Downer’s New Zealand team is regularly at the forefront of emergency response to natural disasters, like the 100-year weather event in Gisborne, on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, in early 2022.
On 23 March 2022, a State of Emergency was declared in Gisborne, with significant flooding and damage to the city’s roading and telecommunications infrastructure.
Downer’s combined capabilities were evident with many members of our Utilities and Transport teams working around the clock to reconnect the community after the flooding wiped out bridges, roads, power and buildings, causing many residents to evacuate their homes.
The fibre and copper cables that support internet, cellular and voice calls are often laid adjacent to the carriageway, and the damage to these meant that emergency service calling was unavailable, seriously impacting repair efforts.
To support the restoration of services, Downer’s Telecommunications team quickly mobilised to get temporary solutions in place to ensure communication remained available and allow infrastructure repairs to be completed by Downer’s Transport team, as well as Civil Services.
The Telecommunications team worked up the East Coast to repair Chorus’ four main exchange sites, along with approximately 10 cabinet sites, four Vodafone mobile sites and three mobile sites for Spark.
Meanwhile, the Transport team worked to repair severe damage to Mangahauini Bridge in Tokomaru Bay, which connected the main city.
While the Transport team was supporting the clean-up, the Telco team also had to work through challenging stormy conditions, restoring land slips, fallen trees and damaged cables, all while working with limited visibility.
The Telecommunications and Transport teams delivered exceptional emergency response services through incredibly challenging conditions, all while keeping the surrounding residents safe.
The Telecommunications team put in several temporary solutions to get land line coverage up and running, and more importantly, to get residents and emergency services connected to the telecommunications network.
The Transport team collaborated with several local subcontractors, forestry companies and boundary partners (caretakers of the roading network) to conduct various remedial works. This allowed the team to access the large roading equipment that was required to clear the debris from the storm and meant the subcontractors were able to get to the sites quickly.
The Transport team’s huge effort to support the community meant the Mangahauini Bridge repair was completed 11 days ahead of schedule. The Telco team’s incredible work meant that the main telecommunications services were restored with temporary solutions within three days, allowing communities to stay connected and emergency response services to effectively communicate with each other.
This initiative demonstrates Downer’s contribution to achieve the following Sustainable Development Goal: