News | 22 December 2020
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Meet the city's Civil Defence Controller

Derek Baxter – known to all as Bax – is Wellington City’s Civil Defence Controller – and he’ll be on-call over the summer break.

Derek Baxter, AKA Bax, is Wellington city's Civil Defence Controller.

He’s got a few tips for Wellingtonians, whether you’re joining the traffic jams on the Kāpiti Coast next week, or whether you’re staying in town to enjoy our own unique summer weather.

What’s a Civil Defence Controller?
I’m the guy who’s got the job of running things if there’s any sort of big emergency in the city. Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act I’ve got some significant powers that I can use to get the community and the city up and running and safe after something like a big earthquake or a storm or other emergency.

Fingers crossed I’ve never had to use those powers and I hope I won’t have to in the future – but you’ve got to be prepared! The best response is to not get into trouble in the first place   – so I have an ongoing interest in the resilience of the city and its infrastructure – including the District Plan, our community,  roads, retaining walls, pipes and drains, bridges and the like. I work with a lot of other people and agencies in the interests of keeping these assets up and running.

Are you on holiday till February? Or are you holding the fort?
I’m on call until late January so I won’t be leaving the region – as the City Controller I’ve got to be around in case anything untoward happens. My job will be to lead the Council’s response and to liaise with the regional Civil Defence organisation and, if necessary, with the National Emergency Management Agency and other response organisations. 

View of Wellington city from Kelburn on a summer's day.

Given Wellington empties out over Christmas and New Year, why should we give a hoot about a Covid-19 resurgence? 
Just because the Capital City empties out a bit and quietens down for the silly season to a large extent doesn’t mean we should all get lax and forget about the fact we’re in the grip of the global Covid-19 pandemic

Should we be following the Make Summer Unstoppable stuff?
Absolutely – as everyone’s saying, remember to slip, slap, slop, scan and sanitise – it’s time for us all to enjoy the summer break after a tough and challenging year like no other – time to get to our favourite New Zealand holiday hotspots and enjoy the beaches, baches, BBQs or whatever takes your fancy. But it’s also essential that everyone keeps one eye or ear on the news just in case we get a Covid-19 resurgence or there’s some other emergency. Check out the really useful Make Summer Unstoppable website for hot tips and updates.

If Wellingtonians are leaving town, what should they take?
Take your boogie boards, tents, sunblock – the books you’ve been meaning to read all year – all the usual holiday stuff – but don’t forget to pack facemasks for the family, hand sanitiser and other Covid-19 avoidance essentials just in case.

Who calls the shots in Wellington if there’s a resurgence?
Of course it’ll be Dr Ashley Bloomfield and his national and local health teams who’ll be leading any response – but we’ll have staff on hand to help out with community welfare and safety issues, as we did after the start of the national lockdown last March.


What keeps you awake at night, from an emergency management point of view?
Not a lot really – but I guess my main worry at this time of year is that a lot of people in the community have been doing it really hard this year – a lot of people have been stressed and worried and a lot of people are struggling financially. I’ll sleep easier if people are able to show some extra kindness this Christmas. Go easy on your family and friends – and strangers - and if you’re feeling fortunate, why not donate to a community charity or a foodbank to make life a bit easier for others.

What are you doing over the break? Can you cut loose and have some beers?
Yep I’ll be doing a bit of sailing, a bit of gardening and I might even try to catch up on the sourdough craze that I missed because we were full-on working through lockdown. And I’ll be having a couple of beers but all in moderation, given the job…