(Speech delivered on Mr Elder's behalf by Gerry Brownlee MP)
On behalf of the Minister of Civil Defence, Jack Elder, I would like to welcome you all here tonight to this celebration of a decade of the lifeline movement's growth and development.
The Minister was very much looking forward to being with us tonight but, due to family illness, he has had to return to his home in Auckland.
Before doing so, he asked me if I would deliver the comments he had planned to make, which I am pleased to do.
You are celebrating 10 years of considerable achievement in the Lifeline movement's growth and development. When I mentioned this function to someone recently they thought it was something to do with the Samaritans/Youthline telephone counselling services.
On reflection, I suppose it's a reasonable deduction to make. You're working with strategies to build a better future by averting or at least recovering from what may well be the ashes and rubble of disaster and adversity.
Lifelines brings together a range of public utility and transportation sector organisations.
The focus has moved from a largely scientific and engineering discipline to a broader risk-management approach. Following the success of the original Wellington project, there are now 12 active lifeline projects throughout New Zealand.
The lifelines movement contributes substantially to the achievement of national goals relating to:
making our communities safer;
encouraging and enabling communities to be active in avoiding and overcoming emergencies;
protecting our social and economic infrastructure from the adverse effects of emergencies.
The Government is moving to improve and to update New Zealand's emergency management framework.
There have been two recent and important developments in this area.
A new Ministry is being established, to be called the ‘Ministry for Emergency Management'. It will provide leadership to the sector.
The Government has also approved policy proposals for an Emergency Management Bill to repeal and to replace the Civil Defence Act 1983.
Civil defence will remain core business for the new Ministry, but it is important to understand the meaning of ‘emergency management':
It places much greater emphasis on removing or reducing the hazards and risks that threaten our communities.
It will involve a number of sectors, whose activities impact on emergency management outcomes, consulting and working more closely together
And Emergency Management is better at ensuring that populations are safe and that the economy is resilient.
The Emergency Management Bill proposals are all about doing much more than just preparing for, responding to and trying to recover from emergencies.
It will mean individuals, enterprise and communities working proactively to reduce or to eliminate adverse effects
It will see local authority emergency management groups (EMGs) working in partnership with emergency services, lifeline utilities and others.
Some other key improvements the Bill will bring are:
a clear guiding statement by the Crown about New Zealand's emergency management goals and objectives;
emergent hazards and risks will be more easily addressed;
barriers to the development of new and innovative solutions will be removed;
arrangements in relation to a national emergency will be updated;
The legislation will also bring very flexible and cost-effective mechanisms to determine and to manage our social and economic exposures in relation to the New Zealand hazardscape.
It is likely that the Bill will reinforce the key roles and responsibilities of lifeline utilities. This particularly applies in relation to:
the adoption of strategies and plans to ensure services continue to the fullest possible extent during and after an emergency;
participation in the development of other emergency management strategies and plans;
the provision of advice to emergency management groups and to the Ministry for Emergency Management.
As I have said many times partnership is the key to success
None of this new emergency management system can happen without everyone working together. It involves all community sectors, with the new Ministry of Emergency Management acting as a "broker" in co-ordinating the different elements. Everyone has a role and responsibilities, and, with individuals and organisations like Lifelines we can develop a streamlined, effective system that meets the challenges ahead.
New Zealand is leading the world in taking this comprehensive, risk management approach throughout a whole country. We have the opportunity to establish new standards in international best practice, standards that will see other countries follow the example we set.