Video transcript: Co-ordination of the all-of-government response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020

Transcript for a video about our Covid-19 response report

Title: Co-ordination of the all-of-government response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020

Sarah Powell (Senior Performance Auditor):

For the last three years, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government’s response, has affected everyone in New Zealand. We decided that it was important to look back at what happened and provide an independent record of the government’s experience of dealing with the pandemic, so that lessons can be learned. This is important, because the public relies on the government to protect New Zealand and its people before, during, and after emergencies and other crisis events.

So, we carried out an audit with two objectives. First, we wanted to document how the government’s response to Covid-19 was co-ordinated by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2020, with consideration of how officials made improvements as the pandemic unfolded. Secondly, we wanted to see what could be done to strengthen New Zealand’s ongoing readiness and response arrangements for Covid-19, and for future disruptive events.

We focused on what took place in 2020 – as the first year of the response, and in many ways, the most challenging one.

However, our report does comment on New Zealand’s general state of readiness for a pandemic either side of this period. We look at arrangements that were in place before 2020, and also in 2021, when the Delta and Omicron variants arrived on our shores.

We did not expect that the response to Covid-19 would be straightforward or always go smoothly, but New Zealand could have, and should have, been better prepared before Covid-19.

Officials quickly adapted the response to the evolving situation and worked extraordinarily hard, but we cannot just rely on good people to get us through the next crisis.

Work to prepare New Zealand for the next wave of Covid-19, or other disruptive events, must also consider how to manage an extended response in a more sustainable way.

Our report makes six recommendations. They are designed to help enhance the response to both Covid-19 and New Zealand’s readiness for other emergencies and crises. In particular, we have recommended that clear responsibilities and central co-ordination be in place for government agencies to keep emergency management plans up to date, and to implement improvements identified in evaluations of emergency readiness.

We also want agencies to maintain workforce plans for sustainably staffing long-term emergency responses, and ensure that key staff maintain a good understanding of crisis, hazard risk, and emergency management practices.

Our recommendations emphasise the need for agencies to engage with the public on their emergency planning and response arrangements, and to show how they are making improvements in a timely and accessible way. We also expect agencies to provide regular assurance to Parliament about the public sector’s readiness for emergencies and crises. In 2023, we will follow up on progress against our recommendations.

Covid-19 is a wake-up call. New Zealand remains vulnerable to many hazards and risks. Changes must be prioritised now, with a strong focus and leadership, to ensure that New Zealand is better prepared for the next pandemic or crisis. New Zealanders need to feel confident that the government is taking action to learn from the past few years, to avoid what the World Health Organization describes as a cycle of “panic then forget”.

Read our report at

Watch the original video.