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The man for an emergency

A new era in civil defence emergency management has started with the appointment of David Wilson as the district's CDEM group controller.

David Wilson was appointed by Gisborne District Council at the civil defence emergency management (CDEM) meeting this week.

Mr Wilson, who is lifelines director at the council, replaces former Gisborne mayor John Clarke, who held the position for 35 years.

“I'm pleased to be able to help our community in an emergency event and work alongside the experienced local team,” Mr Wilson said.

Civil defence and emergency manager Wiremu Tamati said Mr Clarke had made it known for the last year that he wanted to step down and part of controller training done last year was to identify suitable candidates to replace him.

Mr Wilson will attend a response and recovery leadership course next month which will provide him with a tier one controller qualification.

GDC internal partnerships director James Baty was appointed as an alternate controller.

The group controller is a key position.

In a state of emergency it is their job to direct and co-ordinate the use of personnel, material, information, services and other resources.

The position has extensive powers and functions under the CDEM Act.

These include ordering evacuation or prohibiting entry to places; entering and/or breaking into places to save lives, prevent injury or rescue people; closing roads; requisitioning property necessary for preservation of human life; and directing anyone to stop activities or taking action to limit the extent of the emergency.

Councillor Tony Robinson queried Mr Wilson having a dual role.

“Mr Wilson is in charge of roading and important aspects of our community. What is the plan if he is fully tied up with his new role as the controller? Who will do his critical job in a civil defence emergency?”

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said if there was an emergency, Mr Wilson would be group controller while his third tier managers would manage the other operations as they normally did.

“It is not uncommon to have a group controller be the head of the engineering section,” she said.

“We have had that before. It works well because what happens most of the time we have emergencies is it relates to infrastructure and people in those areas.

“Our management tier is really strong and able to step up if there is an emergency.”

Cr Sheldrake asked if Mr Wilson decided to leave the council, would his civil defence emergency role's contract continue?

Ms Thatcher Swann said it would.

Cr Sheldrake said with Mr Baty living in Wairoa, had the distance he would have to come if there was an emergency in Gisborne been considered.

Ms Thatcher Swann said it had. He was an alternate controller who would be added to a list of other alternate controllers to cover that risk.

Cr Pat Seymour said she had expressed her concern about the appointment of internal people to both positions when this was first being developed last year.

“I said it then and I'll say it again. It is critical we have people in the community (in the roles). It worked well in the past having external people in the role.

“I am not happy about the fact we have brought civil defence positions back inside (the council) and taken away from the community the opportunity for them to fill this very important role.

“These two gentlemen understand the community well at the moment but most of us know people come and go.

“Generally the community are the ones here for the long haul. So I can't support this.”

Ms Thatcher Swann said the function of the controller wasn't about saving the community.

“It is about co-ordinating the resources and information necessary so the community can manage their own response. We provide the platform to enable that to happen.”

Cr Larry Foster said he would like to see the number of years Mr Clarke served as group controller be recognised.

“His service to the role should be greatly acknowledged.”

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said “retiring group controller John Clarke will be invited to a council meeting to have his contribution over the last 35 years formally acknowledged”.

Councillors Kerry Worsnop, Bill Burdett and Sandra Faulkner supported the appointments.

Cr Worsnop said: “It is a very sensible connection between infrastructure and civil defence emergencies. I think it's very efficient of him. The knowledge he has could be critical in that situation.”

Cr Faulkner said: “It is important we have people in these roles who understand the networks involved in an actual disaster. Both these gentlemen have those attributes.”

All councillors except Cr Seymour voted in favour of the recommendations.

IN CONTROL: David Wilson is the new civil defence emergency management group controller. The position gives him extensive powers and functions during a declared local state of emergency. Picture by Paul Rickard