Part 4: Building capability and tracking progress

Auckland Council: Preparedness for responding to an emergency.

In this Part, we discuss:

We wanted to assess how effectively the Council was evaluating, testing, and monitoring its emergency management activities. We expected the Council to regularly:

  • monitor implementation of the Group Plan's framework of action and progress towards achieving the Group Plan's objectives;
  • evaluate its emergency management work to assess its effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement;
  • test its emergency management systems and processes to ensure that they are ready to respond to an emergency event;
  • address and embed actions and recommendations for improvement;
  • carry out training and exercises (informed by an understanding of staff and organisational development needs) to improve its capability and capacity; and
  • report to the Auckland CDEM Group and Co-ordinating Executive Group about its progress towards achieving the Group Plan's objectives so they can assess progress and adjust priorities if necessary.

Summary of findings

In 2019, we were concerned that the Council's systems for monitoring and reporting and measuring effectiveness did not support good governance of its emergency management activities. The Council's testing of its emergency management capability through regular exercises and simulation activities was also limited. It is important that the Council has regular exercises to test its emergency management capability. We have recommended that the Council include exercises that involve working with other agencies to properly test its response and recovery capabilities.

The Council has made some improvements since 2019. It now reports internally on progress against its annual emergency management business plan measures. This provides some indication of its overall progress in achieving the Group Plan's objectives. However, in our view, the strategic importance of the Council's emergency management work means there needs to be much closer monitoring and governance oversight.

We encourage the Council to create robust performance measures so it can monitor and report on progress towards implementing the actions in the updated Group Plan.

The Council has recently developed improved training for staff, including practising various aspects of emergency management. The Council has used specialist expertise to support this training and is also working with other emergency management offices to train and develop the emergency management workforce. The Council plans to carry out local training exercises in 2023. It is also committed to participating in nationally organised training exercises.

In our view, the Council needs to improve its reporting against the Group Plan. In 2019, we found that the Council did not have a process for centrally tracking progress against each action that it was responsible for in the Group Plan. As a result, it was difficult to know which actions the Council had completed at any point in time. The Council needs regular and up-to-date monitoring so that it can carry out reliable planning and prioritise resources to progress initiatives.

We did not see evidence of the Council providing the Auckland CDEM Group with regular and systematic analysis of progress across all the goals, objectives, and actions in the Group Plan. We also did not see the Auckland CDEM Group explicitly seeking this information. Although the Auckland CDEM Group did receive and consider various project and activity updates on a regular basis, in our view these updates were not enough to meet the commitment in the Group Plan to "continually monitor and measure progress against current goals and objectives outlined in the Group Plan".

However, from the reports we reviewed, we were able to see that the Council had made some progress towards achieving the Group Plan's goals:

  • For the reduction goal, the Council led and supported the development of a Natural Hazards Risk Management Action Plan, which:
    • identifies Auckland's natural hazards and its risks;
    • defines the Council and others' responsibilities for managing those risks; and
    • identifies the actions that the Council will take to reduce risk from natural hazards and increase resilience.21
  • For the response goal, the Council, working with the Welfare Co-ordination Group, co-designed a welfare plan for Auckland. The plan provides a high-level guide for delivering emergency welfare services and support. The Council published the plan in February 2019.22
  • For the recovery goal, the Council developed a framework during our review called Ara Whakariteritetanga – Preparedness for Recovery. This framework outlines the Council's approach to recovery, provides direction based on community values and principles, and identifies actions to build momentum on improving preparedness to recover from a disaster. The framework was formally accepted at an Auckland CDEM Group meeting in August 2019.

We also describe other work the Council has made towards progressing actions in the Group Plan (see paragraph 2.44).

Better performance information is required for governance to be effective

Governors and senior managers need regular and meaningful information about performance so they can direct and support improvements to the Council's emergency management function. They also need this information to know that the Council can respond effectively in an emergency.

The information that governors and senior managers need includes performance information on work programme delivery and measures of outputs, impact, and outcomes.

In our view, the lack of centralised collation and monitoring of actions against the Group Plan has made it more difficult for governance to be carried out effectively.

In 2019, we reviewed the Council's quarterly reports that it sent to both the Auckland CDEM Group and the Co-ordinating Executive Group.

The reports described a range of activities that were planned or under way, what needed to be done, and deadlines for completion. However, it was frequently unclear how these activities related to the actions in the Group Plan. Therefore, these reports did not adequately describe progress on implementing the actions.

In our view, without high-quality performance information, the Auckland CDEM Group and the Co-ordinating Executive Group had limited ability to provide effective oversight of the work programme and to accurately anticipate challenges, identify risks, and support Auckland Emergency Management.

Management is responsible for collecting and reporting performance information. However, governors are ultimately responsible for ensuring that they seek, obtain, and consider performance information about the emergency management function. Some representatives of relevant organisations told us that progress reporting and governance meetings (including with the Co-ordinating Executive Group and the Auckland CDEM Group) have been focused on low-level or detailed discussions about the activities under way instead of progress against strategic goals and objectives.

The Council has made some improvements since 2019. It now periodically reports internally on progress against its annual emergency management business plan and relies on this as an indication of its overall progress in implementing the Group Plan. The annual business plan identifies the main deliverables, the measures of success for each item, the owner of the work, and the team responsible.

In our view, further improvements are required. It is important that the updated Group Plan has robust performance measures so that progress can be tracked for both the actions and the objectives.

In our view, the work of Auckland Emergency Management is strategically important for the Council and it needs closer monitoring. We consider that the Council's governing body, the Co-ordinating Executive Group, and the Auckland CDEM Group need to have regular visibility of Auckland Emergency Management's wider work programme.

Recommendation 3
We recommend that Auckland Council strengthen governance oversight of its progress with key emergency preparedness matters, particularly its progress on implementing recommendations from recent reviews.

We note that recent reports to the Co-ordinating Executive Group in November 2022 and February 2023 provided information about the process for reviewing and updating the Group Plan.

The Council also told us that it will regularly report on its progress against a prioritised action plan in response to the Auckland Flood Response Review: Independent, External Review of Events, January 27-29, 2023. This reporting will be provided to the Council, the Auckland CDEM Group, and the Council's Audit and Risk Committee.

Improvements are being made to build staff capability

The Council told us that being prepared for an emergency involves its people knowing what their role is in an emergency, being trained, practising their roles through regular exercises, and having effective working relationships.

The Group Plan sets out four actions that are designed to improve disaster preparedness through ongoing training and exercises. Two of these actions are to:

  • support the ongoing development and implementation of an integrated training framework; and
  • establish and implement an exercise calendar that aligns with the national exercise programme, which should contain at least two exercises every year.

More attention is now being given to training staff

Improvements to training have taken time to implement. The Council told us that this work took a "back seat" to actual response and recovery work during the Covid-19 pandemic. We accept that other emergency events would also have added to that pressure.

The Council has restarted work on a "learning needs analysis" that was paused in 2020 because staff and volunteers were deployed to support the Council's response to Covid-19.

The Council now requires staff at Auckland Emergency Management to complete its Integrated Training Framework Foundation course. This training is for people wanting to work in an emergency co-ordination centre. It introduces emergency management principles, structure, and terminology.

Since 2019, the Council has made enhancements to the Integrated Training Framework Foundation course (including making it suitable to take online). An intermediate-level course is now available. These courses are part of a professional development path that is currently being developed for staff involved in response and recovery.

As well as building the capability of Auckland Emergency Management staff, this training seeks to increase the number of people available to work in an emergency control centre during an emergency (referred to as duty staff) and reduce pressure on existing duty staff who need to be on call in case of an emergency. The Council has also sought to increase the number of functional specialists from across the Council that can be called on in an emergency. This will make the arrangements for resourcing these roles in an emergency safer and more resilient.

As well as the Integrated Training Framework Foundation course, response staff are provided with professional well-being assistance relevant to their roles.

The Council told us that it is working with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office on training development and options, particularly identifying common training needs. Given that all civil defence emergency management groups across the country will have similar responsibilities, there are likely to be opportunities to share training materials and resources. Having the same or similar training resources and practices for all the emergency management groups could help support a cross-organisation career path for staff working in emergency management.

The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office has prepared response training resources that the Council is intending to use to develop Auckland Emergency Management staff. In November 2022, the Council told us that it would take about six months to train the trainers who will then be able to provide training across the Council.

In the Council's 2022/23 business plan, it committed to training staff who will provide welfare services in an emergency. The Council intends to have regular engagement with other emergency management group welfare managers and the National Emergency Management Agency to share lessons and help improve practices. The Council anticipates that its training programme will include exercises for providing welfare services.

The Council is also part of a Capability and Capacity Working Group formed in 2019 which has met approximately every quarter since October 2021. The purpose of that group is to better enable partners to effectively share exercise and training resources and identify opportunities for joint exercises (see paragraph 3.52).

Regular exercises are required to test operational readiness

In 2019, we saw evidence that the Council was planning exercises to test emergency management systems and processes. We reviewed documents that showed the Council was involved in three exercise programmes between 2016 and 2019. This is half the number stated in the Group Plan.

One of the exercises that the Council was involved in was Exercise Tangaroa in 2016. The then Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management led the exercise. It took place over three days and tested New Zealand's preparation for, response to, and recovery from a major tsunami.

Another exercise the Council was involved in was called Exercise Flux. This was a 12-week exercise that took place between June and August in 2019. It tested several scenarios, including flooding, coastal inundation, slips, landslides, lifeline failure, infrastructure damage, isolated communities, and evacuations.

The third exercise was about business continuity planning. Auckland Emergency Management held this with different departments of the Council in 2018 and 2019. This exercise tested how departments of the Council would respond to an emergency.

The Council's own planned exercises for 2020 were disrupted because it had to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Council told us it did participate in three America's Cup testing and readiness exercises (during November and December 2020). Auckland Emergency Management was also involved in targeted exercises with agencies in mid-2022, including with Hato Hone St John, New Zealand Red Cross, and Auckland Airport.

The Council also told us that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the interagency National Exercise Programme led by the National Emergency Management Agency.

It is critically important that a schedule of exercises is developed to support the Council's wider programme of training and development. Regular exercises are important to ensure that skills learned through training courses can be applied in practice, that knowledge of response protocols remain current, and that policies and processes can be tested and improved on an ongoing basis. We discuss the importance of regular emergency management exercises in our report Co-ordination of the all-of-government response to Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.23

Although we have seen evidence of the Council developing annual training schedules, it is important that those schedules include exercises that properly test and practice its response and recovery responsibilities. These exercises should be scheduled well in advance.

Recommendation 4
We recommend that Auckland Council include in its emergency management work programme enough emergency management readiness exercises, including exercises that involve working with other agencies, to properly test its response and recovery capabilities.

Auckland Council does not systematically evaluate its emergency management activities or adequately monitor improvements

The Group Plan stated that:

  • work programmes would be evaluated to ensure that performance meets the required standard; and
  • evaluation action plans would be put in place to improve capability and capacity.

We looked for evidence of an overarching evaluation plan. The Council provided us with a report to the Co-ordinating Executive Group in 2017 that referred to an evaluation action plan. However, the Council could not provide us with this plan or an equivalent document.

We did see some examples of work that the Council has carried out to review aspects of its functions and activities relevant to its emergency management role. These are discussed below.

Review of the 2018 storm event

In April 2018, after a storm event, the Council commissioned an independent review to identify opportunities to further improve capability to respond to major natural hazard events. The 26 recommendations from the Review of the response to the Auckland storm of 10 April 2018 included:

  • further improving intelligence gathering to identify all vulnerable and potentially vulnerable households after the event;
  • continuing to support local boards to have an appropriate role in future responses;
  • reviewing the status of ongoing work to build community self-reliance;
  • continuing to invest in inter-agency relationships at governance and operational levels; and
  • reviewing resources available for major responses.

We did not see evidence that the recommendations from this review were systematically implemented or that there was a process for monitoring them. We are concerned that many of the recommendations identified after the 2018 storm event still have not been implemented.

The 2023 independent review also commented on this. It identified examples of actions that, if implemented, would "likely have improved CDEM [civil defence and emergency management] responses" to the January 2023 flooding event.

The Council told us in March 2023 that implementation of 12 recommendations for Auckland Emergency Management was ongoing and that many of those recommendations were being progressed as part of business-as-usual work.

The Council also told us that a recommendation relating to call centre, website, and application capacity for frontline response agencies has not been progressed and is not a current priority for the Co-ordinating Executive Group. Instead, the Council said that Auckland Emergency Management has been focusing on relationships between the communications teams from the response agencies.

Other reviews

The Council produced a draft post-exercise report in November 2019 after Exercise Flux. It did not set a timeline for completing the full evaluation and, to our knowledge, this was never carried out.

Some of the Council's emergency management functions during the Covid-19 response were reviewed. Some of the lessons from those reviews included:

  • Operations – Resources to better manage the deployment of the 394 people involved (including volunteers) were needed. Health and safety expertise was needed earlier, and a decision-recording tool needed to be used.
  • Intelligence – The format of intelligence products was not fit for purpose. Those products needed to be standard across emergency management groups. There was too much expectation that the intelligence function would include collecting, collating, and cleaning data.
  • Logistics – The close relationship between logistics and welfare functions was the key to successfully delivering more than 50,000 food boxes, securing transport links to Great Barrier Island, and setting up the distribution centre at Spark Arena. There were good working relationships with Te Pou Whakarae,24 but better relationships were needed with third-party logistics and distribution companies. Service-level agreements needed to be put in place across the Council to allocate personnel more quickly in a declared emergency.
  • Planning – Some pre-existing planning templates were inappropriate. The review recommended that existing planning documents, deployment processes, and related standing operating procedures all be reviewed.

In our view, the Council needs to take a more systematic and robust approach to evaluating its emergency management initiatives. A formalised review or evaluation should be carried out after any significant emergency event.

To get the best value, evaluations should be completed in a timely way. Implementing recommendations and other actions for improvement should also be actively managed and monitored. This should involve:

  • assigning responsibility to a staff member;
  • determining a management response;
  • establishing a deadline for action; and
  • monitoring progress in addressing the management response to each recommendation.

Governors also have a responsibility to ensure that these actions are carried out.

In our view, the Council should establish an approach that sets out:

  • how Auckland Emergency Management proposes to carry out evaluations or reviews of emergency events;
  • expectations for how issues or lessons identified will be dealt with; and
  • appropriate processes to ensure that the benefits of these reviews are recorded and improvements made in a timely way.

In our view, there should be regular reporting to governors about lessons identified and how they are embedded into ongoing emergency management activities.

This should include regular monitoring of any improvements required to be implemented and regular reporting to the Council's Co-ordinating Executive Group and the Auckland CDEM Group on the progress of those actions.

Recommendation 5
We recommend that Auckland Council develop a clear approach and appropriate processes to systematically evaluate responses to emergency events, record lessons, and implement improvements identified from responding to emergency events or from its emergency management readiness exercise programme.

We discuss the importance of regularly reviewing response activities in some detail in our report Co-ordination of the all-of-government response to Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. We also highlight the need for:

  • more consideration to ensuring that regular review of response activities occurs during an emergency or crisis;
  • a more formalised and systematic approach to recording and publicly reporting progress against recommendations from reviews and other work; and
  • better guidance and tools to support review activity and improve overall capability.

We made recommendations in that report for relevant organisations to work together to demonstrate how they are making improvements during an ongoing response by:

  • systematically identifying lessons, acting, and monitoring progress;
  • seeking independent expertise and acting on that advice, as appropriate;
  • reporting the findings of reviews publicly in a timely and accessible way, including whether they have implemented recommendations; and
  • ensuring that key staff maintain a good understanding of emergency management frameworks, including relevant legislation and guidance on lessons management.

In our view, these recommendations are also relevant to the Council as it reviews and updates the Group Plan.

We did not look at the Council's response to the significant flooding events that took place across the Auckland region in January 2023. However, we are pleased that the 2023 independent review was carried out. It is critically important that the findings of that review, wider evaluation work, and the recommendations in this report are considered in the update of the Group Plan.

As part of monitoring the Council's response to our recommendations, we also intend to monitor the Council's progress against the recommendations in the 2023 independent review.

There is considerable public interest in how the Council will support its communities to prepare for, and respond to, emergencies. We encourage the Council to keep the public well informed about its progress with emergency preparedness activities and with implementing recommendations from our review and the 2023 independent review.

Recommendation 6
We recommend that Auckland Council keep the public regularly and well informed about its progress with emergency preparedness activities and implementing recommendations from recent reviews.

21: The Council told us that this plan was adopted by the Council's Environment and Climate Change Committee in June 2021 and that responsibility for the sponsorship and ownership of that plan was transferred from Auckland Emergency Management to the Council's Infrastructure and Environmental Services division.

22: See Auckland Council (2019), Te rurukutanga mahi toko i te ora i ngā mate ohotata: Welfare coordination in emergencies – Auckland Welfare Plan, at

23: Office of the Auditor-General (2022), Co-ordination of the all-of-government response to Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, at

24: Te Pou Whakarae involved a team working alongside iwi, hapū, whānau, and marae to identify and bridge gaps in the delivery of welfare services.