Written By: - Date published: 10:15 am, November 21st, 2016 - 49 comments
Categories: disaster, Gerry Brownlee, national, same old national, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:
After two significant earthquake events in Christchurch in the past six years and with a number of other earthquakes happening you would have thought that the Government would have made sure that our earthquake and tsunami warning system are fit for purpose.
At least you would think that.
But it seems that the Geonet system is still rather primitive with reports that the officer in charge at the time of the recent Kaikoura earthquake was asleep and had to be woken up. The budget does not allow for 24/7 cover. The staff member’s drowsiness may have contributed to their initial assessment of the quake of being 6.5 on the richter scale not its actual 7.8. Then a couple of hours later there was an urgent decision to issue a tsunami warning. Thankfully no tsunami occurred. Otherwise it could have been disastrous.
Geonet director Ken Gledhill outlined the problems in this post. He said this:
Because we do not have a 24/7 monitoring centre we have to wake people and get them out of bed to look at complex data and make serious calls very quickly. It is not an ideal situation given the past few months and I’d like to change that by getting support for a 24/7 monitoring centre for geohazards. I’m going to be blatant in my campaigning for this, because I think we need a 24/7 monitoring centre to respond to these kinds of events.
Fair call. Earthquakes do not hold off until office hours before deciding to occur. They can happen any time of the day or night.
The rest of his post urges people to take action when a tsunami warning is given, urges people to be ready for the next one, and praises his staff. Nothing that you would think anyone should get upset about.
Think again. Gerry Brownlee has become incensed at Gledhill’s cautious words.
From the Herald:
Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has blasted comments made by the head of Geonet – saying he feels blindsided.
Brownlee said he took issue with Dr Ken Gledhill, who works for GNS Science and heads its Geonet department, talking publicly about how better technology would help the service, when no approach had been made to the Government.
Brownlee said he would contact the leadership of GNS Science, including acting chief executive Neal Wai Poi, tomorrow and express that view.
That centred on the fact that Gledhill or his team had not made an approach or report to the Government about their view that a better monitoring system was desirable.
Gledhill spoke to media from the Beehive’s civil defence bunker today. He said his team had a good idea of what system improvements could be made, but hadn’t yet asked the Government to support those changes.
It is hard to understand why Brownlee is so incensed. Gledhill clearly said that he had not approached the Government yet. But you have to wonder why. Is the Government’s insistence on cost cutting that strong that public servants are afraid to suggest anything that may increase costs?
The Government should take responsibility for a sub optimal system. They are in charge. The lack of a 24/7 cover is absurd and if the circumstances were slightly different could have resulted in the loss of lives.
And while I am on the subject I am amazed that Justin Lester has been roasted by elements of the media for wanting to keep Wellington open but it has been said that National’s “sure handling” of the earthquake has helped it politically. Media’s willingness to go along with the diversion of blame by the Government means they are not doing their job properly.
Update: and if you want to sign Labour’s petition for 24/7 Geonet coverage you can do so here.