Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Few Aucklanders ready if natural disaster strikes

The Christchurch earthquakes didn't jolt Aucklanders into being better prepared. Photo / Simon Baker
The Christchurch earthquakes didn't jolt Aucklanders into being better prepared. Photo / Simon Baker

Thousands of New Zealanders are more prepared for a natural disaster than they were before the Christchurch earthquakes - but the shockwaves have been barely felt in Auckland.

A survey of 8550 people has found that one out of eight (12 per cent) of Auckland households have all three items required for "basic" disaster preparation - three days' supply of food and water and a household emergency plan.

That was barely changed from 10 per cent in Statistics NZ's previous survey in 2008-09, and was by far the lowest in the country.

Basic preparedness almost doubled in Canterbury between the two surveys, from 15 per cent to 28 per cent. In Wellington, the figure jumped from 18 per cent to 24 per cent.

The latest survey, taken between April 2010 and March last year, straddled the first Christchurch earthquake in September 2010 and ended just after the disastrous magnitude 6.3 February quake.

Southerners surveyed in the second half of the survey period after September 2010 were more prepared than the overall averages - 36 per cent in Canterbury and 27 per cent in Wellington.

But the numbers of Aucklanders prepared for a disaster stayed low before and after September.

Auckland civil defence controller Clive Manley said Aucklanders felt safe from earthquakes because the city is 300km away from any highly active faultline and is expected to experience a quake of magnitude 6.5 or above only once every 10,000 years.

He said Auckland was more likely to experience other disasters such as cyclones, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and tsunamis.

"So the message is just as important for Aucklanders as for anywhere else," Mr Manley said.

"For example, in the Albany tornado last year, there was a mother caught up in it who asked her child's grandmother to pick up the child from school, but the school told the grandmother, 'We can't release the child because you are not a registered caregiver'.

"It would have been simple to have registered the grandmother as someone safe to take the child."

The national civil defence website, getthru.govt.nz, provides a simple two-page household emergency plan for people to print and fill in so that everyone knows what to do if a disaster strikes.

Mr Manley said his team had helped 30 communities around Auckland to develop local response plans, such as where to run after a tsunami warning. He aims to complete a further 70 local plans by the end of this year, starting mainly in high-risk coastal areas.

- NZ Herald

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