People in your neighbourhood: key to disaster resilience

6:46 am on 16 March 2017

Wellington people are being told getting to know their neighbours is the best way to ensure they can cope with a major disaster.

Locals watch one of the fires on the Port Hills.

Neighbours watch this year's Port Hills fires in Christchurch together. Wellingtonians are being urged to get to know their neighbours as a resilience strategy. Photo: Christchurch City Council

The capital has just published a 115-page Wellington Resilience Strategy for dealing with future shocks and stresses.

Wellington City Council chief resilience officer Mike Mendonca said the strategy would help the city grow stronger and smarter in dealing with shocks and stresses.

"When people ask me for one piece of resilience advice I always say get to know your neighbour," he said.

"There's scientific evidence that shows that when something bad happens it's your neighbour who saves your life in the first hour, and looks after you when there's a bit of a stress."

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said the capital simply had to be prepared.

"We're the capital of many things... We're the capital of football and perhaps most importantly the capital of craft beer.

"But we're also the capital of potential natural disaster," he said.

Wellington is one of 100 cities around the world trying to figure how to become more resilient - Christchurch is another.

Andrew Salkin, the chief operating officer of the Rockefeller Foundation's resilient cities programme, said cities faced multitudes of major difficulties.

"A city is a really complex place with multiple levels of leadership and different types of citizens, and it's the ability of those folks to come together that will really help dictate and help ensure that city becomes what it can and should be."

The strategy was not just about making the city better able to survive disasters, but to make it a better place to live every day, Mr Salkin said.

Prime Minister Bill English said the strategy was a good example of what the country needed to be thinking about.

"We're a country that's had our resilience tested in very substantial and unexpected ways," he said.

"The consequences of those tests to our physical infrastructure are ongoing, large-scale and quite testing."

Yesterday Mr Lester, along with other mayors from the Wellington region, met government ministers to talk about funding for new, more resilient water infrastructure projects.

Those projects included a new water reservoir at Prince of Wales Park and a cross-harbour pipeline, Mr Lester said.

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