Questions and Answers

Why is the Government establishing an Inquiry into the response to the North Island Severe Weather Events?

During January and February 2023, Aotearoa New Zealand experienced several severe weather events – Cyclone Hale, heavy rainfall in the Northland, Auckland, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty regions, and Cyclone Gabrielle. These events caused impacts which were more severe and more complex than we have ever experienced.

Severe weather events are becoming more frequent and more complex, and we need to ensure our emergency management system is fit for purpose and ready to respond. For this reason, Cabinet has decided to establish a Government Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2013.

Why is the Inquiry only looking at response, and not the recovery?

Planning for recovery begins in the very early stages of an emergency response, and this will form part of the Inquiry’s investigations. However, the recovery is anticipated to continue in the medium to long term beyond the Inquiry’s timeframes.

What will the Inquiry do? 

The Inquiry will identify lessons from the North Island severe weather events to ensure that New Zealand’s emergency management system is appropriate to support future emergencies – both in terms of readiness for the events, and responses to them.

The Inquiry will be asked to focus on whether:

  • the readiness activities and response to the North Island severe weather events operated as anticipated under current emergency management system design;
  • the current design of the emergency management system enabled central and local government and other organisations to respond as anticipated during the response; and
  • the system improvements already underway, such as changes proposed in the Emergency Management Bill, will be sufficient to address the identified challenges or whether additional improvements are required.

Will the public get an opportunity to participate?

The Inquiry will need to gather information from a range of sources and people.  The Inquiry will determine what type of engagement, including public engagement, it considers will enable it to gather the information and views that will inform its recommendations.  Once it has formed a plan for its inquiry, in the next few months the Inquiry will outline how it will approach its work, and what its engagement plans and opportunities to participate are.  

Will there be public hearings?

Inquiries are not specifically required to hold public hearings. The Inquiries Act 2013 allows each Inquiry to set its own procedure. The Law Commission, in its report that led to the Inquiries Act, noted that Inquiries should be able to use a wide variety of means, such as informal meetings and interviews, with formal hearings akin to court processes only required in the minority of instances.

The Inquiry will decide on the forms of engagement it considers necessary, including whether any hearings are appropriate, to gather the information or views needed to inform its recommendations.  In the next few months, the Inquiry will outline its approach once it has completed its initial planning.  

Will the Inquiry take into account other reviews of these events?

Yes. The Inquiry will take into account the outcomes of other investigations and reports into related matters (e.g. Civil Defence Emergency Management Group or agency reviews into their individual performance during the response) and other material that is already in the public domain.

The Inquiry is not bound by the conclusions or recommendations of any other investigation, report, or review.

What is the Inquiry not permitted to look at?

As with all inquiries, some things are excluded. The Inquiry Terms of Reference lists the matters that are outside the scope of the Inquiry. For example, policies and actions relating to risk reduction and resilience building are excluded because separate programmes of work are already underway. Investigation into the treatment of individual cases of people or businesses affected by the severe weather is also excluded from the scope of the Inquiry.

How will this Inquiry benefit New Zealanders?

With climate change exacerbating the frequency and complexity of severe weather events across Aotearoa New Zealand, and recognising the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, it is important to ensure that our emergency management system is fit for purpose and ready to respond to future emergency events.

The Inquiry will identify lessons from these events to ensure that the design of New Zealand’s emergency management system is appropriate to support readiness for, and responses to, future emergency events.


Back to the Top