The long-delayed review into the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods which killed four people will arrive today - and the Herald can reveal Auckland Council has been behind some of the release date “extensions”, while Mayor Wayne Brown has wanted it out for weeks.
The review commissioned by Brown three days after the January 27, record-breaking Auckland downpour was undertaken by former police commissioner Mike Bush at a cost of $100,000.
Bush will present the key findings and recommendations of the report at a media conference at 3.30pm.
Brown has said the review would “look into all aspects, all people, myself included, plus the professionals, plus even the Government’s involvement in the response… lessons must be learned”.
The Mayor was widely criticised for the slowness of his public response to the downpour and the eventual decision to place the Auckland region in a state of emergency after 10pm when flooding was already widespread across the city.
It has also been revealed senior firefighters consider the Auckland regional head of Fire and Emergency NZ (Fenz) was “out of his depth” during the floods and did not accurately correspond data from at-capacity emergency workers to Mayor Brown.
However speaking to the Herald in early April, Brown said he was content with the draft sections of the report he had seen.
“I’ve only seen the bits that are about me. They look to be fairly true so I didn’t say anything about them. I understand they’ve showed the bits about each person to each person.
“I know what it says about me that’s all I know about me and I’m happy enough with them. I can’t tell you any more because I don’t know any more.”
Brown also denied it was he who had held up the release date of the report.
The Bush report’s original delivery date of March 3 has thus far been delayed four times.
Both Brown and outgoing Auckland Council chief executive Jim Stabback have had possession of draft sections of the report that relate to them for about two weeks.
“Well I want it out,” he said. “The sooner it’s out the better as far as I’m concerned. It’s not me holding it up, I’ll tell you that, alright. I don’t know Mike Bush at all but he doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who would be holding it up for any other reason.”
An Auckland Council spokesperson acknowledged a request for more time had been made to respond to the Bush review draft.
“The council organisation, including Mr Stabback, has been wholly co-operative with the review team,” the spokesperson said.
“It is correct that a small number of council staff were given the opportunity to provide feedback on draft excerpts of the review and subsequently, to assist with any factual corrections on the broader report. The council team requested additional time to provide the initial response on the excerpts and was given a short extension. The extended deadline was met.”
A semantic objection on the difference between requesting more time, and, holding up the process, also seemed to be of concern to council.
“We note that there is a difference between requesting the time needed to provide the feedback sought by the review team, and ‘holding up’ the process. We refute any suggestion that the review has been held up by Mr Stabback or the council’s lawyers,” the council spokesperson said.
It has also emerged that Auckland Council’s executive and official information teams say they “expect” access to Mayor Brown’s second personal cellphone, which was used for corresponding in an official capacity during the city’s record-breaking fatal floods.
Brown and his office have also claimed they were not on the Auckland Council email distribution list to receive the vital updates being circulated to other council officials during Auckland’s fatal record-breaking downpour
The long wait for the ‘rapid review’
Details of Brown’s independent review into Auckland’s fatal floods emerged in late March, with some Auckland Council staff having their schedules interrogated in “minute detail”, and frustrations expressed over inaccurate rain forecasts.
But the Herald also revealed no one from the office of Minister for Emergency Response, Keiran McAnulty, has been interviewed as part of the review.
None of the commissioned $100,000 had been paid to Bush’s team in late March, but the mayor’s office has said “additional funding may be negotiated if needed”.
The Government has also confirmed it will do its own reviews of the record-breaking and lethal floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
“We committed to a review of the response to the Auckland flooding event of 27 January and we stick to that. We’ve since also had to support the response to Cyclone Gabrielle,” McAnulty said.
“There are always lessons to take from a response. We’ve got two to look into now so we’ll look at the best way to go about that and confirm details pretty soon.”
A spokesperson also confirmed “Minister McAnulty and his office were not questioned as part of Mike Bush’s review”.
But the rapid review commissioned by Brown is nearing completion despite criticism from fellow Auckland councillor Chris Darby that it has the “potential for conflict of interest”. Darby formally wrote to McAnulty urging the Government to commission its own review.
The Herald understands Bush interviewed Auckland Council and mayor’s office staff in sessions lasting several hours. MetService has also confirmed it is co-operating.
“[They] went through my entire timeline. It was basically down to minute detail about all communication, correspondence, and any relevant information,” a council source said.
“Incredible detail, down to what I was listening to … phone calls … ‘did you know, where was that person? I don’t know …’
“I would say they were really focused on the process and the planning and making immediate recommendations to improve the performance and response next time round.”
However, the source said Bush and his team were not asking direct questions which named the key players in the emergency response to Auckland’s floods - such as Fire and Emergency regional manager Ron Devlin or McAnulty.
“No [names]. I felt that it was very much my timeline and I presume that they built and established [what happened] … by putting everyone’s information together,” the source said.
Deputy mayor Desley Simpson confirmed she was interviewed as part of the Bush review, as well as West Auckland councillor Shane Henderson from the Waitākere ward.
However, at least a handful of councillors on Auckland Councill’s governing body have had no contact from Bush’s team.
It is also understood there is frustration within sectors of the council and the mayor’s office over the rain forecasts leading up to January 27.
A weather alert email to all elected members of Auckland Council at 10.11am on January 27 from Auckland Emergency Management, informed by MetService, had a severe weather warning to “expect 50 to 80 mm of rain, especially in the east and north, with thunderstorms possible”.
However, a report by Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters team on February 16 highlights in a graph that a Niwa weather station at Motat, in Western Springs, recorded 140mm of rain on the evening of January 27.