NPDC team answers call to help during Nelson-Tasman fires emergency

05 March 2019

It starts with a phone call.

You pack a small bag, say goodbye to your children and your partner and head off into the heart of a major emergency.

NPDC Civil Defence Lead Ben Ingram had been celebrating a friend’s wedding the day before he was called to help in the emergency response to the Nelson-Tasman fires – but he’d kept a wary eye on the news.

“You know from experience that you might get called up to help,” said Mr Ingram, who also took part in the response to the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake and the 2017 Edgecumbe floods.

His wife and two young sons also knew the drill.

“They know it’s part of my job, and they’re very supportive, but it’s still tough having to take off like that.”

In Nelson, he worked up to 12-hour days for seven straight days on the welfare desk and assessing which community might be told to evacuate their homes next. Mr Ingram was part of a team of four from NPDC who helped out during the emergency.

“It was pretty full on, working with people you don’t know, in an area you’re not familiar with. I only took the bare essentials with me and I slept at a local motel at the end of each shift,” said Mr Ingram.

“The good thing is that so many affected people were prepared and ready to go.  We also had the benefit of standard national training, which meant the CDEM staff all worked to the same system.”

He said the NPDC team – including Planning Adviser Jo Ritchie, CDEM Resilience Adviser Salevi Tiatia and Senior GIS Analyst Jake Hechter – could be proud of the contribution.

“It’s a fast-paced, often uncomfortable environment where you feel you don’t know enough, but you have to make big decisions.  We’ve done a pretty good job in helping our neighbours and we learned a lot too.”

NPDC’s Ben Ingram helping out during the recent emergency response in the Nelson-Tasman region