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Responding to Tāmaki Makaurau's extreme weather patterns

11 May 2023 

Interview by Andre Fa'aoso, adapted by Rawan Saadi

Following extreme weather events in Tāmaki Makaurau, Massey University lecturer of emergency management Lauren Vinnell has called for more public education about coping with flooding. Photo: Corey Fuimaono.

Listen to the full interview here.

Severe weather and flooding in Tāmaki Makaurau on Tuesday has once again resulted in significant damage throughout the region. This is the third major flooding to impact the North Island over the last four months.

Auckland Council issued warnings at the beginning of the day and declared a state of emergency around midday, with several road closures as rainfall became heavier.  

Lauren Vinnell, a lecturer of emergency management at Massey University, told Andre Fa’aoso on 95bFM’s The Wire that there has been a noticeable progression in the efficiency of government and council response to extreme weather events.

“We definitely want people to be somewhere safe during flooding and ideally have families and households together. We also want to have roads clear enough for essential services, said Vinnell.”

She identified several strengths in the response to this week’s flooding, including strong communication, swift alerts, and acknowledging the hard work of emergency management. 

“The vast majority are good people doing their best while also dealing with the impacts themselves.”

As we expect to see more extreme weather due to the impacts of the climate crisis, Vinnell pointed out the importance of further improving our emergency management to accommodate future events. She said this includes continuously reviewing our management plans as well keeping the public better informed. 

“What I would really like to see is continuing and maybe increasing public education around things like weather and flooding so that people and communities know what to do, maybe without having to receive an alert”.

Vinnell expressed concern about the regularity of severe weather events causing people to become complacent. 

“There is a fine balance between getting used to something that you know what to do in response and how to do it and becoming normalised to something where you maybe stop taking it as seriously.”

She added that because some individuals and communities have not been as badly affected by flooding, they are potentially under the false impression that they will be safe in the future. 

Vinnell said despite the devastation of recent weather events, they can inform our response strategies and improve our capacity to cope. 

“We do in New Zealand learn from events pretty well compared to other places around the world.”