Part 3: Effectiveness of arrangements for co-ordinating civilian maritime patrols

Public entities’ progress in implementing the Auditor-General’s recommendations 2012.


In April 2010, we published a performance audit report called Effectiveness of arrangements for co-ordinating civilian maritime patrols. At the time of our 2010 audit, the National Maritime Control Centre (NMCC) was expected to become more effective in co-ordinating maritime patrols as new systems and patrol resources were introduced.

A core group of six government entities5 are the main users of maritime patrols (the core agencies), and the major provider is the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet also has an interest in maritime patrols.

The scope of our performance audit

Our audit examined how effectively maritime patrols were co-ordinated to support the country's maritime interests. The audit focused on the NMCC, and included the government agencies that use maritime patrols and the providers of patrol aircraft and ships.

Our findings and recommendations

In general, we found that, although the NMCC had an appropriate framework to effectively co-ordinate maritime patrols, improvements were needed for NMCC to make the most effective use of the better patrol resources.

We made six recommendations covering three issues:

  • improving strategic guidance for the NMCC;
  • clarifying the mandate for separate patrol co-ordination arrangements; and
  • improving patrol planning and measuring effectiveness.

The response to our recommendations

We have reviewed the progress that has been made during the last two years to address our recommendations. We found that only one recommendation has been addressed fully. Limited progress has been made addressing the other recommendations. We consider that the public entities involved must focus on preparing a strategy that sets out the main priorities for civilian maritime patrols, with clear deliverables, objectives, and performance targets. We consider that, in the current environment of constrained patrol resources, this strategy is particularly important to ensure that the resources are allocated to provide the greatest benefit.

NZDF has had significant delays in bringing the Naval Patrol Force and the upgraded P3 Orion fleet into service and making them available to the NMCC for civilian maritime patrols. For the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), the delay in the delivery of the Naval Patrol Force, together with an ongoing need to fix shortfalls in capability, means that the Naval Patrol Force went into service two years later than planned. The Naval Patrol Force will not operate at full operational capacity until trials are completed. The upgrade of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's P3 Orion fleet has also been delayed.

Our detailed analysis of the response to our recommendations is set out below.

Improving strategic guidance for the National Maritime Control Centre

During our 2010 audit, we found that little strategic and operational guidance underpinned the NMCC's Governance Framework, despite the framework clearly directing that a maritime patrol strategy be prepared and what the form and content of the strategy should be.

In 2009, NMCC began a project to produce a high-level strategy in keeping with the NMCC's Governance Framework. Because of the difficulties some agencies had in detailing their strategic objectives, this project was not completed. However, a National Maritime Coordination Centre Concept of Operations was agreed and published. The Concept of Operations is limited in scope and does not address the requirements of the Governance Framework. It lacks specific medium-term strategic goals for maritime patrols.

The shortfall in the available maritime patrol assets compared to what was assessed as necessary in the Maritime Patrol Review6 makes it more important that the assets are managed and co-ordinated to the country's greatest benefit. It is important to have a high-level strategy that clearly sets out national maritime priorities, with clear deliverables, objectives, and performance targets, to ensure that the civilian patrol assets that are available are allocated to provide the greatest net benefit rather than to meet an individual public entity's operational needs. The core agencies that we spoke to agree that this is particularly important in the current economic environment.

In our 2010 report, we recommended that the NMCC and the other organisations involved or interested in maritime patrols review the governance of the NMCC Reference Group to ensure that it effectively meets strategic leadership needs and that there are as many benefits from this arrangement as possible.

The roles of the NMCC Reference Group and the NMCC Working Group were reviewed. As a result of the review, a single governance body – the NMCC Higher Level Steering Group – replaced the two groups. The Higher Level Steering Group meets quarterly. The Group's role includes providing strategic leadership to the NMCC. The Group is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the NMCC's effectiveness, and reporting to the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC) through the Comptroller of Customs.

In our 2010 report, we noted that the core agencies had to establish better guidance on an appropriate level of patrolling. We considered that this work was fundamental to supporting a broader evaluation of patrol effectiveness and assessing whether patrol capability adequately meets needs.

In 2009, in the absence of a high-level strategy, the NMCC introduced the Risk-Based Surveillance Plan. This plan, which is independently reviewed, allocates resources to the maritime areas that the core agencies consider pose the greatest risk to the country's security. It is being introduced gradually throughout all the core agencies. When the plan becomes part of the NMCC's and core agencies' business processes, it will help provide a clearer understanding of the level of surveillance required.

We recommended that the NMCC, the NZDF, and the core agencies re-assess what they require of civilian patrols to establish better guidance on what patrolling is needed. The level of patrolling should be reconsidered when better information comes in and when needs change.

Those involved must decide what an appropriate level of patrolling is. A new planning process should better identify core needs.

Clarifying the mandate for separate patrol co-ordination arrangements

In our 2010 report, we made two recommendations about separate patrol arrangements. The first was that the NMCC and the core agencies review whether separate patrol co-ordination arrangements are needed. If separate co-ordination arrangements are needed, the rationale and mandate for these should be recorded. The second recommendation was that the NMCC monitor any separate patrol co-ordination arrangements and report on their effectiveness to ODESC to ensure that these arrangements do not make patrol co-ordination less effective.

The NMCC has reviewed the separate patrol arrangements. New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) had separate patrols arrangements before NMCC was set up. Now, the New Zealand Police uses the NMCC process for operations that require maritime patrol assets.

MFAT uses maritime patrol assets to patrol the Pacific and Southern Oceans. Watch groups have been established for both oceans. The Pacific Patrol Watch Group, chaired by the NMCC, provides a forum for co-ordinating the country's patrol activity in the Pacific. In consultation with the Ministry of Fisheries, MFAT chairs the Southern Ocean Watch Group. The NMCC takes part in this group.

The NMCC considers that these processes would be more effective if they were integrated with the other planning mechanisms. This would give the NMCC more influence on the prioritisation of tasks and how assets are used.

MFAT told us that its work in the Pacific and Southern Oceans has to be co-ordinated with other countries' patrols and the Southern Ocean fishing season.

ODESC recently asked the NMCC to carry out a review of the separate patrol arrangements and set out what those patrols are required to do.

Improving patrol planning and measuring effectiveness

In our 2010 report, we made two recommendations to improve patrol planning and measure its effectiveness. The first recommendation was that the NMCC, the NZDF, and the core agencies work together to better understand the timing of the agencies' patrol needs. This information can then be used to more effectively schedule and plan civilian and military use of maritime patrol aircraft and ships. The second recommendation was that the NMCC ensure that the information it collects on patrols allows it to robustly assess how effectively patrol aircraft and ships are used, so that any gaps or issues that it identifies can be addressed through the appropriate governance mechanism.

Some progress has been made in addressing our first recommendation. The Risk-Based Surveillance Plan has provided better guidance on where surveillance patrols are required. The plan helps agencies to identify those maritime areas that collectively pose the highest risk to the country. These areas are prioritised and patrol assets are allocated to the areas of highest priority. The core agencies are asked what they require in the identified priority areas. The NMCC and NZDF together decide what patrol and surveillance resources or mix of resources will get the required results. A project is under way to validate and improve this process.

Limited progress has been made in addressing the second recommendation. The NMCC told us that, although information is collected, it needs better tools for managing data to make this information readily available. To work out what it requires to manage data, the NMCC has begun some related projects.

The NMCC has completed Investment Logic Mapping (ILM) to upgrade the Multi-Agency Network (Restricted), or MAN-R. The MAN-R is the NMCC's main tool for managing information. However, the NMCC considers that, for technical reasons, the MAN-R's uses are limited. ILM is the first stage in presenting a business case for funding to upgrade the network.

In 2010, the NMCC carried out an Information Management Review that made recommendations on how best to manage the information that it receives. It is addressing these recommendations, most of which require the MAN-R to be upgraded first.

As part of the RNZN's Fleet Focussed Network Enabled Capability (FFNEC), a way of managing information based on Microsoft SharePoint was built for the NMCC. When upgrades to the MAN-R are completed, the FFNEC will allow the NMCC to automate and improve its planning and reporting.

In March 2012, ODESC directed Customs and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to produce a five-year development plan for the NMCC that includes funding arrangements. This may supersede the work NMCC does, but will direct and make certain the management requirements of the NMCC.

Strategic effectiveness of maritime patrols

In our 2010 audit, we found that there was little understanding of how effective maritime patrols are. Because work was under way to improve the measuring and evaluating of patrols' performance, we made no recommendations for improvements. We noted in our report that we would stay abreast of progress with work meant to help to better monitor and evaluate how effective patrols are.

We listed four specific actions that we considered would help to more comprehensively evaluate how effective patrolling has been. These were:

  • to complete the strategic and annual planning content specified in the NMCC's Governance Framework;
  • to set better guidance on what an appropriate level of patrolling might be, as a starting point for monitoring and evaluating the use of new and upgraded aircraft and ships (this relates to the second recommendation);
  • to collect better information through changes introduced in the new patrol planning system to help us to better assess the planning and tasking of patrols; and
  • to ensure that collected information helps identify knowledge gaps, testing assumptions, and monitoring requirements so that unmet needs or future requirements are identified and supported with robust evidence (this relates to the final recommendation).

Little progress has been made on these four actions.

5: These entities are the New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand Police, and Maritime New Zealand.

6: Issued in February 2001 by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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