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National – putting the disaster into Disaster Management

Written By: - Date published: 12:15 pm, October 22nd, 2011 - 35 comments
Categories: accountability, disaster, john key, leadership, national - Tags:

New Zealand’s economy, Christchurch, Pike River, Rena – all terrible disasters to befall our country and our Government. It’s a massive challenge to respond well to such crises, and nobody really expects a magic wand, but we do have a right to expect some kind of competent, coordinated and decisive leadership response from our Government. Yet I can’t think of a single case where any of these disasters have been met by any demonstrable show of competent management from John Key. Key loves the photo ops, but when it’s time to step up to the plate – when leadership is really important – the bugger’s consistently MIA AWOL.

I’m happy to stand corrected if any of this Government’s supporters would like to step up with any evidence to the contrary.


35 comments on “National – putting the disaster into Disaster Management”

  1. happynz 1

    Examples of John Key standing up and demonstrating competent leadership?

    erm…sorry, I got nothin’.

  2. randal 2

    This national government is a ‘bad luck’ government.
    And it it isnt going to get any better for them.

    • Jim Nald 2.1

      and particularly for the rest of us

    • BillBrowne 2.2

      Not a bad luck government at all. I can not think of another which has had so many opportunities in 3 years to stand up and show outstanding leadership through a myriad of international and domestic situations where the application of the power of the state would have made the difference for many people caught up in these situations.

      • Jasper 2.2.1

        Maybe Lange in 1987?

        There’s shadows of 1987 this year

        – 6.3 Earthquake
        – AB’s vs France in a RWC final at Eden Park
        – A popular but incompetent Prime Minister
        – Financial crisis teetering on collapse
        – The global warming nutsos
        – The upcoming introduction of DonKeynasia to replace Ruthanasia.

  3. What do you expect from career politicians?
    And as for the jinx issuee – for god sake Key, stay away from the cup!

  4. There’s a bit more to such disasters than that its called capitalism.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    Quite easy to criticise in hindsight.

    However, for those confronting these situations as unfolding events the situation is quite different. There is a lot of unknown and incredible complexity to deal with on a lot of fronts. Once the actual course of events has unfolded, then it is easy to say something different should have been done. Not so easy for those confronting the problems with a lot of unknowns and worst-case scenarios to consider.

    IMO the government has done adequately well with these situations.

    With the Christchurch Earthquake, the wage subsidy helped a lot of otherwise viable businesses survive and has been greatly appreciated. The government offer has been welcomed by most, judging by feedback I have had from quite a number of residents I know in those areas, and from discussions with professionals I know involved in these areas. Of course, there are some who are unhappy, but this is by no means the majority. Land is being freed up by Cera. For example the 1500 sections that have been made available by Cera in Kaiapoi.

    The inquiry to the Pike river disaster is pointing very much at the management of the mine rather than the response.

    The Rena issue is showing to be a lot more complex than was indicated by commentators here early on who were expecting a ship to rock on up and pumping to begin straight away, which was not at all possible given the condition of the piping in the ship. If anything, communication could have been better early on. However, communication is much better now, and the evidence is that the operation is being handled competently from beginning to finish.

    • tc 5.1

      Quite easy to criticise in hindsight…….with so much material to work with, of course it is.

    • With regard to the Rena – You’ve fallen for the “It’s oh, so complex that you just couldn’t possibly understand so shut up and stop saying bad things about us” strategy.
      “The Rena issue is showing to be a lot more complex than was indicated by commentators here early on”
      It is now. Some of it because of an inadequate first response. The complexity now does not negate (or prove wrong) what “was indicated by commentators here early on”.
      Again you’re falling for the strategy of the government to get people to confuse this stage of the process with the requirements for the initial response stage – hoping the public will let the government off the hook.
      The only one hooked here is you *makes fishhook*
      BTW I would like to introduce you to my friend Charles Ponzi who thinks you’d be interested in some investment opportunities.

    • thejackal 5.3

      Things might appear different from the outside, however there has been fundamental flaws to the way the government has conducted itself. In fact Key didn’t even bother to call a special meeting, he waited five days until the scheduled meeting. Then Maritime New Zealand sprayed Corexit 9500 on the oil slick in close proximity to inhabitants without warning people to stay in doors and without testing to see if it would be effective.

      Then the authorities said they had hundreds of people on standby but when oil started washing up, they made the excuse that there was going to be even more oil wash up the next day so didn’t have to clean it up. Instead they let people tramp it all over the place with some children even playing with the stuff.

      Yesterday Maritime New Zealand decided to fly an expert in to help with the pumping of fuel oil off from the Rena onto the Awanuia. They didn’t even have a pumping expert on scene yet… well over two week’s after 350 tonnes of oil went into the ocean? The Awanuia wasn’t even called for until two days after the grounding. Today MNZ said the afternoon update would let us know how much oil had been pumped off but that info wasn’t in the bulletin. It’s yet another fuck up in a long list.

      This sort of incompetence has been occurring from the get go when the government announced they were working on an oil spill response plan. They had no plan to deal with a spill apart from trying to hide it with Corexit. Now they have the media showing Tauranga’s cleaned beaches while the locals around East cape are left to fend for themselves.

      Just like the Pike River mine disaster, the blame for these events can squarely be placed at National’s feet. They are the ones who deregulated so that cheap labor and cost cutting would maximize their profits. So while them and their rich mates profiteer, we are left paying for and cleaning up their mess.

    • handle 5.4

      “the condition of the piping in the ship” is a well-spun red herring. Yes the situation is complex but there is independent top-down access to all fuel tanks by design. It was possible to get the oil off the boat during the calm first five days before the containers became dangerous obstacles. Instead how much of that time was wasted sorting out who was taking responsibility?

      • the sprout 5.4.1

        and why is that we only get the bargain basement one-barge option, when the transfer rate is so slow? (at a mere fraction of the rate a ship can be re-fueled by ship to ship transfer)

        if getting the job done was more important than pinching pennies, why not have two barges pumping simultaneously?

    • KJT 5.5


      Rather a simple situation from where i sit.

      And, unlike many here, I spent years pumping oil around ships.

      The Government and the Neo-Liberal, leave it to the market failed.

      Now they are coming out with all sorts of spin and BS to justify their own inadequacies..

      As I have said before. Pity that, politicians, Journalists, and several other professions, that affect our lives and environment, are not held to the same standards of responsibility for mistakes as ships officers.

      Mind you, they would all be in jail.

      • hellonearthis 5.5.1

        Wasn’t the crew of the Rena pumping the oil around the ship to shift it from the damaged tanks.
        If the barge had got there sooner it couldn’t it have worked with the crew to get the oil off.

      • RedLogix 5.5.2

        And while my experience isn’t on ships, I’ve spent most of 30 years working in and around a huge variety of heavy industrial settings, I know what is technically plausible and what is not.. and I totally agree with KJT above.

        Due to the confined spaces, the slippery, tilted moving platforms they are working on, the biggest limitation faced by the salvors is that virtually every piece of equipment they want to use has to be manhandled into place by no more than say 2-4 people. This means that all the generators, cables, fuel, pumps and hoses they want to use probably can’t weigh much more than about 150kg or so.

        With the oil now cold and hard to pump using such small equipment means it’s going to take hundreds of hours to do the job, compared to maybe less than ten hours when the ships was still powered, the oil heatable and all the ships own pumps were usable.

        Because we have a Minister of Finance who less than 2 weeks ago was gloating about how he had ‘gutted 2000 jobs out of the public sector’….all sorts of skilled and capable people are leaving. Not just the ones actually slashed but others as well, leaving because they don’t see a future working for a government that devalues and demeans what they do at every opportunity.

        • thejackal

          Basically what you are saying RedLogix is that you don’t know. The authorities have purposefully kept us in the dark about the specifics because they fear public opinion and responsibility. I can assure you that legally they’re liable for the damage caused.

          They have not even informed us of the specific oil, when there are four types with differing qualities that ships use. It seems they did not even know what fuel oil was on-board MV Rena before spraying it with Corexit.

          There was at least four days while the ships equipment was functional. As hellonearthis highlights, they had the opportunity to act swiftly then to avert further damage. It’s apparent that their spin-doctors are having difficulty working themselves out of the mess… more so than any salvage operation is having difficulties in more than two weeks of perfect weather.

          The fact that the government dawdled and there was no plan in place has meant a more precarious situation, which has put peoples lives in danger. The danger seems most apparent because of a lack of proper protective equipment and procedures. They did not have a plan. It is apparent that the government does not even think or care.

          • RedLogix

            Basically what you are saying RedLogix is that you don’t know.

            Whoa… hold back the dog. I totally agree with you.

            And yes as a technically oriented person I’m very aware of the paucity and poor quality of the information being released to the public. As I’ve said before, it stinks of exactly the same bs I get from some techie who’s fracked up and is frantically back-pedalling to cover it up. Hell I’ve done it myself a few times…:-)

            Vague waffle like ‘it’s very, very complex’ and ‘it’s complexity on complexity’ may suffice to baffle management… but it doesn’t cut mustard with anyone who has any real experience. As for example our friend KJT above.

            All it now stinks of is a distraction from the fact that the job could have and should have been done properly and safely in that first 100 hours window of opportunity after the grounding.

    • bbfloyd 5.6

      you know… i never… in my wildest imagination realised these things were just so……….complicated… thanks ts….

      i mean… it stands to reason that when a situation is so complicated, then it’s understandable when serious fuck ups take place….. i mean… who knows who’s doing what, right?

      and let’s face it…. it gets old very quickly having to do the “statesman” thing over and over again…..i’m not surprised the boss seems to be getting his disasters confused….or forgetting to do one for a few days……….after all, it’s bloody complicated!!

      i mean…..how much leadership do these whiny losers need!!! a man gets tired…..

  6. The fastest and most expedient response to a disaster by this Government was the ultrafast bail-out of its mates in the South Canterbury Finance collapse. No Timaru speculator was left behind, even though those ungrateful bitches are still worshipping at the shrine of St Allan and were never tapped for the rebuilding of the quake areas.
    Also, the tax cuts were pretty instantly implemented, benefitting the same constituency. For the rest of us, not so much.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.1

      You’ve forgotten about the disaster management to save Pete Jackson’s arse when he ran into trouble with Warners. No stone was left unturned to deny film workers holiday pay and sick leave. parliament was recalled and the red carpet was rolled out for the film exec’s. If they put the same effort into real disasters things would be a lot better.

  7. kbrown 7

    tsmithfield: have you been attending one of Branson’s motivational seminars recently ?

  8. Afewknowtheturth 8


    ‘Quite easy to criticise in hindsight’

    Is criticising people who were given explicit warnings which they ignored okay with you?

    • handle 9.1

      Not pre-funding the response efforts appears to be making no difference.

      • McFlock 9.1.1

        it is nice to see a tory arguing against tax cuts (the shipping levies paid into the fund), though.

        By the way, chris – are you planning to post that link every day, or are you going to include links to the fact that National refused to sign up to the bunker oil convention, so the shipowners’ liability for the oil leaks remains $12mil?

    • I wonder if this helped…

      Well, it doesn’t seem to have done any harm in the case of the Rena, as this quote from your link makes clear:

      The Oil Pollution Fund – made up from levies collected from the maritime and oil industry – is expected to be almost completely drained in the Rena clean-up.” 

      That is, it won’t be fully drained so there’s enough there for this one.

      A bigger reserve does seem sensible, however, because you’d want enough to cover at least a couple of events in ten years or so I’d imagine. 

  9. Ianupnorth 10

    Was chatting to someone involved in the Rena debacle today – the containers; they cannot remove any due to the angle of the ship. The clamps that hold them in places are designed to prevent them moving when off level (e.g. in a storm). They are going to be very difficult to unload unless they can get the ship on a level plane. This is going to be a very long haul!

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