Health emergency management in context

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, a semi-autonomous body within the Department of Internal Affairs, is responsible for the administration of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management works with other agencies, such as the Ministry of Health, to facilitate and guide emergency planning activities.

District health boards are required by law to be part of their regional Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group. The Ministry of Health is also required under the Act to develop a national emergency management plan. This plan, the National Health Emergency Plan  is aligned with the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan and Strategy. The Ministry has an Emergency Management team which works on emergency management projects that will either lead or support a national response.

Health and disability providers are required under the Health and Disability Services Safety Act 2000 to have major incident and emergency plans. Other providers not covered by the act are not required by law to have emergency plans in place but it may be part of their contract to have one. Sound business practice dictates that providers at least have a robust service continuity plan to respond to any emergency situation.


In 2002 the New Zealand Government repealed the Civil Defence Act 1983, replacing it with the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002. This Act outlines the roles and responsibilities of key government agencies, including the Ministry of Health, in an emergency.

In 2004, in response to the threat of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, the Ministry of Health produced the original National Health Emergency Plan: Infectious Diseases. Since then the role of the health and disability sector in the event of an emergency, as both a lead and a supporting agency, has been more clearly defined.

Since 2004 the Ministry’s focus in this area has included publication of a series of emergency management-related documents to provide guidance in a health-related emergency. These mostly strategic documents are underpinned with specific action plans.

The National Health Emergency Plan provides the strategic framework for these documents.

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