Questions and Answers

Why did the Government establish 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 did the Inquiry only look 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 did the Inquiry do? 

The Inquiry identified lessons from the North Island severe weather events to recommend how New Zealand’s emergency management system could support future emergencies – both in terms of readiness for the events, and responses to them.

The Inquiry focused 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.

Did the public participate?

The Inquiry considered over 200 interviews and information requests, received 144 submissions from an online participation tool and other formats, and conducted desktop research to inform its findings and recommendations.  

Did the Inquiry consider other reviews of these events?

Yes, the Inquiry considered the findings and outcomes of other investigations and reports undertaken and underway into related matters. This included agency reviews into their own performance, Civil Defence Emergency Management Group reviews into the response, and other reviews with relevance to the wider emergency management system.

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

What did the Inquiry not look at?

As with all inquiries, some matters 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. Investigations into the treatment of individual cases of people or businesses affected by the severe weather events are also excluded from the scope of the Inquiry.

How will this Inquiry benefit New Zealanders?

The Inquiry identified lessons from these severe weather events to recommend how the design of New Zealand’s emergency management system can appropriately support readiness for, and responses to, future emergency events.

Climate change is exacerbating the frequency and complexity of severe weather events across Aotearoa New Zealand. 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.

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