The lack of communication from officials during last month’s 611ha fire at Livingstone was “disheartening”, a Livingstone farmer says.
At a public meeting last week, residents expressed their concerns to Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz), the Waitaki District Council, Network Waitaki and other personnel about how the emergency was handled.
The large fire in a pine forestry block began at 3.15am on October 4 in Mackenzie Rd, near Livingstone.
One resident said she was upset they were not notified their power was being disabled from 8am.
“We heard nothing, absolutely nothing,” she said.
“We had no communication from anyone. It doesn’t take much to door-knock on 30 houses.
“I know no-one’s going to die without their power, but we had kids to think of, what we were going to do with them and what we were going to tell them.”
They were not kept informed about when power would be re-instated or on the status of the fire during the emergency.
Network Waitaki chief executive Geoff Douch admitted the company’s communication should have been better.
“We’ll take that on the chin – we didn’t do the best job of communicating around that,” he said.
“We put some stuff up on Facebook, that had limited reach, and obviously if you’ve got no power, no mobile and you’re at home – it’s useless.”
The organisation relied on individual energy retailers to provide customer details and they were not always up to standard.
In hindsight, somebody should have been sent to door-knock.
“What we should have done now, and from good feedback information, is send someone out into the field, do a bit of a door-knock and tell people another way, because our normal channels of information weren’t going to work in this case,” he said.
Waitaki deputy principal fire officer Mike Harrison apologised to those who felt there was a lack of communication from Fenz.
While he hated to “bang on about it”, he reminded residents there were two significant fires at the same time.
The Livingstone fire occurred the same day as the Lake Ohau fire, which burnt more than 5000ha and destroyed 48 buildings.
“Normally we’d have additional resources we could draw in on and unfortunately in this circumstance we were running pretty lean until we got more people on,” he said.
“I really do apologise from our point of view and I’m happy to take on board that we could have improved.”
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher wanted the council to take more of an information-sharing role to help free up other agencies during emergencies.
“We want to make sure from our perspective, as representatives of you, that you are getting as much information as possible.
“Anything that can be done … making sure you are getting good timely information is great, but equally, these guys [Fenz] are pretty flat out with the fire itself.”