Pandemic on Great Barrier Island – Awana Branch event

September 11, 2015 10:57 pm

Imagine a global pandemic that swept the world, killing everyone in its wake.

Imagine if Great Barrier Island was the only place to be successfully isolated from the virus, leaving the 900 residents to rebuild humanity.

Awana Branch of Rural Women NZ will pose this scenario to four experts at the No Barriers – small Island, big ideas panel discussion exploring pandemics on Saturday 12 September.

The panelists will give insight into how such a pandemic would play out. The panelists include Virologist Associate Professor Lance Jennings, John Titmus Civil Defence Northern Regional Coordinator, Disaster Researcher Professor David Johnston, and Young Adult Fantasy writer Karen Healey. The panel will be moderated by well-known microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles. Also in attendance will be Civil Defence Minister and local MP Nikki Kaye.

The event is not as far-fetched as it seems. The last major global pandemic in 1918 killed an estimated 20-40 million people and was notorious for its rapid onset and progression to respiratory failure and death. The highest number of deaths occurred in the 20-40 age group.

“The scenario is not entirely impossible,” says Dr Lance Jennings. “Isolating Great Barrier Island as a sanctuary is perfectly feasible.” Dr Jennings added that if a pandemic did get out of hand, Civil Defence would take over much of the running of the country, including isolating communities to contain the virus.

Professor Johnston knows the challenges communities face in times of disaster, having focused his research on human responses to natural disasters and crisis decision-making. “Communities can be amazingly resilient in times of disaster – especially without the interference of bureaucracy,” says Professor Johnston.

Karen Healey will be discussing the “what ifs.” What if the bad guys take over Great Barrier? What if a resident’s best friend tries to sneak onto the Island? What if the young residents decide to kill all the old ones?

The aim of the event is to make people aware of disaster preparedness through a scenario that will capture people’s imagination. It is a free event and off-Islanders are welcome. Be there and survive!

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