Speech to Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management ‘National Controllers’ Forum’

  • Nikki Kaye
Civil Defence

Delivered by Sarah Stuart-Black, Acting Director Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management

Thank you for inviting me to open your annual National Controllers’ Forum for a second year.

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to acknowledge the important role you play in emergencies, and to join you as you learn, share ideas and reflect on the past and the future.

Moving to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

As you’re all aware, this year the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) shifted out of the Department of Internal Affairs, and into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). 

This has been a positive move, which is already seeing MCDEM work closely with other teams in DPMC, to strengthen New Zealand’s ability to respond to, and plan for, major disasters. 

The move also better aligns civil defence emergency management to DPMC’s role in leading the co-ordination of national security planning, risk management and resilience.

John Hamilton’s retirement

Another big change this year was the retirement of John Hamilton, from his role of Director of the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

Last month, I attended a function at Premier House to farewell John, and to thank him for the excellent work he did throughout his time at the Ministry.

I really appreciate the fact that he stayed on through the transition to DPMC, to see that important move through.

John has made a big contribution to developing civil defence emergency management in New Zealand, building capabilities and capacities that have helped form resilient communities.

John impressed me with his steady, confident leadership during business as usual, as well as many domestic emergencies.

Of course, this included his leadership as National Controller during New Zealand’s first ever state of national emergency, following the February 22nd earthquake in Christchurch in 2011.

John’s calm and considered style gave New Zealand confidence during some of our darkest hours.

Building strong, well-prepared and resilient communities is at the heart of civil defence emergency management in New Zealand.

Because of the measures John put in place to strengthen our CDEM framework, I have every faith that the transition to a new Director will be a smooth one.

Controllers play a crucial role, not only in controlling and coordinating responses, but in making sure structures are in place and communities are prepared when emergencies happen.

I appreciate the demanding role you have, and the commitment you make to it.

Ministerial priorities

In April, I finalised my priorities for the Ministry’s 2014-15 work programme with John.

They are:

  • Completing the Christchurch response Corrective Action Plan initiatives
  • Revising the National CDEM Plan, established through an Order in Council
  • Progressing legislative change in the CDEM Act 2002 for recovery from small to moderate scale emergencies, and scoping a potential blueprint for recovery legislation following a significant emergency
  • Developing the business case for public alerting
  • Continuing the capability assessment of CDEM groups
  • Completing the Controllers’ development programme, and
  • Exploring opportunities for closer integration of CDEM/MCDEM in the national security framework.

I added a further priority – to develop a five-year partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I also noted the other actions needed to complete MCDEM’s transfer to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Let’s look at some of the priorities in more detail.

Revising the National CDEM Plan

The National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan, which has been in place since July 2006, is being revised and updated.

This is so it takes into account developments in CDEM practice and lessons learned from the Canterbury earthquakes response, and so that it meets statutory obligations under the CDEM Act.

The revised arrangements in the Plan were developed jointly with agencies that have responsibilities under the Plan.

Consultation was extensive, both within the sector and via a public consultation period earlier this year.

The Ministry received 45 submissions, with around 700 individual comments on aspects of the Plan.

Submissions indicate the Plan is of primary interest to the CDEM sector, and the revised arrangements provide greater clarity and understanding.

The Ministry is currently assessing the submissions, along with the other agencies, and expects to have the analysis finished by December.

I will recommend the final Plan to Cabinet and the Governor General early in 2015.

Then it will be scheduled to come into force, with the Guide to the National CDEM Plan, in mid to late 2015.

Public alerting

Public alerting is a topic I’ve been pursuing for some time, and as you heard, it’s one of my priorities on the Ministry work programme.

You will probably know that we’ve secured an appropriation to propose a business case this year, and the Ministry is leading this work towards a public alerting system.

Following an extensive series of workshops with stakeholder agencies, including the CDEM Group and telecommunication providers, a draft indicative business case will be consulted with agencies and yourselves in December.

I intend to take it to Cabinet in February.

The outcome I want to get from this indicative business case is an agreement by Cabinet on a preferred option.

That will allow the detailed business case to be developed for final approval, and enable us to go to market.

We aim to have something up and running in the next financial year. I’m aware this topic is on today’s agenda, so I’m sure you will be filled in on the detail.

Review of legislative framework

Another of my priorities is the Ministry-led review of the legislative recovery framework.

This includes progressing options for legislative change in the CDEM Act 2002, for recovery from small to moderate scale emergencies.

It also includes scoping a potential blueprint for recovery legislation following a significant emergency.

Like response, recovery can be complex.

It involves many parties, much resource and difficult decision-making. It requires strong management and effective coordination.

The Canterbury earthquakes showed that the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act provides adequately for the direction, coordination and management of response.

As other smaller scale emergencies have also shown, however, the Act has few provisions related to recovery, or the transition from response to recovery.

Stage one of the project, a review of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, is underway.

The review aims to create a framework in the CDEM Act that will better support recovery management, to ensure a timely, effective and focused recovery.

This includes better managing the transition from a focus on response, to a focus on immediate recovery.

The scope of the review is recovery from small to moderate scale emergencies, for all hazards.

CDEM Groups were recently consulted on a set of proposals to amend the Act.

Their feedback will help MCDEM refine or change the proposals, to make sure they’re necessary, workable and fit-for-purpose.

Their earlier feedback on draft options was helpful in refining ideas.

It’s my intention to introduce a Bill to amend the Act in 2015.

Stage two of the review will concern recovery from an emergency of significant scale – something akin to the February 2011 earthquake in Canterbury.

Stage Two will commence in 2015.

Controllers’ Development Programme

As Controllers, your decision-making and leadership skills, combined with your sound knowledge of civil defence emergency management and understanding of the needs of your communities, make you the right people for the job.

Last year, you asked me to help secure finance to develop a Controllers’ Development Programme, to give Controllers an option for specialised, professional development in their role.

I’m delighted that the first cohort of the CDEM Controllers’ Development Programme is now underway. This is being delivered by Massey University, along with AUT and MCDEM, and has seen 18 people embark on a journey of almost two years to become accredited CDEM Controllers. 

Their residential course was completed last week.

The programme highlights the importance of grounding research and teaching to Emergency Management practice – bringing together the capability and knowledge of Massey and AUT, with the experience of international experts.

I look forward to seeing a review of the pilot programme’s structure, systems, content and delivery early next year.

I also look forward to hearing from those of you currently taking the course. 

Your feedback will make sure the next cohort, starting in April, get the most out of the programme.

Concluding remarks

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

I trust you will make the most of the opportunity to share and learn from each other, and strengthen your already strong sense of community.