Luxon praises cyclone response

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Botany MP and National Party leader Christopher Luxon, centre, and Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, right, talk to a New Zealand Defence Force solider at the Howick Civil Defence Centre. Times photo Wayne Martin

Christopher Luxon says the community-led response to Cyclone Gabrielle shows Kiwis “at their best”.

The Botany MP and National Party leader visited the Civil Defence Centre set up at the Fencible Lounge, beside Howick Library, on February 15.

He was joined by Pakuranga MP and the party’s Auckland issues spokesperson, Simeon Brown.

The centre in Uxbridge Road was established as a safe space for east Auckland residents who needed to evacuate their homes as a result of the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

They would have been provided with stretcher beds, blankets, food, water, access to welfare support agencies, and psychosocial support.

It was the only Civil Defence Centre in the Howick ward.

Luckily, no one needed to evacuate to the centre as the area avoided the extensive damage Cyclone Gabrielle caused to other parts of the North Island.

Luxon spoke with to the centre’s staff and volunteers to learn about their roles and the help they were ready to provide.

Among them was a New Zealand Defence Force soldier and Karen Inns, manager of client service delivery at the Ministry of Social Development’s Highland Park branch.

Luxon told the Times during his visit it’s important for him, as a local MP, to see what’s happening across the electorate and support his constituents.

“As I did last week [during the previous storm] getting out and about to the front line.

“Seeing the suffering people are going through is really important.

“Simeon is leading as our Auckland issues spokesperson as well so he’s got responsibilities here in east Auckland.”

Luxon says he and Brown want to make sure they can get a good grip on what’s happening across the city and what people’s needs are.

They’ve seen people doing it “incredibly tough” in some areas, he says.

“We’ve been in houses where we’ve been ripping carpet out and moving furniture out and it’s been amazing to see the great community spirit across New Zealanders and see Kiwis at their best.

“We’ve seen local board members stepping up, school principals stepping up, and churches stepping up across Auckland to organise a bunch of strangers to go off and help people who are really suffering and doing it tough.

“It’s important for us to see what’s going on and how we can help and have our MPs out there … representing and supporting our people.”

Luxon was full of praise for the people making sure Howick’s Civil Defence Centre was running smoothly.

“It’s incredible, [with] the volunteers here,” he says of the effort.

He’d also recently visited the national crisis management centre at Parliament, “which is interfacing with all the regional Civil Defence groups as well”.

“What you’ve seen here in Howick is people stepping up [with] the volunteer network,” Luxon says.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with people and businesses offering help and assistance.

“Whether it’s been supplies or food parcels, it’s been an incredible community response.

“It’s also important we keep learning from these emergency management situations and keep improving.

“That’s something we have to take on board and get better and better at it.”

Brown says he wants to see the communication co-ordination in such emergencies improve.

“I think whilst everyone’s been doing their bit, there’s a lot that can be improved in that space.

“By and large everyone has been doing everything they can but there are always things that can be learned.”