Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton have defended their handling of the Port Hills fire after Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee criticised the length of time it took to declare a state of emergency.

The two mayors met with Brownlee today and afterward Dalziel defended the handling of the fire, saying she and Broughton had declared the state of emergency to ensure people took it seriously when told to evacuate rather than because of the need for more resources.

"We did that together not because it was needed for any resources to be brought to bear but because it was to give people confidence that when the Police told them they were to evacuate, they were to evacuate: this is an emergency."

She said there were already sufficient resources in place to fight the fire and the state of emergency was called within an hour and a half of the mayors being advised people were being evacuated.


Dalziel said there would be a review of the timing "but not one element of the fire effort that has gone on has been affected by that at all."

Brownlee also criticised the flow of information to him, saying the most accurate information he was getting on the most dangerous day of the fire was through the media.
Dalziel admitted there was a breakdown in communication.
"I am satisfied there is nothing that could have been done or would have been done any differently had we called the state of emergency earlier."

Dalziel said the fire started in Selwyn district. "This was a rural fire that started in a rural district. It was managed by the rural fire services. At the point the fire started in Christchurch it was felt we should work together."

Broughton said Christchurch Fire Service has been involved from the start and no more helicopters could be used in the air space involved.

Brownlee did not want to re-litigate his concerns saying the immediate focus was now on the fire.

However, he said he intended to review changes to disaster management legislation just a year after they were made after concerns about the handling of the Port Hills fires and Kaikoura earthquakes.

Brownlee said he did not want any suggestion that the firefighters were not doing a superb job and the fire was being handled well.

However, he had concerns about the processes around it used by officials.


"It's the legislation that we created that we have to fix."

He said changes to emergency management were made by Parliament last year. Those were well supported and at the time it had seemed they were sound changes to allow a strong response to disasters.

"There were issues that arose out of Kaikoura and now today and we'll just go back and have another look at it."

Brownlee said he intended to have a cross-party meeting in Parliament because of concerns about the gaps between the Fire Service, the Rural Fire Service and Civil Defence.

"Straightening all of that is going to be a task I'm sure all of us will tackle in the months ahead."