Horizons Regional Council raises Emergency Coordination Centre activation to Level 3 for regional response to COVID-19

The Manawatū-Whanganui Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MWCDEM) Group has raised its activation level to respond to COVID-19.

MWCDEM Group controller Ged Shirley says lifting activation to Level 3 means that the Group has moved from a planning and monitoring phase into full response.

“While nationally everything closes from midnight Wednesday the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), led by Horizons Regional Council, will provide regional coordination and support to all relevant regional agencies dealing with COVID-19.

“Level 3 activation also means Horizons resources such as staff and vehicles can be reprioritised to the ECC as required.”

Mr Shirley says while the Ministry of Health continues as the lead agency for a pandemic response, civil defence ensures all responding agencies are connected.

“We are having daily contact with the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) which helps inform decisions at a regional level. We then feed this information into regular meetings with our territorial authorities and responding agencies such as district health boards, Ministry of Social Development and emergency services who make local decisions.

“Across the region things are running smoothly so far, with all our city and district councils being proactive and either having Emergency Operation Centres or Incident Management Teams in play. Keeping in contact and ensuring this continues over the long-term is key and we also have liaison officers working with three of our four district health boards offering support as required.”

The ECC is based in the Te Ao Nui building in Palmerston North and has been activated for the first time in this space.

“The new facility is working really well, especially as all staff there are under strict instruction to follow physical distancing and hygiene rules. We are extremely conscious that as a critical service our emergency management function has to last as long as required.”

Mr Shirley says that as the country moves into Alert Level 4 that people may feel isolated and to remember to check in on vulnerable people via phone.

“We are also helping assess welfare needs across the region and ensuring that our territorial authorities have the resources to assist where necessary. However, we can all do our part and check in on those that we know may need it.

“Essential services, such as Horizons contracted public transport, will also still be available so that everyone can access necessities such as groceries, medicine and petrol. Remember we’re all in this together and abiding by the government’s recommendations is the best way to see the need for isolation come to an end.

“Our Civil Defence Manawatū-Whanganui Facebook page will continue to provide updates on what is happening locally and all national information can be found at covid19.govt.nz.”