Sunday, June 16, 2024

Auditor-General finds Auckland emergency preparedness lacking

Auckland Council has much to do to improve its preparedness for responding to emergencies, despite making progress in recent years, a new report from the Auditor-General has found.

The report has also called for the Council to do more to help build communities’ preparedness.

Initial audit work in 2019 identified substantial concerns with the Council’s lack of preparedness for emergencies. Following Covid-related interruptions, further work in the second half of 2022 assessed the Council’s progress since 2019, the Auditor-General’s report states.

The audit found that Auckland Council was better placed to handle emergencies in 2023 than in 2019.

“The Council had made changes in response to the Auditor-General’s draft findings and learned lessons from emergencies since 2019. For example, the Council had fully staffed Auckland Emergency Management (the business unit responsible for supporting emergency management activities), a more focused and prioritised emergency management work programme was under way, and a structured training programme had been re-established.”

Auditor-General, John Ryan says while this progress is encouraging, there is still much work to do.

Auditor-General, John Ryan.

This includes creating a clear strategy and plan for working with communities to build resilience and strengthening working relationships with Māori. The Council also needs a more systematic approach to testing its systems and processes by running regular emergency management readiness exercises, carrying out post-event evaluations, and identifying and implementing improvements, he said.

“The strategic importance of the Council’s emergency management work means there needs to be much closer monitoring and governance oversight,” says Mr Ryan.

“The Council needs to better support Auckland Emergency Management to build momentum with its work programme. Consistent leadership and support from governance are key to this.”

In particular, the Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group needs to update and implement the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group Plan, the Auditor-General said.

“It is essential that the Group Plan is reviewed and updated as soon as possible. This is an important opportunity for Auckland Council to continue to assess what it has learned from recent emergency events, re-engage with relevant organisations and communities, and set realistic and achievable goals for improving emergency management in the Auckland region.”

Mr Ryan has made six recommendations to support the Council’s emergency preparedness and management work. Two recommendations – to update and finalise the Group Plan, and to carry out regular emergency management readiness exercises – are also recommendations in the independent review into the January 2023 flood response.

“The overlap in these recommendations reinforces their importance,” says Mr Ryan.

“I intend to follow up in 12 months on what progress Auckland Council has made against these recommendations. As part of my follow up, I also intend to look at the Council’s progress against the recommendations in the 2023 independent review.

“The Council has committed to a range of improvements. It is critically important that it prioritises its efforts and stays focused,” he said.

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