Emergency Management Otago
28 February 2020
“TORQUE” group enlists Queenstown tourist operators as response resource
The visitors who underpin the Queenstown Lakes District’s economic prosperity also create one of Otago’s biggest challenges in planning the response to a severe earthquake or other major emergency.
In peak summer and winter seasons, visitors, tourists and foreign nationals outnumber the 39,000 residents of the Queenstown Lakes District by as much as two to one. Even in the quietest periods there can be one visitor in the district for every two locals.
Providing shelter and food for potentially 75,000 dependent people for an extended period is a daunting logistical and welfare undertaking.
Emergency Management Otago, has enlisted the support of the local tourism industry to harness its resources in planning for the rupture of the Alpine Fault.
TORQUE stands for “Tourism Operator Responders of Queenstown” and includes eight of the largest tourism companies operating in the district, as well as DOC, the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Emergency Management Otago.
The MOU commits them all to prioritising personal preparedness for their staff, including ensuring that all employees understand the local hazardscape and what each person would have to do in the aftermath of a significant emergency; having current and exercised business continuity or disaster recovery plans; planning to shelter their clients in place if necessary; and providing logistical support for moving and possibly evacuating affected people and communities. The MOU also recognises the important role that the tourism industry would play in recovery.
Acting Director of Emergency Management Otago, Michele Poole says each organisation that has joined TORQUE is training to respond under CIMS. Between them they can contribute a formidable amount of logistics to an emergency response, particularly in helicopters, buses, boats, facilities, communications and staffing. Because they deal with large numbers of non-English speakers on a daily basis, their staff would also be valuable in helping the PIM team communicate critical information to a very vulnerable audience.
“This is a significant amount of surge capacity for our response capability in the Queenstown Lakes,” she says.