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National Emergency Management Agency

What we do

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established on 1 December 2019, replacing the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. NEMA is an autonomous Departmental Agency hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has replaced the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM). All references to MCDEM on websites, documents, Director’s Guidelines, codes or standards are to be read as a reference to NEMA.

National Emergency Management Agency

NEMA works to build a safe and resilient Aotearoa New Zealand by empowering communities before, during and after emergencies.

Emergencies can have consequences for people, communities, property, infrastructure, the economy and the environment. We support communities to reduce the impact of emergencies across all hazards and risks.

NEMA's key functions are steward, operator and assurer of the emergency management system.

As steward, NEMA provides strategic leadership for risk reduction, readiness, response and recovery activities, and builds emergency management capability and capacity.

As operator, NEMA leads or supports the response to and recovery from emergencies while also supporting the operation of the emergency management system.

As assurer, NEMA will provide assurance that the emergency management system is fit for purpose.

Depending on the emergency, NEMA leads or supports the response and recovery. NEMA coordinates central government's response and recovery functions for national emergencies, and supports the management of local emergencies and emergencies led by other agencies. It also leads on geological and meteorological emergencies, and supports other lead agencies in the response and recovery of other hazard events.

NEMA works with a diverse range of organisations and bodies, including central and local government, communities, iwi, emergency services, lifeline utilities, private sector organisations, education providers, researchers, and non-government organisations and business to ensure responses to, and recoveries from, emergencies are coordinated, integrated and effective.

NEMA also holds key international relationships with emergency management counterparts overseas and engages with them on emergency management best practice and operational matters.

NEMA's work is underpinned by the Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Act (2002), the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, the National CDEM Plan and the Emergency Management Systems Reform programme, as set out in the Government's response to the Ministerial review 'Better Responses to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies in New Zealand'.

NEMA is an autonomous departmental agency, hosted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Dave Gawn is Chief Executive. Gary Knowles is Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management and Deputy Chief Executive - Emergency Management. Alan Cassidy is Deputy Chief Executive - Strategic Enablement.

Read more about the establishment of the National Emergency Management Agency.

What is a departmental agency?

A departmental agency is an operationally autonomous agency with its own chief executive, hosted by a department of the Public Service. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is NEMA's host agency.

Why was NEMA established?

The National Emergency Management Agency is was established as part of the Government's response to a Ministerial review into better responses to natural disasters and other emergencies, commissioned after the November 2016 earthquake and tsunami and the 2017 Port Hills fire.

The review's Technical Advisory Group (TAG) found that, although New Zealand's emergency management system is fundamentally sound, several issues need to be addressed.

The TAG report contained 42 recommendations to improve the system, including establishing a National Emergency Management Agency to replace MCDEM.

How is NEMA different from MCDEM?

As a departmental agency, NEMA has greater autonomy than MCDEM had. The government has also given NEMA an important stewardship role that requires it to lead and coordinate across the emergency management system (including central and local government) for all hazards and all risks.

Find out more about NEMA on the Civil Defence website.

Last updated: 
Monday, 6 September 2021

Contact us

General enquiries

Contact us by using our online enquiry form

Office of the Chief Executive
Level 8 Executive Wing
Parliament Buildings


(04) 830 5000

Media enquiries

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For all other media queries, please email

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