Proposed law change will improve communities’ recovery from emergencies

  • Nikki Kaye
Civil Defence

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye today announced the introduction of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Amendment Bill, which will strengthen the law to help communities recover from small to moderate scale emergencies.

“In June I announced that Cabinet had approved changes to the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act to improve recovery from these emergencies, and this Bill will give effect to those changes,” says Ms Kaye.

“This is about helping communities get back on their feet more quickly after an emergency.”

Small to moderate scale emergencies are the most frequent types of emergency experienced in New Zealand.

“When there’s an emergency, over time the focus switches from response to recovery and we need to better manage that transition.

“Historically, most attention has been given to preparing for and responding to an event. However, as we have seen in the Manawatu-Whanganui region following the severe storm in June, the clean-up and recovery phase can involve a huge amount of work.

“The new law will give clarity to those leading this work, and help ensure it can be carried out as swiftly and effectively as possible. It will do this by providing appropriate authority for those directing, coordinating and managing the recovery.

“As well as providing a legislative mandate for recovery managers, the Bill will require that recovery planning is carried out. It will also provide powers to support the transition to recovery, through the creation of transition notices.

“Examples of powers that recovery managers will have under a transition notice include:

  • preventing people from entering land or areas that may be dangerous
  • conserving limited fuel resources in isolated communities, to prevent a run on fuel supplies
  • shoring up dangerous structures.

“It’s proposed that these powers could only be used during a defined transition phase. Their use must be proportionate, reflecting the consequences and scale of the emergency, and they must only be exercised to the extent reasonably necessary for the public interest.

“This Bill is the latest step in ongoing work to improve our civil defence and emergency management system.

“It follows developments such as:

  • integrating the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), to strengthen our ability to plan for and respond to large-scale emergencies and coordinate the national support needed
  • revising the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in reducing risks and preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies
  • actioning the Corrective Action Plan developed by MCDEM to implement recommendations from the Independent Review of the CDEM Response to the Christchurch Earthquake.

“While this Bill focuses on small to moderate emergencies, a second stage of legislative review will focus on large-scale emergencies. This second stage will be closely aligned with the review of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, to enable a consistent approach to supporting recovery from emergencies, as well as the ongoing recovery in Canterbury.

“Minister Brownlee recently announced a plan that sets out the path from recovery to the regeneration of greater Christchurch.”

The Bill will now go through the appropriate parliamentary processes, including reading in the house and consideration by select committee.