion, and I am immensely proud of their continuing efforts to support the people of Tāmaki Makaurau.”