Lawyers and artists by day, these people are your lifeline when disaster hits
With climate change a growing threat to Aotearoas town and cities, The Post is examining what Wellingtons future might look like and how prepared the region is for natural disaster. They live amongst us. They are artists, psychiatrists, civil engineers, and events managers. But when disaster strikes, this could well be the team that could saves you. Gerry Blair is the squad leader at the Wellington Emergency Response Team, also known as New Zealand Response Team Number 8. By day, she is an incident management lead at GNS Science in Wellington but, when disaster looms, she and her team of fellow volunteers are on stand-by. Radios charged. Bags ready. They are the front line in the citys resilience. READ MORE: * Cyclone Gabrielle: National state of emergency ends on Tuesday * Your kindness is 'truly appreciated': Nearly $1m from Stuff's fundraising helps cyclone recovery in Hawke's Bay * Cyclone Gabrielle: Taranaki doing its bit as nationwide fundraising effort continues to aid recovery effort Over the coming days, The Post will look in-depth at how resilient Wellington the capital city of New Zealand actually is. We will ask, is there such a thing as truly resilient? What would happen if Wellington was hit by the magnitude of rain that fell on Hawkes Bay in Cyclone Gabrielle? We will delve into our emergency leaders greatest fears, consider when insurance will no longer be possible for some, and look at when Wellington ceases to be the capital for all intents and purposes. And we would be remiss if we didnt look at the two massive tectonic plates one diving beneath another in a line down the East Coast off Gisborne, past Wellington, to Marlborough and what will happen when they go. If anyone can be ready for this kind of disaster, Blair and her team are. It will be their job to go from house-to-house checking first for life, then for property and pets. You may have seen Blairs team, or others like it, scouring through deep silt in Hawkes Bay , prying into roofs to check for life. They are trained, she says, to do this with as little disruption as possible. But they are also trained in swift water rescue and flood response. You may also see them amid a tornado helping fix a tarpaulin to a roof, or lowering people stranded in buildings. As many others will be running to safety, this is the team running to help... so why? Most have had family or had experiences where things havent gone well, she said. Wellington City Council said on Monday that communities at high risk of severe weather events will be directly involved in creating their own adaption plans, alongside the council and other stakeholders. A flexible community engagement roadmap would help the most affected communities prepare for and adapt to the unavoidable local impacts of climate change. Mayor Tory Whanau said climate adaptation is a long-term challenge that will affect generations to come. This isnt going to be an easy process, she said. There will be difficult conversations and tough decisions will have to be made including facing the possible need for managed retreat from high-risk locations. Whanau said the roadmap built on lessons from the councils previous community climate adaptation projects, including those for Makara Beach and Owhiro Bay. Committee Chair Tamatha Paul said communities were increasingly looking to the council for leadership on local climate adaptation planning. We live in a hilly, coastal city that is highly exposed to climate change impacts and has limited options to relocate infrastructure, businesses and homes, she said. Its vital that we enable evidence-based climate adaptation decisions to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies declared by the council. Over the next six years the Community Climate Adaptation Programme will create local adaptation plans developed by and for each community. The programme will initially be funded through a $700,000 grant from the Department of Internal Affairs Better Off fund and $50,000 from the US$1 million prize money awarded to the council when it won the Bloomberg Global Mayors Challenge.