Categories: ISCRAM2006 Conference


Resolving resilience: CDEM, risks, and information management in New Zealand

Peter R Wood, Emergency Management Planner (National Plan), Ministry of Civil Defense & Emergency Management 


Civil Defense Emergency Management (CDEM) is New Zealandís response to the uncertainties of the next ìbig one.î New Zealand”s location on the boundary of two or the Earth”s tectonic plates makes it vulnerable to earthquake, volcano, and tsunami. As an island nation in the “roaring forties” and surrounded by vast areas of southern ocean, New Zealand is also vulnerable to extreme weather and the related storms, floods, landslides and erosion. Additional are the risks of any developed country including life-line failure (energy, telecommunication, water, and transportation), hazardous materials, biosecurity, and commercial failures. Risks are treated through strategies that address sustainability and combine legislation requirements, such as the Resource Management Act and the Building Act; with regulations; codes; good practice guidelines; and risk management practices such as those of the Australian and New Zealand standard (AS/NZ4360:2004). Information is essential for risk assessment, mitigation, and monitoring; information that represents the natural, built, social, and economic environments to relevant spatial and temporal resolutions.

New Zealandís Civil Defense and Emergency Management Act (2002), promotes risk reduction, readiness, response, and recovery; known locally as the 4Rs; the equivalent of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery (PPRR). The ì4Rsî acknowledge that some hazard risks, as from earthquake, canít be totally prevented. The CDEM Act addresses all hazards and all risks but most are principally addressed through other legislation, as for: Health; Biosecurity; Fire Service; and Hazardous substances and new organisms. CDEM encourages local communities to understand and manage their own risks, supported by agencies of local government and central government. Increasing local resilience is the goal. Risk can be treated by appropriate land use, development, building, and engineering, insurance, business continuity plans, and emergency plans. However, there is always a residual risk.

CDEM developments in New Zealand are to serve local needs but occur in an International context. Increasingly, international best practices are sought; benefits include improved interactions with global emergency management actors, such as United Nations Disaster assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), but also more consistent support to developing Pacific Island neighbors.

Risk management is ongoing, more or less business-as-usual. At times of civil defense emergencies or crises, business-as-usual systems and information are augmented, for the emergency response and recovery, by collecting and analyzing highly variable information that describes the impacts of the emergency. Information is a key to successful emergency or crisis management, but emergency information is but a discrete part of time-continuous business-as-usual information. Information management is evolving in New Zealand, addressing interoperability, dispersed geospatial data, internet-communities, and associated standards. CDEM is also evolving, including the attributes and systems for CDEM information.