Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002

Overview of the CDEM Act

The Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (CDEM Act) 2002 came into effect on 1 December 2002. It replaced the Civil Defence Act 1983. Minor amendments to the Act were made in 2012.

View the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act by visiting and searching 'Civil Defence Emergency Management'.

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

The Purpose of the Act

The purpose of the Act is to:

  • improve and promote the sustainable management of hazards in a way that contributes to the social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being and safety of the public and the protection of property
  • encourage and enable communities to achieve acceptable levels of risk by identifying risks and applying risk reduction management practices
  • provide for planning and preparation for emergencies and for response and recovery in the event of an emergency
  • require local authorities to coordinate Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) through regional groups across the “4Rs” (reduction, readiness, response and recovery) and encourage cooperation and joint action between those groups
  • integrate local and national CDEM planning and activity through the alignment of local planning with a national plan and strategy
  • encourage the coordination of emergency management across the range of agencies and organisations with responsibilities for preventing or managing emergencies.

The role of the Director Civil Defence Emergency Management

The Act provides for the appointment of a Director 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 the national civil defence emergency management strategy
  • developing the National CDEM Plan, technical standards and guidelines
  • monitoring performance of CDEM groups
  • directing and controlling the resources available for civil defence emergency management during a national disaster.

The role of government departments, local government agencies, emergency services and lifeline utilities

Government departments, local government agencies, emergency services and lifeline utilities all have a key role in planning and preparing for emergencies and for response and recovery in the event of an emergency. The Act defines these functions and responsibilities. Amongst other things, central government agencies must:

  • ensure they can continue to function, albeit potentially at a reduced level, during and after an emergency, and
  • perform key functions under the Act and the National CDEM Plan.

Local authorities must:

  • ensure they can continue to function, albeit potentially at a reduced level, during and after an emergency, and
  • plan and provide for civil defence emergency management within their district.

Emergency services must:

  • participate in the development of the National CDEM Strategy and CDEM Plans
  • provide an active member for each of the CDEM Coordinating Executive Groups.

Lifeline utilities must:

  • ensure they can continue to function, albeit potentially at a reduced level, during and after an emergency, and have plans available for this
  • participate in the development of the National CDEM Strategy and CDEM Plans
  • provide technical advice to the Director and CDEM Groups as required.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups

Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups (CDEM Groups) are a core component of the Act. A CDEM Group is a consortium of the local authorities in a region, working in partnership with emergency services, to undertake CDEM functions within their region. Their functions include to:

  • identify and understand local hazards and risks and implement cost effective risk reduction measures
  • provide, or arrange to provide, suitably trained people and an appropriate organisational structure, to conduct effective CDEM
  • provide, or arrange to provide, other resources necessary for effective CDEM
  • undertake response and recovery activities
  • if possible, assist other groups implement CDEM when assistance is requested
  • promote awareness of the Act and related legislation, and monitor and report on compliance
  • prepare and implement a CDEM Group plan.

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 in other administrative aspects to reflect varying CDEM Group circumstances. It is important to note that under this approach:

  • member local authorities have equal status
  • individual local authority 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 the boundary between two regional councils, the local authority can choose which CDEM Group it wishes to belong to
  • formal linkages are required to be made with emergency service providers.

Emergency Declarations and Powers

The Act provides for local authority delegated representatives, Mayors, or the Minister, to declare a state of local emergency. The Minister also may declare a state of national emergency. Declared emergencies have a maximum duration of seven days. They may be extended (for up to another seven days) or terminated at any time.

Emergency powers under the CDEM Act 2002 enable CDEM Groups and controllers to, among other things:

  • close or restrict access to roads or public places
  • remove or secure dangerous structures and materials
  • provide rescue, first aid, food, shelter etc.
  • conserve essential supplies & regulate traffic
  • dispose of dead persons and animals
  • enter onto premises e.g. to rescue people or save lives
  • evacuate premises/places
  • remove vehicles, vessels etc.
  • requisition equipment, materials and assistance.

Information and guidance about the requirements and processes for declaring, extending and terminating a state of emergency are available in the following documents:

Factsheet: Declaring states of local emergency (pdf. 313kb)

Quick guide to declaring a state of local emergency (pdf. 336kb)

Declaration form templates (declaring, extending, and terminating a state of local emergency) (doc. 37kb)

Note: These fact sheets and quick guides have been produced to assist with the interpretation of the statutory requirements as they currently stand.

The report of the Ministerial Review technical advisory group - Better Responses to Natural Disasters and other Emergencies in New Zealand - makes several recommendations in relation to declarations of states of emergency. These recommendations are currently being considered by the Government.

Click here for a list of declared states of emergency since 2002.

The CDEM Framework

The Act is the overarching element in the CDEM Framework. Other elements include:

  • CDEM Regulations made under the Act
  • National CDEM Strategy
  • National CDEM Plan 2006, and its Guide
  • CDEM Group Plans
  • Director's Guidelines on various aspects of CDEM
  • Other legislation relevant to CDEM.

These are described in greater detail below.

CDEM Regulations

The National CDEM Strategy

The National CDEM Plan

The Guide to the National CDEM Plan

CDEM Group Plans

Under the Act, 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 CDEM necessary to manage the hazards and risks
  • the objectives of the plan and the relationship of each objective to the National CDEM 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 Act requires that CDEM Groups consult with the public over the development of their CDEM Group Plan and that interested persons may make submissions about the proposed plan to the CDEM Group. Each CDEM Group Plan must be reviewed after five years in operation.


The Act provides the Director with the authority to issue technical standards and guidelines. The purpose of these guidelines is to assist organisations with responsibilities under the Act to properly exercise those responsibilities.

The Director has issued guidelines and standards on a wide range of CDEM – related issues. They are grouped in different series as follows:

Other CDEM Related Legislation

Legislation relating to CDEM is not just limited to the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. A number of other Acts also play a role in CDEM by, for example, regulating activities of particular CDEM participants, assisting in land use planning, hazard identification and management, and emergency response. These Acts may be useful as reference points for those wanting additional information about a particular issue in the CDEM Act 2002. They include (but are not limited to) the:

Biosecurity Act 1993

Building Act 2004

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011

Defence Act 1990

Earthquake Commission Act 1993

Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006

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

Public Works Act 1981

Resource Management Act 1991