News & Events

EOC helped more than 20,000 people in Palmerston North during Covid-19 activation

Friday May 29 2020

Palmerston North City Council's Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) wound down its activation into a monitoring role today, having managed the welfare assistance of more than 20,000 people.

“Since the EOC was activated on 25 March, more than 100 Council staff have been redeployed from their usual roles to assist for various periods at the EOC,” says EOC Controller Chris Dyhrberg.

“Primarily, our key function during our activation was delivering welfare support to those in the city. We’ve calculated the level of assistance carried out over the last 10 weeks, and it has been a remarkable effort.”

The EOC received more than 5,500 requests for assistance. “Every one of these was called back by one of our team to assess their needs and then put into action, meeting those needs. We trained a group of our library staff in this process, and they have done some great work.”

Data collected indicates that more than 20,000 people needed support. The support was given primarily for food parcels, essential household goods, pharmacy supplies and accommodation. The cost of purchasing the items required during this time has exceeded $1.1m. Claims for reimbursement of these costs are being made to the National Emergency Management Office, which received government funding for welfare needs.

“These numbers created a huge logistics challenge, as we had to arrange the purchase, supply, transport and delivery of thousands of food parcels at a time when we all faced tight restrictions. We could only do this with the amazing support of our social support agencies, such as the Palmerston North Food Collective, which was a collaboration between the Salvation Army, Methodist Social Services and Just Zilch. Their volunteers sorted, packed and delivered to homes.”

The Te Tihi o Ruahine Whānau Ora Alliance also had Council staff assist them with their welfare support, managed out of Central Energy Trust Arena.

“Our Contact Centre is still managing calls through to the 0800 number for a short period, but most of these calls will be directed to other agencies. Council’s emergency management staff will temporarily manage complex cases and accommodation support during a short transition period.

As well as managing the welfare needs of the city, the EOC’s first key role was to ensure essential services were delivered and people were kept safe. This required increased cleaning of public toilets, collecting kerbside rubbish and recycling, and keeping all other infrastructure services operational.

More than 800 signs and public notices were printed and installed around public spaces in the city, and the public information team were kept busy sharing national and local information throughout the period.

“The Covid-19 response was lengthy and required many Council staff to work away from their usual roles. It has been amazing how our staff have responded during the lockdown and stepped into whatever work was needed.”

A smaller team has been working full-time for the past couple of weeks and will all return to their regular positions from Tuesday. Council’s emergency management team will manage the EOC’s monitoring role.

Mayor Grant Smith and PNCC Chief Executive Heather Shotter met today with representatives from the support agencies that worked closely with the EOC team throughout the activation and thanked them for their work and collaborative approach during the city’s response.