Council pledges to accelerate future response to storm-cut rural community

A review of the response to a summer storm that washed out the road to Goughs Bay on the Banks Peninsula shows Christchurch City Council only set up an emergency operations center nearly a week after the flood.

A stall on Goughs Road due to storm damage in Goughs Bay on the Banks Peninsula.
Photo: Mary Haley

Torrential rain on December 15 last year triggered a series of giant landslides in Goughs Bay, threatening at least one home on a terrifying night for trapped farmers and their families.

The downpour sent slides from the summit to the sea, cutting roads, power and telephone lines and leaving people stranded for days.

A council review of its response to the storm obtained by RNZ shows that Civil Defense Emergency Management (CDEM) personnel received damage reports in the eastern bays the following day.

A farmer brought council staff to Goughs Bay to see the devastation firsthand over the weekend, but an emergency center was not set up until December 21.

Flooding in Goughs Bay, December 2021.

Flooding in Goughs Bay, December 2021.
Photo: Provided

The council identified 18 suggested areas for improvement based on feedback, centering on complaints that it took too long to establish life safety and uncover the extent of the damage.

A community meeting was held in Akaroa in May to discuss residents’ concerns about the emergency response, which has left some feeling isolated and forgotten.

A summary of the discussion notes that the council’s CDEM director, Brenden Winder, acknowledged the response “could have been better” and pledged to activate a coordinated response earlier in the future.

The council plans to make a number of improvements, including early activation of emergency operations centres, initial reconnaissance of infrastructure by helicopter in inaccessible areas with a closer link to civil protection and better communication.

A stall on Goughs Road due to storm damage in Goughs Bay on the Banks Peninsula.

A stall on Goughs Road due to storm damage in Goughs Bay on the Banks Peninsula.
Photo: Mary Haley

Civil Defense and the council also plan to establish strong community ties and local response plans to prepare for the next emergency.

Weeks after the storm, farmers in Goughs Bay were still cut off from the road, forced to saddle-walk to nearby Paua Bay or navigate the treacherous farm track on quad bikes.

The road is still being repaired, but they can now drive to their properties.

Farmers at the bottom of the bay lost 30 kilometers of fencing, with tons of logs, rocks and rubbish swept to the valley floor, which was choked with brown, silty mud.

About Keneth T. Graves

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