WSP Opus Research worked with agencies to help the Wainuiomata community prepare for a disaster

A disaster and its aftermath are difficult to predict. A community could be cut off from emergency services immediately after a hazard event, which means the ability to be self-reliant is key to resilience.

To help with this, WSP Opus partnered with the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) to work alongside key stakeholders in Wainuiomata, an urban community of Lower Hutt, to produce a community response plan that would allow the community to respond to an emergency without assistance from Civil Defence Emergency Management.

Vulnerable to isolation

Previous work on community response plans in New Zealand has focused on small rural or coastal communities which have involved a large proportion of residents. Wainuiomata has a population of 18,000 and is geographically separated from the rest of the Hutt Valley, making it vulnerable to being isolated in a disaster event.

The project team worked with a small group of community leaders to create a plan that would empower the community to take ownership of their own resilience in an emergency event. A community resilience measurement tool was also developed based on Twigg’s' Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community’(2009) so that the community could evaluate change in resilience levels over time.

Preparedness toolkit

The resulting plan focused on identifying major hazards, identifying and distributing available resources, identifying available support services and defining how civil defence centres would operate in an emergency. The community engagement enabled the plan to become a living document – to be adjusted as and when needed.

A toolkit for implementing this process in other urban areas has been developed that includes key lessons for building a community-led response plan with representatives of a large population.