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National Emergency Management Agency Establishment


National Emergency Management Agency Establishment - update from Brook Barrington, Cheif Executive, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 

As of 1 December 2019, the first step in the establishment of the new National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for New Zealand has been completed.

NEMA is now a legal entity and the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) has been transitioned into the new organisation. MCDEM ceased to exist on the date NEMA was established, with all references to MCDEM considered to be replaced with a reference to NEMA.

A new NEMA was recommended following a review into New Zealand’s civil defence system. Government saw the need to improve our national emergency management capability and to put people and communities at the centre of any response. The new agency will work across central government and with local government, emergency services, communities, iwi, lifeline utilities and business to create an emergency management system that is ready and able to provide an effective and integrated response to, and recovery from, emergencies.

NEMA has been established as an autonomous Departmental Agency with its own Chief Executive, hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The State Services Commission has advised that in the first instance a Chief Executive will be appointed for an interim period, with a primary focus on leading the transition from MCDEM into NEMA, and achieving the strategic shift sought by the government.

The Deputy State Services Commissioner has appointed Carolyn Schwalger as the interim Chief Executive. Carolyn has been the Programme Director for the NEMA transition since July 2019. Before this role, Carolyn held several senior positions across New Zealand’s public sector, including the Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative at New Zealand’s Permanent Mission to the UN and the Principal Capability Adviser and Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She holds a BA and BCom from the University of Auckland and recently completed Oxford University’s Strategic Leadership Programme.

Sarah Stuart-Black (Norm) will continue in the statutory role as the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, bringing her wealth of operational excellence, skills and relationships to NEMA in that role. Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEM Act), the Chief Executive of NEMA and the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management cannot be the same person. Therefore, Norm will become the NEMA Deputy Chief Executive.

The establishment of NEMA is an exciting milestone in moving towards achieving the Government’s objectives, and is a once in a generation opportunity to boost the performance and capability of the emergency management system across all hazards and all risks for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

During 2020, NEMA will engage with your organisation as a key stakeholder to seek your views as the Agency begins to create its organisational strategy and design. This is the real change phase, where the rubber starts to hit the road. NEMA will then progress into a more formal consultation phase where it will again seek your engagement to shape the wider system.

You will see the interim logo for NEMA in use. The logo sets the scene for the changes to come. Branding for the Agency and any flow-on effect for the emergency management system will form part of the upcoming designing for the future phase.

Your normal contact points remain and current contact details will remain functional for a time. New firstname.lastname@nema.govt.nz email addresses have been established, and we encourage you to use them. The website and all communications now refer to the National Emergency Management Agency or NEMA.

Your commitment to the emergency management system is important to the success of NEMA. I trust that you will support the new organisation and its people, and would be grateful if you could cascade the information through your normal internal channels.