Volunteers, responders again show value

Chipping in . . . Omarama Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer Maurice Cowie wrings out his mop while (from left) Jack Zorab, Liz Komen, Tanya Humphreys help with the clean up at the Omarama Top 10 Holiday Park yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN

By Jacqui Dean

Last week’s flooding across inland parts of the region once again showed how resilient our close-knit communities are, but make no mistake, there are tough weeks and months ahead as locals look to clean up the mess and get back to some sense of normality.

Significant weather events always attract a lot of attention. Flooding, in particular, often produces dramatic footage and photographs which make for good TV. But while the nation watched on last week, those cameras have now left and reality has set in.

Over the weekend, I went and spent some time with those affected by the flooding.

There was badly damaged farmland, battered businesses and people with backyards that were a muddy mess.

One thing that did come through time and time again in the conversations I had was the appreciation these people had for their fellow community members. People have rolled up their sleeves and lent their skills to those who’ve needed it and that’s meant a huge deal to those who bore the brunt of the deluge.

Local volunteers and emergency responders once again showed how invaluable they are. Their immediate response ensured the safety of community members and prevented the situation from being that much worse.

Contractors also worked hard to limit the damage and restore vital access routes to get people and supplies in and out.

Our small towns and communities don’t tend to sit back and wait for others to sort out their problems, they muck in and get on with the job.

When the flooding was at its worst, it was apparent that local residents of those towns were instrumental in communicating vital information, ensuring that their neighbours and vulnerable people were looked after.

I also saw messages pop up on community pages where people were offering up beds and showers for those who needed it — that’s true community spirit!

Once everything has dried out there will be time to reflect.

I recall after the Ohau fire in 2020 how useful it was for the council, emergency responders and members of the community to come together and talk about what aspects of the response worked well and what didn’t, with a view to ensuring that protocols could be improved for the future.

Given the widespread and sudden nature of this flooding event, a similar review could be helpful here too.

I’m sure there will be an opportunity for Environment Canterbury, the Waitaki District Council, emergency responders and members of the public to come together to assess what took place and whether any changes need to be made to district response plans.

As I said on social media last week — Iam here to help. I know all too well that dealing with various agencies and government departments can be stressful, confusing and time consuming. If anyone is struggling to get the support or advice they need, I strongly encourage them to make contact with my office so that we can assist in any way we can.

The clean-up job will take time, but I know how determined local people are to get back on their feet as soon as possible. Let’s hope for brighter skies ahead.

Jacqui Dean is the Member of Parliament for Waitaki