Plan released to strengthen the role of Civil Defence

By Kate Shuttleworth

Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain. Photo / Glenn Taylor

An inter-agency plan was released today to strengthen the role of Civil Defence, so it can better respond to civil emergencies such as the Christchurch earthquake.

The Corrective Action Plan brings together the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the State Services Commission, police, the fire service, Defence Force and the Ministries of Social Development, Health, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Business Innovation and Employment.

The plan comes after an independent review, released in October, found the response to the Christchurch earthquake was punctuated by poor communication between the Christchurch City Council and Civil Defence, which put people and property at risk.

It made 108 recommendations on what could be done better in future emergency responses, including greater cooperation between different central and local government agencies and emergency services.

Local councils will retain the ability to control responses to civil emergencies after a Cabinet decision not to adopt a recommendation from an independent review of Civil Defence.

The action plan released by Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain today aimed to provide a more efficient interagency plan. Mr Tremain said the plan was based around 10 themes, and addressed the response to 108 recommendations from an independent review of emergency response to the Christchurch earthquake.

"While many of the actions are relatively straightforward, some will involve work programmes which could take up to two years to complete."

After the independent review of Civil Defence, six major recommendations were put forward to Cabinet.

It has recommended territorial authorities, or local councils, should no longer have power to control the response to emergencies, but they still have the power to declare them.

It recommended moving the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) from the Department of Internal Affairs to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Cabinet decided local councils will retain the power to control the response to an emergency.

MCDEM would work closely with regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups that needed strengthening.

Cabinet disagreed with the review's recommendation to move MCDEM, deciding it would remain a business unit within the Department of Internal Affairs. Other recommendations would be put into place including appointing a group of highly trained managers to control large-scale emergency responses.


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