A new national emergency bunker and a special "fly-in" team ready for immediate deployment are among the recommendations of a new report that shines a light on the holes in New Zealand's civil defence system.
And Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi says a "fly-in" team should be considered, but a new bunker would have a hefty price tag for a ministry that has an annual baseline budget of $11 million.
The recommendations are part of the ministerial report Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies, which Faafoi released today.
It said the current system has "patchy capability" across the country, variations in performance, and different understandings about roles, responsibilities and authority.
It further noted that intelligence infrastructure and hardware was inadequate, and the civil defence legislation could be clearer.
"Regularly we heard that the authority to act, or the authority to task someone, either does not exist or is not clear. This situation can lead to a lack of co-ordination, no one really in charge, and the risk of poor outcomes for the community," the report said.
"There was a call for greater clarity and direction in the legislation (fewer 'Mays' and more 'musts') and for more proactive leadership nationally - both in planning and in response. As one submitter noted, 'Wellington is good at writing guidelines and [Groups] are good at ignoring them'."
Faafoi said the current system was "holding up okay", but needed improvement.
"Looking at the Kaikoura earthquake [in 2016], you've got people acting in civil defence roles who have other full-time jobs as well. The report suggests more professionalisation.
"Those small things that get done in the white-hot pressure of the first part of a response can make a big difference to what resources you can bring in, and making calls as to whether people can stay in their homes."
The report made a number of recommendations, including:
• A new national emergency management agency with a stronger role in setting and enforcing national standards.
• Giving mayors primary authority for declaring states of local emergency, as well as the option to declare a "major incident".
• National standards and professional development for all emergency management staff.
• A cadre of professionals to act as "fly-in teams" covering planning, logistics, intelligence and communications.
• Including iwi in the response to emergencies.
• A new fit-for-purpose all-of-government National Crisis Management Centre with capability for 24/7 monitoring and alerting.
The report said the National Crisis Management Centre, known as the Beehive Bunker, as "outmoded and no longer fit-for-purpose".
Faafoi said a new bunker would come with a hefty price tag and would be a longer-term consideration.
"The bunker as it stands will do the job if something were to happen tomorrow, heaven forbid."
He said a "fly-in" team should be seriously considered, but would also come with a price tag.
"Fly-in" teams helped with the Kaikoura earthquake, as well as the Whakatane cyclones and the drinking water contamination in Havelock North.
"These staff have not, however, been ready to go on an hour's notice, so deployment has taken a day or two," the report said.
"Our findings indicate that this 'fly-in team' is a much-needed resource that would provide assurance - to the public and to the Government."
Faafoi said the role of iwi should be formalised, which would have prevented the situation in Kaikoura where local iwi were denied emergency resources, even though they were feeding and housing people in the marae.
"There was some frustration there. [We should be] making sure they have some official standing in the response."
Faafoi will take the next four months to consult with key stakeholders on the recommendations. With cross-party support, legislative changes could be in place within a year - or sooner, if necessary.