Part 1: Introduction

Auckland Council: Preparedness for responding to an emergency.

In this Part, we discuss:

The Auckland region is at risk of several types of natural hazards (including tsunami, volcanic eruptions, severe weather events, landslides, and earthquakes). It also faces risks from technological hazards (such as utility failures) and biological hazards (such as pandemics).

It is critical that the Auckland region is resilient and well prepared to respond to, and recover from, significant emergency events. Not only does the well-being of people who live in and around Auckland depend on this, but a significant event in the Auckland region affects the whole country.

Auckland Council (the Council) is responsible for co-ordinating and supporting the work of the Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group (the Auckland CDEM Group). The Auckland CDEM Group is a statutory committee of Auckland Council. It comprises governing body members and observers from relevant organisations.4 They are responsible for working together to lead and implement Auckland's Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group Plan (the Group Plan) and provide Auckland communities with emergency management support.

When we started our work in 2019, the Auckland CDEM Group's work was guided by the Group Plan, which sets out priorities for emergency management in the region and informs the Council's emergency management work. The Group Plan was current in 2019 but has now expired. However, it remains in place until a new plan is finalised.

Why we did this work

Section 104 of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 requires the Auditor-General to review the Council's service performance and each of its council-controlled organisations from time to time.5

We started this work in 2019. We decided to review the Council's disaster resilience and readiness work because, at that time, a large-scale natural disaster had not recently tested the Auckland region or Auckland Council's capability.

Given the potential social, environmental, and economic effects of a natural disaster in the Auckland region, we considered it important that Parliament and the public had assurance about the quality of civil defence and emergency management in the region.

What we looked at

We wanted to find out how well the Council was improving resilience in its communities and how well prepared it was to manage its response to natural disasters.

We wanted to answer three questions:

  • What strategies and plans were in place to build resilience and preparedness to manage natural disasters, and how were they progressing?
  • How well was the Council partnering with other agencies, organisations, and communities to build readiness to respond to natural disasters?
  • How was the Council working to ensure equity in community resilience and readiness throughout the region?

Our review was in progress when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020. We reprioritised our work programme to focus on the Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we did provide the Council with a draft report in 2021 and we have seen evidence that the Council made changes in response. These changes include the Council refocusing its work programme, reporting progress against the new work programme more regularly, and developing an improved training plan for staff.

The Council also prioritised work that focused on responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 400 employees worked on the Council's response and a further 150 employees were seconded to other organisations. The Council told us this was unprecedented in complexity and scale. We describe the Council's response to the Covid-19 pandemic in more detail in the Appendix.

There were also other emergency events in the Auckland region, including water shortages in February 2020, the Papatoetoe tornado in June 2021, and the West Auckland floods in August 2021.

Our work did not look at the Council's response to the Covid-19 pandemic or to these other emergency events. However, when we resumed our work in 2022 to update our 2019 findings, we thought it was important to acknowledge these events and provide the Council an opportunity to share what it learned and what changes had been made.

How we carried out our work

We reviewed a range of the Council's emergency management documents and observed some council meetings. We interviewed senior managers and staff in the Auckland Emergency Management business unit of Auckland Council. We also interviewed staff from the Council's research and evaluation, community, Māori responsiveness, and communications teams.

We also interviewed:

  • staff from council-controlled organisations;
  • local board chairpersons;
  • university researchers;
  • representatives from lifeline organisations;
  • representatives from the community; and
  • staff from the National Emergency Management Agency.

We communicated with staff from the Secretariat for the Auckland Independent Māori Statutory Board.

We sat in on meetings of the:

  • Auckland CDEM Group;
  • Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management Co-ordinating Executive Group (the Co-ordinating Executive Group);
  • Auckland Welfare Co-ordination Group; and
  • Auckland Lifelines Group.

Most of this work was carried out in 2019. However, the Council subsequently provided us with updated information and additional evidence.

In late 2022, we requested further documents from the Council and met with Auckland Emergency Management staff to discuss their work programme and the changes they have made since our 2019 work. This helped to ensure that our findings were current.

In early 2023, we met with representatives from the main emergency management organisations, including Te Whatu Ora, the New Zealand Police, Hato Hone St John, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand. We also met with some staff from the Secretariat for the Auckland Independent Māori Statutory Board.

Structure of our report

In Part 2, we discuss the administrative arrangements for emergency management in the Auckland region and the progress that the Council has made in implementing the Group Plan.

In Part 3, we discuss how well the Council has worked with other organisations on emergency management and the work it is doing to build community resilience.

In Part 4, we discuss the work the Council has been doing to improve capability through training and emergency management readiness exercises and how it evaluates and monitors performance.

4: In this report, when we refer to relevant organisations we mean emergency services, lifeline utilities (including water, wastewater, transport, energy, and telecommunications services), and welfare agencies.

5: Our other reports on Auckland Council include Auckland Council: Working to provide customer-centred services online (2017), Auckland Council: How it deals with complaints (2016), and Auckland Council: How it deals with building consents (2015), at