The recent tragic accident near the Shotover Bridge highlights the pressing need for comprehensive disaster preparedness in our town.
It has taken the tragic death of one individual to highlight the harsh reality of insufficient infrastructure, fragmented information via Facebook groups, and a lack of coordinated response systems.
Our thoughts are with the affected whānau and what they are currently experiencing.
However, we must also realise this incident serves as a wake-up call, urging us to confront the vulnerabilities that lie beneath the surface.
The incident that unfolded over a fortnight ago, causing frustration, traffic confusion, and congestion, sheds light on the potential chaos that could ensue in the face of a larger-scale disaster.
While we might joke about future calamities like the Alpine Fault rupture, or other unforeseen crises, the truth remains we are ill-equipped to handle them effectively.
Our limited infrastructure and lack of centralised information hamper our ability to respond swiftly and efficiently during times of crisis.
It is high time we recognise the gravity of this situation and take proactive steps to strengthen our disaster preparedness.
Our town needs to invest in resilience.
Yes, it’s bloody tough to talk about during an unprecedented cost of living crisis.
However, we need to be thinking about how we can plan.
The adage ‘‘failure to plan is planning to fail’’ resonates strongly here.
As a region, we must prioritise investing in our collective resilience.
We live in a place with two ways in/out of Queenstown proper — which are both susceptible to hill slides — an airport susceptible to fog-cancelling freight flights and the risk of inability of food and supplies to get in.
One of the key pillars of effective disaster response is to quickly establish, or to be able to rely on, a centralised information hub … which, we currently do not have.
Yes, QLDC was publishing updates, alongside Waka Kotahi, but more information was being shared, real-time, via Facebook messages and comment threads.
While it fills a need, it’s fragmented and messy for residents.
But it begs the question, how do folks visiting find out what to do in an emergency?
A centralised system provides real-time updates, guidance, and resources to both residents and authorities.
By developing and maintaining this critical infrastructure, we can mitigate confusion, streamline efforts, and ensure that our community remains well-informed and connected in times of crisis.
As we all know, volunteers are the back bone of any resilient community.
We must actively engage and mobilise individuals who are willing to contribute their time and skills to support disaster response efforts.
Establishing a robust network of trained volunteers, equipped with the knowledge and resources needed during emergencies, can make a significant difference in the effectiveness and speed of our response.
The closure of a single bridge has demonstrated the fragility of our transportation infrastructure.
We must explore alternative transport options and contingency plans that can be swiftly implemented during emergencies.
Identifying and developing backup routes and transportation modes will ensure the continuity of essential services and facilitate the safe movement of people and resources across our town.
While the immediate challenges of last month’s incident faded by 5pm, the lessons learned should resonate within our collective conscience.
By investing in resilience, creating a centralised information system, mobilising volunteers, and devising alternative transport solutions, we can safeguard the wellbeing of our community in the face of future crises.
Because if not now, when?
Erin Jackson’s a long-time Queenstown resident who’s director of Project Gender and Narrative Campaigns