OPINION: There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for New Zealand and the world.
The Oxford Dictionary description states that resilience means:
“The ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened.”
Agencies who have responsibilities to keep the public safe from adverse events would like to make communities resilient in times of adverse events.
To make communities resilient we need to define what is an adverse event; is it only a natural event?
We need to identify how we make communities resilient and have resilience for when an adverse event happens.
Communities need to have plans that make their communities become resilient, and to be able to look after themselves for a period after an event. There is no one community model that fits all communities. Each community has its own unique environment and the people’s expectations from each community, whilst they may be similar, they will be different based on each unique environment.
For communities to be resilient the first thing needed is to identify who has the trust of the community, who also has an understanding of what potential adverse event could happen and what needs to happen for the community to come back to some form of normality after an adverse event. This is the basis for a Community Resilience Plan (Plan B).
Not all people live in close communities; some for example live in the rural areas (e.g. farmers) and they have plans for the day-to-day, normal events (Plan A), but on farms, events happen that aren’t expected, so they have to be adaptable because of these unexpected events. These people should have a Plan B that can be activated when adverse events happen.
Farmers and other rural dwellers, by the nature of their existence, are normally quite resourceful people who can turn their hands to most situations. These people may not have a Plan B written down, but because of their lifestyle they have the ability to be adaptable when situations change through adverse events.
The first things that these people do is make sure they and their families are safe and then check that their neighbours are safe and their animals are looked after. They have done a stock take of the situation; through these checks they would normally be able to survive for a period of time before other help will arrive.
In relation to community resilience, we shouldn’t be worrying about blaming any perceived global policies on the adverse events that happen, we should concentrate on addressing adverse events as they happen and supporting the community.
To address global policies that are perceived as responsible for adverse events happening is the responsibilities of government ministries and politicians.
Over time we have seen many adverse events happen. As a result, what we have seen is that people who have been through these events realise that we should have a Plan B to help us deal with the outcomes from adverse events, whether it is in writing or not. The important thing is that to be resilient in a case of an adverse event we need to have identified what actions we need to take prior to the event occurring.
We are currently building a society that relies on technology to address adverse events and while that gives some ability to predict what may happen and to allow for very detailed response planning, we need to realise that the first thing that may be unavailable to us is that exact item – “technology”.
Significant adverse events that affect large areas of the population often result in a loss of power supply and a breakdown in modern communication technology. These events require us to have a fall back plan based on this eventuality.
Smaller adverse events that affect fewer people but may still have devastating results for those involved require resilient response planning. This is often the case with rural people where even in a significant event the response will have to be enacted individually due to the remoteness of each dwelling.
Building resilience in the rural situation often will encompass both planning for pastoral care (individual physical and mental wellness) of rural people as well as planning for disaster response (physical recovery & safety after the events occurrence).
Building resilience in terms of pastoral care often falls to outside agencies such as Rural Support Trust, St Johns Ambulance and volunteer fire brigades which are normally staffed by persons with a background in the rural lifestyle as well as training in support for persons with personal difficulties. Often these agencies will also be involved in planning for adverse events/disasters.
Building resilience in terms of disaster response normally starts with organisations such as local council, FENZ, St Johns Ambulance and LANDSAR. The most important part of building resilience in rural areas is having a credible action plan that ensures the safety of firstly all local people and secondly the safety of their assets wherever possible.
Peter Buckley is a board member of Primary Land Users Group (P.L.U.G.).