Various agencies work together to manage emergencies and keep people safe. Find out who does what in an emergency.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups

Most small scale emergencies are managed by the relevant emergency service, for example Fire and Emergency New Zealand for building fires or small vegetation fires.

For small-medium scale events caused by natural hazards such as floods, and earthquakes the local council or Civil Defence Emergency Management Group manages the response. CDEM Groups are made up of the city and district councils in a region.

There are sixteen CDEM Groups in New Zealand.

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The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management has information on finding your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

State of local emergency

For emergencies that cannot be dealt with solely by an emergency service or needs co-ordination across services, a state of local emergency may be declared. This gives the relevant CDEM Group special powers to deal with the emergency.

In these cases the relevant CDEM Group manages the response to the emergency. This includes co-ordinating other emergency services, ensuring temporary accommodation, food and water are available, access to dangerous areas is properly controlled and regular public information messages are provided. CDEM Groups may assist sometimes where states of emergencies are not declared.

State of national emergency

For very large emergencies the Minister of Civil Defence can declare a state of national emergency (as happened for the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake). In this case the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management assumes control, with the management of the event being led by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

Other work of Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups

Outside of emergencies, CDEM Group’s key role is to help build more resilient local and regional communities. This includes working to reduce risks and hazards communities face, planning for emergency responses and often leading recovery after a significant event.

In doing this Groups work closely with emergency services, government departments, iwi, providers of essential services such as power, communications, and gas, and others who help people and communities in emergency responses.  

Each Group is required to have in place a Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan. The Plans must, among other things, provide for which hazards and risks are to be managed by the Group, how they will be managed, along with strategic planning for recovery from hazards and risks.   

Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM)

Outside of emergencies, MCDEM promotes greater community and individual resilience to disasters. It also oversees New Zealand’s emergency management system to ensure it’s operating as expected and to identify opportunities for improvement.

MCDEM works to ensure there is good understanding and co-ordination at local, regional and national levels, including amongst government, iwi, local government, private and community organisations.

It assists identifying hazards and risks of national significance, provides guidance to CDEM Groups and others on emergency management and monitors the performance of CDEM groups. 

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Find out more about the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.