Auckland Mayor, Wayne Brown, has announced the membership and terms of reference of an independent review into the recent flood event response.
The four-strong review team will be led by former Police Commissioner Mike Bush CNZM, who led the response to the 15 March 2019 terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain and was Strategic Operations Lead for the New Zealand Government’s Covid-19 response.
The review will examine the response over the first 24 to 48 hours of the major weather event in the region that began on the afternoon of 27 January.
The former Police Commissioner’s crisis management experience also includes the 2019 Whakaari White Island Eruption, the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake and, when posted in the New Zealand Embassy in Thailand, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. He is currently independent chair of Risk Management Group Limited.
Mr Bush has chosen three other experts to be members of his review team:
- Debbie Francis, former Chief People Officer at the New Zealand Defence Force and partner at PwC New Zealand, and independent investigator into workplace culture at the New Zealand Parliament;
- Gary Knowles, former New Zealand Director of Civil Defence and Deputy Chief Executive of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), who led the Pike River Mine disaster response for the New Zealand Police; and
- Michael Paki, former Senior Sergeant, Senior Investigator, Head of Iwi and Community relations at Counties Manukau, New Zealand Police; and
- The review team will draw on other expertise as required.
Based on Mr Bush’s advice, the terms of reference for the review are:
Terms of Reference: Rapid Review of the Immediate Official Emergency Response to Auckland’s Severe Weather Event, 27–28 January 2023
The purpose of the review is to:
- report on the performance of the immediate official emergency response to the Auckland weather event of 27 – 28 January 2023; and
- identify any actions that need to be implemented immediately to ensure better preparation for the next event.
The review will consider:
- How well did Auckland Emergency Management and emergency services perform leading up to, and during, the weather event of Friday 27 January and the morning of Saturday 28 January?
- How well did the emergency management response operating model / procedures perform in response to the event?
- What were the key legislative, regulatory, policy and operational considerations that led to the recommendation to the Mayor, and the decision by the Auckland Council and Mayor, to declare a state of emergency in Auckland on 27 January 2023?
- Should the state of local emergency have been recommended and approved earlier than it was; and, if so, when and why, and why did this not happen; and what were the consequences?
- How effective and timely were related communications, including declarations and alerts, with partner agencies, central government, elected members (including the mayor) and the public?
- Were clear decision-making procedures and sufficient communications templates and draft materials available, and known to be available, to decision-makers and communicators to facilitate fast decision-making and communications to affected communities specifically and the public generally?
- How were decisions made about the number and location of evacuation centres / Civil Defence Centres set up on Friday 27 January and the morning of Saturday 28 January, and how effectively were these decisions communicated?
Mayor Brown said the review team may review any other matters that emerge from its inquiries, which it considers, in the public interest, to require immediate review.
The team is expected to complete its work no later than Monday 6 March 2023.
The scope of the review includes actions and decisions of the Mayor and the Mayor’s Office, as well as other local and national agencies. In a statement, Auckland Council said the Mayor’s Office will fully cooperate with the review and expects other agencies to do the same, including by providing the review with whatever information it requests.
The review team is to take note of the fact that emergency services are still taking part in an emergency response. It must ensure its review is undertaken in a manner that does not disrupt or draw resources from that response, the Council said.
“Mr Bush and the team he has selected have unmatched experience in crisis management response and are of unimpeachable integrity,” said Mayor Brown.
“My own and my office’s preparedness, decision-making and communications will be fully reviewed by the team as well as that of all other agencies involved in the first 24 to 48 hours of the severe weather event.
“As I said on Friday, I dropped the ball the night of 27 January, especially with my communication, and I am sorry.
“All our decisions and actions must be reviewed thoroughly, and clear and direct recommendations made so that we all do better for Aucklanders next time.
“Time is of the essence – with climate change, we do not know when how soon the next severe weather event or other civil-defence emergency might occur.”
The Chair of Auckland Council’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management Committee, Councillor Sharon Stewart said she and her committee welcomed the immediate review.
“Everyone needs to do better, and the committee and I are looking forward to these independent insights from Mr Bush and his team into how we can all do better,” Cr Stewart said.
The initial budget for the review is $100,000, to be paid out of the Mayor’s Office budget. Should additional funds be required, these will be negotiated with the Chief Executive Officer of Auckland Council.
The Mayor said he anticipates there will be further reviews, including those commissioned by central government, but says this initial review is important to move quickly on this initial review to ensure immediate lessons are learned.