Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee questions emergency response to the Port Hills wildfires

Civil Defence minister Gerry Brownlee has tonight questioned the emergency response to the Port Hills fires, which have destroyed five houses and caused hundreds to flee their homes.

Brownlee told Fairfax he was "perplexed" over why a state of emergency was not declared earlier, and questioned why rural fire agencies were leading the response.

The civil emergency was declared in Christchurch City and Selwyn Districts about 6pm tonight, 48 hours after the fires began.

Brownlee described the situation in Christchurch as "all pretty unclear" and said he was not happy.

"If you compare this to the way Hastings District acted a few days earlier, it's not a very tidy comparison."

The wildfires as seen in the Adventrue Park area of the Port Hills today. Photo / Christchurch City Council
The wildfires as seen in the Adventrue Park area of the Port Hills today. Photo / Christchurch City Council

He had been concerned to see reports this morning that the fires were under control, concerns that extended generally to include the way the civil defence structure operated, he told Fairfax.

A cross-party meeting will take place in his office tomorrow to look at how to avoid a repeat of these "odd situations where you've got different people controlling what are often very difficult circumstances that can lead to adverse consequences in people's lives".

However, he did not want to be critical of firefighters, who were doing long hours, Brownlee said.

- NZ Herald

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