Civil Defence Minister believes state of emergency should've been declared earlier

Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says the state of emergency in Christchurch due to the recent fires should have been declared earlier.

The Minister says the Christchurch City and Selwyn District fires have highlighted a need to streamline Civil Defence legislation.

Brownlee visited Christchurch where almost 400 firefighters have been battling the blaze overnight which spread over 1800 hectares on the Port Hills.

The fires which started on Monday night have seen around 1000 people evacuated from their homes and present council numbers show 11 people are staying at Te Hapua Halswell Centre.

Brownlee says information being reported and escalated up the chain of command within Civil Defence is what concerns him and the fires have strengthened the mandate for change.

“Clarifying and simplifying the chain of command will help ensure clear lines of communication and effective decision-making in the immediate aftermath of significant events.

“I do believe that states of local emergencies could have been declared earlier but, at the time, I was not in Christchurch and local authorities knew the situation in more detail than I did.”

Meanwhile Civil Defence and emergency services are continuing their efforts to battle the blaze and assist those who have been evacuated from their homes.

Christchurch City Council says thermal imaging technology and high pressure hoses are now being used to manage hotspots within the Port Hills.

Christchurch Civil Defence controller Dave Adamson says “We have had significant fire breaks created with heavy machinery and the firefighting effort has targeted the perimeter. While there are still areas burning out of control, the fire is contained within the 2075 hectare area.

“What’s encouraging is that the weather forecast looks promising for the next two days with high cloud, cooler temperatures and a chance of rain on Saturday. However, the situation remains volatile, as we’ve seen with some flare-ups including one on Kennedys Bush Road so the cordons remain in place to ensure personal safety and security of property.”