The flood resilience natural hazard resilience project in Whakatane is showing “green shoots of promise” according to Vero, the project’s main sponsor.
Vero launched the initiative in 2021 with a $140,000 donation to build natural hazard resilience awareness in the community. It benefits the following non-government organisations: Whakatane Neighbourhood Support, two Whakatane Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), and Trees That Count in Whakatane.
Vero said that Whakatane was chosen due to its high risk of flooding, high percentage of elderly and vulnerable residents and the impact of the work community groups were already doing there to support both flood resilience and community vulnerability.
To date, the donation has allowed the CERTs to order a customised emergency response trailer to help deliver residents with emergency supplies when evacuations are required. Whakatane Neighbourhood Support used the funds to hire an additional employee and purchase new computers and technology for their offices. This allowed the not-for-profit organisation to upgrade its emergency response database, which identifies households with more vulnerable individuals, so they can be prioritised in an emergency.
Trees That Count in Whakatane was able to plant around 6,000 trees along the Whakatane riverbank, contributing to greenhouse gas reduction, increased flood resilience, and biodiversity restoration in the region.
“Our goals for this initiative were to support and enhance community flood resilience in Whakatane, and also enhance our understanding on what is required across New Zealand,” said Carly Orr, Suncorp New Zealand’s executive manager for corporate affairs and sustainability. “We hope that our adding our expertise will build greater awareness of the role of insurance and what people can do to minimise the risk of flood on their properties and communities. Vero’s support is building on the fantastic work Whakatane has already done to create flood resilience. Together, we’re taking tangible steps to improve outcomes for communities who experience extreme weather events.”
To help better measure the impact of the emergency preparedness work being done, Vero also helped develop an emergency response survey in the Whakatane community.
Jane Fox, area coordinator at Whakatane Neighbourhood Support, said that Vero’s support and its expertise in natural hazard disaster preparedness has been a great help in building awareness of disaster preparedness in the community.
“Vero’s support is enabling us to refocus and reinvigorate our efforts on identifying those in the community that are most vulnerable to the impacts of any future natural disaster and providing relevant information on flood and disaster preparedness in the event an evacuation or similar is necessary,” Fox said. “With Vero’s support, we’re monitoring the effects of this work, alongside the work of other community groups in the region, and though we’re in the early stages of this survey process, the outcomes are looking promising.”