Preparing for worst case scenarios

Emergency Management Southland team leader community Delia Riley said Winton would be the first Southland community to have a confirmed and published community response plan.

Emergency Management Southland is amidst an ambitious three-year programme to prepare more than 20 Southland communities for natural emergencies.

When an emergency strikes, where do Southlanders go to for the latest information and someone to talk to over a cup of tea in their own neck of the woods?

That's one of the questions Emergency Management Southland is trying to answer as it consults with 21 rural Southland communities about how they want to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Emergency Management Southland team leader community Delia Riley said the back-to-basics initiative was part of a nationwide mind shift towards a model that empowered communities with the tools they needed to respond in the wake of an emergency.

Preparing each community to know what its resources were and having a plan in place were part of some of the lessons learned from the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, she said.

Southland's history of hazards includes floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and even a widespread influenza pandemic in 1918.

One important box to tick off was deciding on a meeting point in every town. Ms Riley said people usually stayed in their homes after an emergency, but often looked for a natural meeting ground where they could find relevant information, connect with others and potentially get treatment for minor injuries or have an outdoor space for pets and animals.

At a consultation meeting in Te Anau on Monday (April 16), Ms Riley said the Fiordland Community Events Centre had been earmarked as a community hub, but locals were asked to provided additional suggestions around Te Anau that could fit the bill. 

It was one example of the ongoing consultation work Emergency Management Southland had embarked on last year and would continue until the next. 

Ms Riley said Winton would soon be the first community to have a confirmed and published plan. In the meantime, ongoing Southland-wide public meetings would take place this week and next in Edendale and Tuatapere, respectively. 

On an even smaller level, being prepared in a community could be as simple as knowing who your neighbours were and what resources everyone nearby could offer, Ms Riley said.

"It's going to be really useful to the community to have something out there," she said.

"We plan for the worst and hope it never happens."

Ms Riley said anyone who was interested in getting involved with their own community's plan could contact her at

Public meetings will be held in Edendale today (April 19) at 7pm at the Edendale Christian Centre, and in Tuatapere on Monday, April 23, at 7pm at the Waiau Town and Country Club. 

Emergency Management Southland's own website offers resources and an up-to-date map of ongoing incidents across Southland and Otago:


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