Return to main menu. Return to Guide contents page. Meet the team. Using the DecisionMaker Guide site. Places on the web that interest us.
Order your copy of the Guide or other DecisionMaker publications.
A directory of government agencies.
Exercises and worksheets for highschool students.
Link to the big picture
Link to How the law works
Link to How Parliament works Link to How government works

Search in DecisionMaker

Archived Government 06-09
Archived Government 02-05
Making a difference
The role of the Prime Minister
The role of the Leader of the Opposition
Government and MMP
Making the hard decisions
Cabinet Committees
New Zealand Cabinet Ministers
What Ministers do
Standards in public life
Ministerial Services
Servants of the public
The State Services Commissioner
Role of the State Services Commission
Review of the Centre
Managing the money
The role of government in the economy
Official Information Act
The central bank
Saving - the future
Planning for difference
Working for equality
How your voice may be heard
Climate change - it's our future
Building a fairer and safer New Zealand
Role of a government chief executive
Making NZ's case overseas
NZAID - New Zealand's aid agency
The right to fish
Even Kia Ora makes a difference
Security of the Nation
Resilient New Zealand
Local government and the new law
Local government in action
Different ways of seeing
New Zealand citizenship
Tertiary education on the move
Skills to chart a way through life
Welcome to New Zealand government - coming to a computer near you!




Resilient New Zealand

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management
CDEM Act 2002
Central government agencies
Local authorities
National Crisis Management Centre
The 4 Rs to resilience

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.
In addition to natural hazards, technological expansion and reliance on lifeline utilities like power, water, sewerage, communications and transport systems make us more vulnerable. Add to this the threats of international terrorism, and those posed by the release of hazardous substances or organisms and we have a range of hazards that can have a significant impact on individuals and communities, our environment, health and economy.
Today, we understand better what causes disasters, and the impact they can have on our communities. There is a great deal we can do to reduce their impact, and to be better prepared to deal with, respond to and recover from them when they occur.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management

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.
The Ministry is a semi-autonomous body within the Department of Internal Affairs, and is headed by a Director, responsible to the Minister of Civil Defence. It has its head office in Wellington, and offices in Auckland and Christchurch.

CDEM Act 2002

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.

Central government agencies

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

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.
This has in the past been fragmented with 74 territorial authorities, 12 regional councils, and assorted emergency services and other agencies. Regional coordination and cooperation are cornerstones of the new Act, and require local authorities to establish 14 cross-boundary regional CDEM groups.

National Crisis Management Centre

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 or crisis.
The Ministry also seeks to build strong international alliances with our neighbours to ensure resources, cooperation and mutually supportive arrangements are in place.

The 4 Rs to resilience

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!

Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management
PO Box 5010,Wellington
Tel: (04) 473 7363
Fax: (04) 473 7369




Photo of Wellington's motorway with earthquake damage.

A simulated photograph of Wellington's motorways after a major earthquake.

Photo of erupting volcano.

Auckland, our largest city, is built on a volcanic field.