• Independent report finds Napier City Council's emergency management capability was "hugely unprepared" for Cyclone Gabrielle

Independent report finds Napier City Council's emergency management capability was "hugely unprepared" for Cyclone Gabrielle

The Napier City Council was “hugely unprepared” for Cyclone Gabrielle in terms of emergency management capability, an independent review commissioned by the Council has found.

The review, undertaken by Resilient Organisation Ltd., covers the Council’s internal response coordination, which includes crisis management and business continuity; and external response, which includes civil defence and emergency management.

Resilient Organisation Ltd. said there were many reason for the council being unprepared, including “significant organisational change and turnover, human biases around likelihood and severity of disaster occurrences, and system changes within the region’s EM structure yet to be fully operationalised”.

Reviewers looked at documents from the response and conducted interviews with 39 key staff who were involved in the response. The reviewers also held workshops with other relevant staff, external groups and elected members.

Napier City Council Community Services Executive Director, Thunes Cloete, says he welcomes the report’s recommendations. He said the Council is putting in place valuable business continuity and community resilience recommendations.

The review found that emergency readiness planning was not institutionalised within NCC.

“Effective and efficient emergency response requires both planned and adaptive measures. Planned response structures, processes, actions, and networks enable organisations to focus on the adaptive actions needed for the specific context. Although I commend efforts that commenced in 2022 to rebuild this capacity, it was too little and too slow.”

“This left NCC almost wholly reliant on the amazing adaptiveness and willingness of their staff to respond. The focus of this report is not on why NCC was not prepared, but on charting a path forward.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

• Response capability training

• Investment in response systems/processes/templates

• Improved Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) activation processes

• Greater resourcing for PIM/communications response team

• Welfare pre-planning

• Clarification of roles and responsibilities: development of a crisis management plan and elected

representatives guide

• Operations function design work

• Business continuity plan improvements

• Work on effective resourcing and operationalisation of the iwi liaison function

• Inclusion of the safety function earlier in any response

• Work nationally on standard operating procedures (SOP) for disaster de-contamination issues such as Awatoto

• Infrastructure resilience: communications and pumps

• Encouraging hot debriefs after all events

• Working regionally to develop shared expectations and capability

• Embed monitoring and accountability

The review said that this was not an exhaustive list of recommendations, but a key starting point for building capability before the next event.

“Maturity in crisis management, emergency management, and business continuity happens over years. Building maturity must include the testing of arrangements through exercises and scenarios to both maintain the knowledge of arrangements and to enhance and refine

them.”

Thunes said that the Council has recently employed an experienced Emergency Management Officer, who has started creating a work plan based on the recommendations.

After the review, Napier City Council commissioned Resilient Organisation Ltd. to develop a Business Continuity and Crisis Coordination Management Framework to ensure the organisation can operate with minimal impact on critical operations and key services. Council’s Executive Leadership Team and other managers provided input to the Framework.

“The reviewers recognised the impact of future events may be different to the impacts from Cyclone Gabrielle. The recommendations will help us to improve our preparedness for a range of potential crisis situations,” Thunes says.

The review is not the only one being held into the response to Cyclone Gabrielle. An independent review was launched in April by the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee, which oversees the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Management Group. The Independent Review Panel, headed by former Police Commissioner Mike Bush, is on track to be delivered by the end of March 2024.

There is also a Government Inquiry, headed by former Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, that is reviewing the response to the North Island severe weather events this year, including Cyclone Gabrielle. The Government announced the inquiry in June and it is expected to report back by March next year.

The full Napier City Council Response to Cyclone Gabrielle Independent Review document is available to read at https://www.napier.govt.nz/assets/Links/2023-12-14-Cyclone-Gabrielle-Response-Review-V4-1.pdf