Horizons Regional Council activates Emergency Coordination Centre for regional response to COVID-19

The Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MWCDEM) Group is planning and preparing for a COVID-19 response should it be necessary.

MWCDEM Group controller and Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney says while the Ministry of Health is the lead agency for a pandemic response, civil defence has a role to play in ensuring all responding agencies are connected.

“As MWCDEM Group lead, Horizons activated our Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) on Monday morning at Level 2. This is to provide regional coordination and support to all relevant agencies,” says Mr McCartney.

“For the Horizons Region this includes four district health boards – MidCentral, Whanganui, Lakes and Waikato – the region’s city and district councils, emergency services, and government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development.

“We are very much in the planning and monitoring phase at this point however we want to ensure that we are ready to assist in a response if required.”

The ECC is based in the Te Ao Nui building in Palmerston North and is staffed by Horizons and civil defence staff from across the region.

“Everyone in the team has defined roles and we have been working to ensure that we are able to sustain the operation over a long period of time if necessary.”

Mr McCartney says while there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Horizons Region, the community can be assured of local preparedness.

“In addition to activating the ECC, internally we have been assessing our business continuity plans for a pandemic. This includes ensuring we have capacity to resource any other civil defence emergency such as a flood or earthquake during this period.

“Last week we tested our IT systems through the bulk of our organisation working from home for a morning, and we have encouraged staff to reduce travel and shift to virtual meetings wherever possible.

“We understand this threat has caused some anxiety in our regional community and strongly encourage people to keep practicing good hygiene practices.

“All of Government have set up a dedicated website in response to COVID-19. This site contains the most accurate and up-to-date information for New Zealand.

“Our Civil Defence Manawatū-Whanganui Facebook page will share these national messages as well as more specific regional messages for those that wish to get updates.

“The most important thing to remember is we’re all in this together, collectively we can slow the spread.”