A "woeful lack of preparedness and knowledge" by building owners is risking lives in the wake of natural disasters, a Royal Commission hearing was told yesterday.
A round table conference of 11 experts reflecting on the response to the Canterbury earthquakes has discussed how councils and government departments could improve their post-earthquake response procedures.
It comes as the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission nears the end of its hearings, which began last October, into building failures during the February 22, 2011, quake which claimed 185 lives.
Commission chairman Justice Mark Cooper asked the experts to air their concerns, saying it was better to be prepared for the worst.
"There's a lot of things that can be done better at leisure rather than in a crisis,'' he said.
Hindsight was not a pejorative term, it was how lessons were learned, he said.
Tony Sewell, president of the Property Council, took up the challenge to suggest: "There is a woeful lack of knowledge and preparedness in what an owner does in these events.
"There's also a woeful lack of systems in place to pick up that knowledge.
"But it must be put into context though that the property industry is an industry with no barrier to entry whatsoever. So the breadth of ownership in the industry is immense, from small low wealth individuals to large corporations and as such managing that process we understand will be quite difficult.''
John Hamilton, director of the Civil Defence emergency management headquarters in Wellington, admitted his department had failed to realise the full impact the quakes were having on the Canterbury population.
Mr Hamilton said the royal commission presented the opportunity to redevelop and refine procedures and he vowed people would be put ahead of rigid processes in the future.
Justice Cooper asked the panel if there should be a formally recognised role for GNS Science in giving advice on what lies ahead after an earthquake emergency.
Mr Hamilton said a Natural Hazards Research Platform has since been set up to help bridge that information gap.
However, he said there was a need for a full-time earthquake advisory panel of experts, similar to ones already in place for volcanos and tsunamis.
The city council's environmental policy and approvals manager Steve McCarthy said while there were 200 to 300 engineers who volunteered to help with the building inspections after the earthquakes, they had "struggled" with the size of the task and could've done with more help.
The hearing comes after an eight-week probe into the Canterbury Television building collapse in the February 2011 earthquake which claimed 115 lives.
Closing submissions from counsel assisting the commission and affected parties who wish to be heard on the CTV hearing are due for today and Thursday.
The royal commission has until November 12 to produce its final report.