The media have obviously promoted David Letele to emergency management expert. The “gym owner and community leader” has been quoted by the NZHerald as calling for Wayne Brown’s resignation over his handling of the situation. The Herald includes in Letele’s credentials that he helped health authorities access the PI community during the pandemic response. As if that has anything to do with a fast evolving weather event. But then I’ve come to expect that from the NZH who have been on Brown’s case ever since he beat Efeso Collins in the mayoral race. Brown is certainly not good at PR, but we have been spoiled by people who have been media trained (and have a natural gift) like the previous PM and mayors like Bob Parker (during the Christchurch earthquake). I doubt Collins would have been any more effective in the actual response than Brown, but probably would have been better at the PR message. Including telling people to “Be Kind”. All leaders rely on their support staff. Otherwise we would just need a council of one, where the Mayor knew and did everything.
In a previous job I had a liaison role with the emergency management system, both at a regional and national level. My experience was NZ Police, FENZ and Ambulance services could be relied on to quickly respond. Likewise, when called upon, the NZDF can provide directed support. The declaration of an emergency provides additional powers to those entities and their centralised communication and control systems allows effective response.
My experience with the “local official” side of things doesn’t fill me with the same level of confidence. The further away from the NEMA bunker in the Beehive you get, the less ability there is. Until you get to the people at the coalface, who are acting to, and sometimes beyond, what you would expect.
Auckland has dodged events in the past, more by good luck than anything else. People expect politicians to be “The Decider” (to quote a former US President) but they are just as likely to dither as a lot of other people when what they are faced with is outside their experience.