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Rick Barker: Address To Civil Defence Forum


Hon Rick Barker's opening Address to the 2008 National Civil Defence and Emergency Management Forum, Banquet Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

Acknowledgements
• Ms Susan Reinertson, Administrator of Region Ten for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the United States.
• Dr Alan Jamieson, chair of the Public Protection and Disaster Relief Working Group.
• Attendees
• CDEM Group Chairs and Co-ordinating Executive Group (CEG)Chairs
• Government department Chief Executives
• Representatives from other government agencies including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Social Development, and New Zealand Fire Service.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to host the National Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Forum in Wellington for the third year. A number of you also attended the 2006 and 2007 Forums, but for some it will be their first time attending.
I would like to take this early opportunity to welcome our international keynote speaker, Ms Susan Reinertson from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the United States.

Susan is responsible for FEMA Region 10 which covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State.

Susan’s attendance at this year’s Forum reinforces our growing relationship with our international partners.

The previous Forums proved to be good opportunities for interaction and discussion, and today’s Forum will build on the discussion we had during my three regional forums early this year.

I look forward to the opportunity to talk to as many of you as possible during the day.

As you already know, the theme of this year’s forum is “Leadership into the Future”.

I would like to open the conference by discussing the importance of leadership in CDEM, and the role that we as leaders must play to create resilient communities.

I will be followed by our keynote speaker for the Forum, Susan Reinertson from the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Susan will be speaking about the leadership issues facing FEMA in the United States, and over dinner we will have the opportunity to hear from her on recent emergency events that FEMA has dealt with, and her personal views on the “Lessons for the Leadership” that arose.

Later our other guest speaker Dr Alan Jamieson, chair of the Public Protection and Disaster Relief Radiocommunications Interoperability Working Group, will be speaking on the CDEM related changes in their areas.

Meetings such as this Forum are an important way for all of us to learn from each other.
I would first of all like to take the opportunity to thank you and the people in your organisations for your hard work and dedication in meeting the many demands placed on you by your CDEM responsibilities.

We have been fortunate to have a quiet year so far, with no CDEM emergencies since the Gisborne earthquake last December. However, in the quiet times our work is every bit as important as when we are responding to an emergency.

There is no doubt that the environment for all those who serve the public is increasingly challenging and ever higher standards of service and responsiveness are expected.

The CDEM sector faces greater challenges than most because the public relies on our leadership in times of crisis, and our actions will be subject to scrutiny.

In my time as Minister of Civil Defence we have all made good progress in building CDEM’s structure and identity, both within our own sector and with the public.

I would like to make it clear that within our organisations, there have always been dedicated emergency management professionals working hard to make New Zealanders safer, but they have not always had the framework or support from the top that they needed.

The CDEM Act 2002 and the revised National CDEM Strategy give us all a clear path to follow.

We have come a long way towards meeting the vision of a “Resilient New Zealand”, and we have done much to establish the CDEM roles and responsibilities across all organisations and communities in New Zealand today.

In spite of all our achievements and gains, significant challenges remain. Across New Zealand there is variation in the capability and resourcing of CDEM organisations, and it is impacting on the ability to make the most of the all-of-nation coordination and support that CDEM should provide.

We must continue to focus on building a more regionally and nationally coordinated CDEM system. The successful implementation of any system takes more than simple exhortation or regulation. Alongside a good framework, it takes strong leadership, good relationships, and the development of knowledge, expertise and innovation.

On that note, I’d like to encourage you all to focus on these three key areas as you think about developing your future strategies, and your business and CDEM plans. These areas again are:
• Leadership
• Relationships
• Research and innovation

Leadership – I have been very pleased to see growth and improvement in this area, with a stronger focus on leadership across the board. Public education and professional development stand out as two areas where we should be taking the lead.

At a local level, risk reduction is another vital point for improving community resilience, and a place where leadership from the top can make a huge difference.

It’s appropriate that the organisations represented here set the agenda and stimulate discussion. This effort needs to be continued and extended into other areas.

We lead the main coordinating bodies for CDEM in New Zealand, and it is our role to positively and actively lead the sector to make improvements, assess the level of achievement, and take the appropriate actions where additional support is necessary.

As leaders our role is to guide CDEM planning; by making use of expert advice, tools and information; and ensuring that there are appropriate regional and national structures and processes to support the sector.

Relationships – I can’t emphasise strongly enough how important it is for you to develop positive and effective working relationships with other stakeholders.

CDEM is a field with huge interdependency between agencies, and where cooperation and command must be exercised side-by-side. Clear understanding of roles does not mean that we must fiercely protect our areas of responsibility. In fact, the opposite is true – developing cooperative working relationships through regular interaction means everyone involved understands their roles and responsibilities.

As we all know, the worst time to build relationships is during a disaster.

Across CDEM we are continuing to build relationships, and there are some areas that we can be particularly proud of. Welfare co-ordination is one of the real success areas, with a strong cluster group at the national level, and active engagement at CDEM Group level.

Between November 2007 and March 2008, Exercise Ruaumoko provided a great opportunity to prepare, rehearse and strengthen our relationships.

There are some excellent recent examples of good stakeholder management across the sector. This afternoon we will hear from Antoinette Mitchell from the Whangarei District Council about their work developing community response plans, and see a joint presentation from the Canterbury and Otago CDEM Groups on fuel distribution and public awareness.We have also seen a change in focus with our international connections. In December last year, I endorsed the International CDEM Engagement Strategy.

The strategy provides us with three clear objectives for the work we do with our international partners:
• We want to be helped – to ensure that New Zealand’s response capability is supported by access to international assistance following a large emergency event.
• We want to help others – to fulfil New Zealand’s international obligation to be a good ‘global citizen’ through response operations, capability development and the provision of international assistance.
• We want to learn – to increase New Zealand’s domestic resilience and CDEM capability through increased CDEM knowledge.

There have been a number of practical examples of our closer connections with Australia. In March this year I attended the Australian Ministerial Council for Emergency Management and New Zealand was welcomed as a new member of the Council. At the same time John Hamilton has joined the Australian Emergency Management Committee for emergency management Chief Executives and strengthened the Ministry’s relationship with Emergency Management Australia (EMA).

Both these committees provide us an opportunity to exchange views and ideas with our counterparts.

Additionally, we are continuing to build our relationship with FEMA.

I met with FEMA Administrator David Paulison in May this year to continue discussions about our mutual desire to strengthen collaboration.

I am also very pleased that Susan has accepted our offer to attend this Forum and build on this relationship.

We can all be quickly overwhelmed in a significant event and it is important to have strong links and relationships in advance of a disaster and ensure we learn and operate in a supportive environment.

As Administrator Paulison said to me: “we need to avoid the situation where the Fire and Police Chiefs managing the Columbine shooting were introduced to each other at the scene”.

Some of you will be aware of the role that New Zealand Firefighters are playing in fighting forest fires in California.

This assistance is supplied under a mutual agreement between New Zealand and the United States.

I am about to sign a similar agreement for mutual assistance with Canada. Such arrangements give firefighters the opportunity to operate under a common management system, and to share information, research and technology.

I would like the CDEM sector to develop similar arrangements.

With this in mind, my officials are continuing the discussions with their FEMA and EMA counterparts on developing our arrangements further.

In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that the Ministry will shortly be sponsoring the attendance of two Group Controllers to the Los Angeles International Earthquake Conference during November.

The conference will include an opportunity to share experiences on a ranges of best practises used around the world. It will also provide an opportunity to witness the biggest earthquake drill in US history.

These closer relationships enable the spread of innovative ideas and practices, which are vital to the overall sector performance. Access to information, resources, tools and systems helps provide the sector with capability needed to capitalise on the innovations.

Research and innovation – is often the area of our role that is the most challenging, due to the high scrutiny and low public tolerance for mistakes. It is, of course, closely tied to demonstrating leadership.

How I’d describe CDEM today is that there are a few outstanding instances of research and innovation – particularly in the areas of public education and tsunami preparedness – but more needs to be done to develop this culture across the sector.

I’ve discussed with John Hamilton the types of changes that would be needed to bring this about. Some of these are drawn from my experiences as Minister for Courts and Minister of Customs. Ideas include:
• Less emphasis on process and more on championing new ideas and solutions from across the sector
• Finding examples of good practice and spreading knowledge about them
• Developing and using new measurement tools to promote continuous improvement
• Learning to take advantage of windows of opportunity and tipping points for new ideas and programmes.

These approaches can be picked up by us all.

As part of this, at lunch time you will have the opportunity to visit the Horizons-Manawatu Green Rig outside Parliament. I have seen it during one of my visits to their CDEM Group, and it is a treat for us all to have it here.

MCDEM is also continuing to implement its international engagement strategy, and is leveraging it for innovative ideas that we can borrow from overseas.

Later today John Hamilton will be discussing the research MCDEM has commissioned on mobile phone text warning systems, which was inspired in part by similar work being undertaken by Western Australia.

It is a challenge to encourage innovation from individual agencies, while at the same time striving for consistent standards across the sector. Our communications and relationships are vital to keeping a good balance.

In conclusion, enjoy your day – think about how the issues covered can apply to your role as a sector leader, and also take the time to talk and make connections with your colleagues from different parts of the country.

ends

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