Brownlee blaming officials for acting too slowly and asking Parliament to fix it

Newstalk ZB staff,
Publish Date
Friday, 17 February 2017, 9:03AM
Gerry Brownlee's criticising a lack of communication between the fire services - and his own office (Getty Images).

UPDATED 9.36am The Civil Defence Minister is blaming his officials for acting too slowly to declare a local state of emergency during Christchurch's Port Hills fires this week. 

LISTEN ABOVE: Gerry Brownlee spoke to Chris Lynch about the communication problems in declaring a state of emergency

Gerry Brownlee has thrown the job of fixing the process to Parliament.

On Friday morning, he issued a statement saying the fires, and also the Kaikoura earthquake, highlighted the need to streamline the legislation, despite changes being made last year.

Mr Brownlee's criticism includes a lack of communication between the rural, urban and national fire services - and his own office.

But Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne already has a Bill before Parliament, the aim of which is to unite those services.

Mr Dunne said the new Fire and Emergency New Zealand, from July, will be a much tighter operation.

"More coordinated and better integrated national fire service. as the new legislation proposals, I think, would give us a more efficient outcome," Mr Dunne said.

Brownlee stressed he wasn't criticising those on the ground in both Christchurch City and Selwyn District and no minister had ever declared a local state of emergency over the top of local authorities.

"It's the way information is reported up the chain and the time it can take to access up-to-date information that has been of most concern for me.

"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.

"In a country so prone to natural disasters, it's in everyone's best interests to ensure we are as resilient and ready to respond as we can be," Mr Brownlee said.

Mr Brownlee is praising the work of the fire crews battling the Port Hills fire.

"These are unique people, in my opinion. Very very brave."

Greens co-leader James Shaw said the work of the emergency services has been outstanding.

"Firefighters, helicopter pilots, police, defence force Christchurch City and Selwyn District Councils, the Civil Defence staff and volunteers who have been working around the clock."

Mr Dunne also gave praise.

"My huge thanks to the men and women of the New Zealand Fire Service, rural fire fighters and our emergency services for the work they are doing in Christchurch."

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