In late May, the mayors in mid-Canterbury declared a local state of emergency due to the significant flooding affecting the region. Then, in mid-July, a local state of emergency was declared in the Westport area. Many people are curious about what this entails and to understand the powers given to the authorities in a local state of emergency. We explain…

The Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 defines a local state of emergency as a declaration by an authorised person, such as a mayor or the Minister of Civil Defence, that an emergency has or is likely to occur within an area. A local state of emergency lasts for a minimum period of seven days from the date and time of the declaration.

The local civil defence group (which includes emergency services, police and volunteers) is then deployed who may, for example, set up first aid posts, provide shelter to those affected and assist with the rescue of people in danger. In a nutshell, a local state of emergency allows the authorities to protect people and the community.

Most importantly, the leader of the civil defence group has the power to enforce the evacuation of an area, authorise entering a premise to save lives and enforce road closures; all of these were implemented when Ashburton's stock banks were at risk of breaching the township and Westport was flooded.


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