27 Jun 2012

Quake experience will help volunteer co-ordination - Farmy Army

2:02 pm on 27 June 2012

The leader of the Farmy Army is expecting better co-ordination between volunteer groups and civil defence authorities in future as a result of the lessons learned in Canterbury.

The Farmy Army teams cleared silt in Christchurch and provided food to people affected by the Canterbury earthquakes.

It was and was among the organisations that attended a Civil Defence Volunteers Forum in Christchurch this week.

Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain has acknowledged concerns raised by volunteers about the challenges they faced providing help after the quakes.

He says the extent of spontaneous volunteering that occurred was a phenomenon that Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups had not previously experienced.

John Hartnell, of Federated Farmers, led the Farmy Army that organised teams of farmers and other rural helpers.

He agrees that civil defence bodies weren't set up to deal with the large numbers of volunteers that offered their services.

"I think the first day we went out on silt-shovelling duties was the Saturday after the February earthquake, and the city didn't actually know itself where the key areas were.

"History would show now that

we should have taken a helicopter the first day and flown over and had a good look at where the problems were."

Mr Hartnell says efforts by rural people to organise emergency accommodation was one instance where the help offered was largely not taken up.

However he thinks the civil defence response to volunteers will be more effective in future and those groups will also be better organised.

One suggestion from the forum is for civil defence organisations to appoint volunteer co-ordinators to provide liaison and communication during emergencies.