Greater integration of the emergency management sector was a key focus earlier this week when I visited Hawke’s Bay with National Commander Kerry Gregory and National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) Chief Executive Carolyn Schwalger. We met with key sector partners including the Hawkes Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, Napier City Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council and our Local Advisory Committee.

One of the biggest lessons we’ve learnt from significant past events, such as the Tasman Fires, Port Hills fires and major weather events in Hawkes Bay and on the West Coast, is that we can understand and respond to community needs much better, together. We need to think of ourselves as an emergency sector, not as individual agencies.

This was the second in a series of joint visits; last month we were joined by Deputy Chief Executive Emergency Management Gary Knowles in Canterbury and saw the impact of the recent flood event first-hand. Our next joint visit will be to Otago in October.

Kerry and I also met with a number of our people on this trip to hear about a range of initiatives underway across Hawke’s Bay.

Great turnout for the Waipukurau Volunteer Fire Brigade Leaders Forum

Presentations and discussion at the Hawke's Bay strategic outcomes session

COVID update – international deployments, travel and vaccinations

The recent suspension of quarantine-free travel from Australia reminds us of just how volatile the COVID situation remains globally, and the heightened risks relating to all international travel.

International wildfire deployments have gone from being a purely operational decision to one that requires a great deal of inter-agency work due to the global pandemic environment. For example, considering who would fund quarantine periods, whether deployed personnel could get priority for MIQ places, availability of flights to and from key locations, and vaccination requirements.

We will be in a better position to consider future international deployments once this work has been completed. We’ll continue to liaise closely with AFAC and the National Resource Sharing Centre. But for now, we’ve indicated that it is unlikely we could support deployments to the United States or Canada if a request came through for the current wildfires.

MedPro continues to manage vaccinations for our first and co-responders around the country. As at Friday 30 July, 6650 doses of the vaccine have been administered through this process. We’re working on options for workplace vaccinations for Group 4, where we can meet the Ministry of Health requirement of vaccinating more than 70 people in one location on the same day. We'll communicate more about this soon.

ELT has also recently agreed vaccination requirements for all work-related international travel, to help us manage the associated risks. You can read the detail on the Portal.

We are very lucky that we aren’t currently seeing the impacts of COVID in New Zealand. However, Australia’s recent experience shows how quickly that situation can change. Please continue to follow Ministry of Health’s advice and the protocols on our COVID pages on the Portal. We must remain vigilant.

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