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The Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act 2002

The Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (CDEM Act) 2002 came into effect on 1 December 2002. It replaced the Civil Defence Act 1983.

View the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (HTML and downloadable PDF version)

An Introduction brochure (pdf 590kB) explains features of the Act in general terms.


For further information on the CDEM Act 2002 or other issues regarding the legislation contact our Policy unit on 04 494 5796.

2012 Amendments to CDEM Act 2002
A number of changes have been made to the CDEM Act 2002 (the Act). These amendments will come into force on 25 March 2012 and are summarised below.

1. Section 12 of the Act has been amended to prevent CDEM Groups from being automatically discharged following triennial elections. This removes the need for all member local authorities to pass resolutions prior to triennial elections in order to continue the existence of their CDEM Group.

2. It has been made clear in sections 68 and 69 of the Act that if a state of local emergency is declared for a whole Group area or an entire district, any other state of local emergency then in force within that area or district ceases to have effect. It clarifies that only one state of local emergency can exist in one location at any one given time.

3. Sections 70, 71 and 72 of the Act have been amended to redefine and simplify the calculations relating to the commencement, duration, extension, and termination of a state of emergency. The changes mean that:

  • Every state of emergency comes into force at the time and on the date that the declaration is signed. A later start time cannot be specified in a declaration form.
  • Every state of emergency will expire at the same time of the day it was made, “7 days” later (i.e. if made at 9.35am on Friday 1 January, it would expire at 9.35am on Friday 8 January). It will no longer be possible to state in the declaration form that the state of emergency will expire at some earlier time.
  • A state of emergency can be extended before it expires. Every extension will take effect immediately from the time the state of emergency was due to expire. This rolls the state of emergency over for another “7 days” (i.e. it would roll the original declaration over to 9.35am on Friday 15 January, and so on, week after week if necessary).
  • A state of emergency can be terminated before the end of the 7-day period. The termination takes effect immediately at the time the declaration is signed. A later termination time cannot be specified in the termination form.
Consequential amendments have been made to the CDEM Regulations 2003, which prescribe the forms for declaring, extending, or terminating a state of emergency.

A sample of the new forms for CDEM Groups and local authorities to use to declare, extend, or terminate a state of local emergency can be downloaded from here (doc)

4. A spelling error in Schedule 1, Part A, of the Act has been corrected. The amendment changes “Lyttleton” to “Lyttelton”.

CDEM Act 2002 - Principal Provisions
The CDEM Act 2002 updates and redefines the duties, functions and powers of central government, local government, emergency services, lifeline utilities and the general public.

Purpose of the CDEM Act 2002
The CDEM Act 2002 improves and promotes:
  • the reduction of risks through partnerships with communities
  • the reduction of community disruption from avoidable hazards and risks
  • the reduction of fiscal risks from the costs of disruption
  • more effective and efficient emergency readiness, response and recovery through the integrated activities of responsible agencies and relevant disciplines
  • a culture, processes and structures that encourage and enable people and communities to: - undertake risk management, build operational capabilities for response and recover from emergencies.

Other Relevant Matters
The purpose of the CDEM Act 2002 is to:
  • improve and promote the sustainable management of hazards to contribute to well-being, the safety of the public and the protection of property
  • encourage and enable communities to achieve acceptable levels of risk by applying risk management
  • provide for planning and preparation for emergencies and response and recovery in the event of an emergency
  • require local authorities to coordinate CDEM through regional groups
  • integrate local and national CDEM planning and activity
  • encourage the coordination of emergency management across emergency sectors

The CDEM Framework involves several instruments of which the CDEM Act 2002 is but one. The instruments of the CDEM Framework include:
  • CDEM Regulations
  • National CDEM Strategy
  • National CDEM Plan
  • CDEM Group Plans
  • Director's Guidelines
  • other statutes (e.g. Biosecurity Act 1993, Building Act 2004, Fire Service Act 1975, Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977, Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, Health Act 1956, Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, Local Government Act 2002, Maritime Transport Act 1994, Resource Management Act 1991).

The Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management
The CDEM Act 2002 provides for the appointment of a Director of CDEM, whose functions and duties include:
  • advising the Minister of Civil Defence
  • identifying hazards and risks of national significance
  • co-ordinating national implementation and promotion of civil defence emergency management
  • monitoring and evaluating civil defence emergency management
  • developing the National CDEM Plan, technical standards and guidelines
  • monitoring performance
  • directing and controlling the resources available for civil defence emergency management during a national disaster.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups
Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups (CDEM Groups) are a core component of the CDEM Act 2002. A CDEM Group is a consortium of the local authorities in a region working in partnership with emergency services, amongst other things, to:
  • identify and understand hazards and risks
  • prepare CDEM Group plans and manage hazards and risks in accordance with the 4R's (reduction, readiness, response and recovery).

CDEM Groups are established as joint standing committees (of local authority mayors and chairpersons or their delegates) under the Local Government Act 2002. The CDEM Act 2002 gives direction on voting rights and funding liabilities but remains flexible to reflect varying CDEM Group circumstances. It is important to note that under this approach:
  • member local authorities have equal status
  • individual council autonomy remains - Mayors still have the right to declare an emergency within their territorial boundary, each Mayor and Regional Chairperson agrees the plans under which the CDEM Group operates, and each local authority is responsible for planning and provision of CDEM within its district
  • if a local authority is split by a regional council boundary, the local authority can choose which CDEM Group it wishes to belong to
  • formal linkages are required to be made with emergency service providers.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Plans
Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 every CDEM Group must prepare and approve a Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan (CDEM Plan). These plans must state and provide for:
  • the local authorities that have united to establish the CDEM Group
  • the hazards and risks to be managed by the Group
  • the civil defence emergency management necessary to manage to hazards and risks
  • the objectives of the plan and the relationship of each objective to the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Strategy
  • the apportionment between local authorities of liability for the provision of financial and other resources for the activities of the Group, and the basis for that apportionment
  • the arrangements for declaring a state of emergency in the area of the Group
  • the arrangements for co-operation and co-ordination with other Groups.

The CDEM Act 2002 requires that CDEM Groups consult with the public over the development of their CDEM Plan and that interested persons may make submissions about the proposed plan to the CDEM Group. Each CDEM Plan must be reviewed after five years in operation.

Emergency Declarations and Powers
The CDEM Act 2002 provides for local authority delegated representatives, Mayors or the Minister to declare a state of local emergency. The Minister may declare a state of national emergency. Declared emergencies have a 7 day duration and may be extended or terminated.

Emergency powers under the CDEM Act 2002 enable CDEM Groups and controllers to:
  • close/restrict access to roads/public places
  • remove/secure dangerous structures and materials
  • provide rescue, first aid, food, shelter etc
  • conserve essential supplies & regulate traffic
  • dispose of dead persons and animals
  • advise the public
  • provide equipment
  • enter onto premises
  • evacuate premises/places
  • remove vehicles
  • requisition equipment/materials and assistance.

Other CDEM Related Legislation
Legislation relating to CDEM is not just limited to the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. There is a variety of other legislation that impacts on CDEM. These Acts may place requirements on particular groups, assist in land use planning and hazard identification or they may be the Acts that govern particular lifeline utilities. They all play a role in CDEM and may be useful as reference points for those wanting additional information about a particular issue in the CDEM Act 2002. They include:
  • Accident Insurance Act 1998
  • Biosecurity Act 1993
  • Broadcasting Act 1989
  • Building Act 2004
  • Chatham Island Council Act 1995
  • Customs and Excise Act 1996
  • Defence Act 1990
  • Earthquake Commission Act 1993
  • Energy Companies Act 1992
  • Fire Service Act 1975
  • Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977
  • Gas Act 1992
  • Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
  • Health Act 1956
  • Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992
  • Hospitals Act 1957
  • Local Government Act 2002
  • Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987
  • Maritime Transport Act 1994
  • New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000
  • Port Companies Act 1998
  • Public Works Act 1981
  • Resource Management Act 1991
  • Telecommunications Act 1987