Watch: Inside the Beehive bunker during a national emergency

The Beehive bunker has been humming along for one month today — first getting into gear for the Auckland floods and then continuing for Cyclone Gabrielle.

The name "bunker" provokes a sense of mystique and intrigue.

Even a French news crew has inquired about filming there, perhaps in the hope of finding the prime minister hiding out.

But this is no doomsday den, although it is sealed off by a bank vault-like door with a set of emergency axes and hammers behind it. Oh, and there's even a bunk room for staff pulling all-nighters. But that's where the "end of days" feeling ends.

Its official name is the Emergency Crisis Management Centre.

It's the base layer in the Beehive layer cake, about 5m underground. Perhaps less like a cake — more like a doughnut.

"It's a circle, so you can't get lost. You can only go the wrong direction," NEMA controller Charlie Blanch said.

It's a late-1960s circular wonder filled with computer screens and monitors. But sometimes, the crew likes to get back to basics.

"At times, we rely on very traditional technology, so laminated maps and the ability to scribble something on that, but we work with partner agencies being able to pull together layers of geographic information," Blanch said.

All the teams are colour coded, denoting their areas of expertise. For example, Blanch wears white because he's the controller.

He shows me an impressive-looking room, and I ask if it's our version of America's situation room. Not quite, but important decisions are made there.

"Everyone can tell it's an important meeting room because it's got the shiny swivel chairs in it," Blanch said.

I ask him what's the idea of emergency management centres being underground.

"I think it's some sort of historical precedent there, from sort of the 1950s ideas of civil defence. Nowadays, in our setting, we'd probably choose to put a new facility in a different space," he responded.

So, is this the safest place in New Zealand I ask the team. No, they laugh.

Right, well time to exit the bunker, I think.


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