The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management
The awesome effects of nature are a fact of life in New Zealand. Earthquakes, floods, storms and volcanic eruptions, and the impact of man-made hazards all have the potential for significant social and economic disruption.
Flooding is the number one cause of declared civil defence emergencies in New Zealand. It costs us more than $125 million each year, and this is in addition to the millions it costs in flood protection measures and insurance. New Zealand has about 200 felt earthquakes a year, and thousands of smaller ones are recorded. Scientists tell us with disturbing conviction to expect a major earthquake on the Alpine Fault within the next 20 years.
There are seven active volcanic regions in New Zealand, and our largest
city is built on a volcanic field. Other significant natural hazards include
snow, wind, landslide, coastal erosion, storm surge and tsunami.
The Ministry’s key task is to establish frameworks for New Zealand communities to understand and manage the risks we live with. The vision is for a Resilient New Zealand of strong communities understanding and managing their hazards.
From its establishment on 1 July 1999, the fundamental aim for the Ministry
has been to work with central and local government, emergency services,
utilities and other key agencies to promote a new way of thinking about
civil defence and emergency management. The focus is on a risk-based approach
that will reduce hazards and increase the capability of communities and
individuals to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
In December 2002, the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002 replaced the Civil Defence Act 1983. It creates a framework within which New Zealand must address hazards and prepare for, deal with, and recover from local, regional and national emergencies and encourages coordination across a wide range of agencies. It also stipulates clearly the roles and responsibilities of key agencies, in particular central government agencies, local authorities, emergency services and lifeline utilities.
The broad nature of emergency planning means that central government structures and roles are many and varied. The Ministry is engaging with other government agencies, in particular those departments listed in Schedule 1 of the State Sector Act 1988. as having responsibilities under the CDEM Act.
Primarily, these central government departments are required to ensure their department is able to function to the fullest possible extent, even though this may be at a reduced level, during and after an emergency. In addition, departments are expected to participate in the development of the National CDEM Strategy and National CDEM Plan and provide technical advice on CDEM issues as needed.
Local authorities (regional, city and district councils) play a vital role in delivering emergency management services at the community level.
Local authorities have specific emergency planning responsibilities and
access to extraordinary powers during a declared emergency. Collectively,
local emergency management arrangements contribute substantially to New
Zealand’s preparedness for disasters.
In the event of a national level disaster, a national emergency can be declared by the Minister over all, or part of New Zealand. Once this declaration is made, the Ministry’s Director will be responsible for coordinating the national response to the emergency.
A priority for the Ministry is to ensure that New Zealand has the capability
to manage a disaster of national significance. Commissioned in 1972 and
located in the Beehive sub-basement, the former National Emergency
Operations Centre is in the process of being substantially upgraded into
a National Crisis Management Centre equipped to deal with any type of event
Civil defence emergency management is focused on consciously planning and acting to reduce social and economic impacts and improve recovery. Emergency management covers the ‘4 Rs’:
Identifying and analysing long-term risks to human life and property from natural or man-made hazards, and taking steps to eliminate these risks where practicable, and where not, reduce the likelihood and the magnitude of their impact.
Developing operational systems and capabilities before a disaster happens. These include self-help and response programmes for the general public as well as specific programmes for emergency services.
Actions taken immediately before, during or directly after a disaster to save lives and property, as well as help communities to recover.
Activities beginning after initial impact has been stabilised and extending
until the community’s capacity for self-help has been restored.
Find out more!
A simulated photograph of Wellington's motorways after a major earthquake.
Auckland, our largest city, is built on a volcanic field.