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Rules set for Port Hills fire inquiry

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/05/2017

The government has brought in an outside expert to lead an inquiry into how a devastating blaze in Christchurch's Port Hills was handled by fire authorities

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne on Tuesday announced the terms of reference for a review into the response to the fires that destroyed homes and prompted hundreds of evacuations in February.

Alan Goodwin of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Authorities Council has now been named as the head of that review.

"Appointing an independent reviewer will help ensure the findings are objectively assessed," Mr Dunne said.

The review will look at the fire services' readiness and planning, the complete handling of the fires and the post-incident management.

But it won't look at wider issues and other agencies, including the cause of the blaze, a fatal helicopter crash during the event, or the Civil Defence response - largely because these are being reviewed by other agencies.

The terms of reference also rule out reaching conclusions about "potential fault or liability" in connection with the fires.

"It is also tasked with recommending any actions that will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency with which the fire agencies carry out their respective statutory duties," Mr Dunne said.

The urban and rural fire agencies will become one body, called Fire and Emergency New Zealand, in July.

"This joint review approach also illustrates the coordinated and effective firefighting service we can provide to our communities when all rural and urban fire authorities become one," Mr Dunne said.

The Insurance Council said it paid about $18 million in about 160 claims after the fire.

At the time Civil Defence said at least nine homes had been destroyed.

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