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National Exercise Programme

The interagency National Exercise Programme was established in 2013 with the aim of ensuring New Zealand is prepared to effectively respond to national security events on or offshore.

Download the brochure.

Background to New Zealand’s national security system

New Zealand identifies national security risks on an “all-hazards” basis. This means that all risks to national security, whether internal or external, natural or man-made, are included within the scope of our national security system.

The interagency National Exercise Programme was established in 2013 with the aim of ensuring New Zealand is prepared to effectively respond to national security events on or offshore.

New Zealand’s recent history is filled with examples of complex national security events that required all-of-government management. The Canterbury earthquakes, the response to the blackmail threat to poison infant formula and the Rena grounding are recent examples

About the National Exercise Programme

The National Exercise Programme is chaired by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and reports to the Hazard Risk Board which is the National Security System governance body responsible for building system resilience. The programme builds capability across government through a coordinated series of interagency readiness activities that underpin the resilience of our national security system. These activities are measured against a set of national objectives.

Capability is also built through the capture and sharing of lessons identified from previous events and exercises.

The National Exercise Programme is supported by a planning team comprised of an interagency professional body of specialists. The planning team maintains oversight of nationally significant exercises and supports national exercising consistency through the development of tools and the provision of guidance to agency-led exercise writing and planning groups.

The Programme is designed to be able to adapt to emerging threats and issues.

What does the National Exercise Programme do?

The National Exercise Programme follows the ‘Crawl-Walk-Run’ philosophy. This approach gives agencies and individuals every opportunity to prepare and build skills and to test those skills in an annual capstone exercise.


The National Exercise Programme aims to support six ODESC Forum seminars each year. These seminars, alongside a range of other readiness activities, are aimed at raisingawareness of key issues, supporting exercises and embedding lessons identified.


The National Exercise Programme aims to support two ‘enabling’ exercises each year. These activities lead up to the ‘run’ activity and can range from a discussion exercise through to a functional command post activity that tests agencies and staff.


Each year at least one capstone exercise is conducted that aims to fully test the system in a realistic national security scenario

How the National Exercise Programme supports the national security system

The National Exercise Programme is about officials confidently following best practice crisis management processes in support of the Domestic and External Security Coordination system (DESC).

The Programme is focussed on building a more resilient national security system and compliments – but does not replace – agency readiness programmes

The 2015-2019 Programme

The National Exercise Programme operates across a four year timeframe. This ensures that a balanced series of activities are delivered across a range of potential scenarios.

DEC 2015

Exercise Rawaho (Walk): Pest Incursion

MAY 2016

Exercise Whakautu II (Walk): Maritime Incident


Exercise Tangaroa (Run): Tsunami

NOV/DEC 2016

Exercise Guardian 16 (Walk): Counter-terrorism

APR 2017

Exercise (Walk): Major Industrial Accident

JUL 2017

Exercise (Run): Disease threat

SEPT 2017

Exercise (Walk): Extreme Weather Event - Tropical Cyclone (Regional Disaster)

DEC 2017

Exercise (Walk): Malicious cyber threat

APR 2018

Exercise (Run): Irregular migration

SEPT 2018

Exercise (Walk): Biosecurity threat

TBC 2018

Exercise (Walk): Volcanic eruption

APR 2019

Exercise (Run): Major transport incident

New Zealand’s national security system during a crisis

New Zealand’s world-class processes identify and deal with national security events and emergencies, and build national resilience.

New Zealand’s arrangements for dealing with national security issues have evolved through the system of Domestic and External Security Coordination (DESC). This is a high-level strategic structure that has been the foundation of national security governance and planning since 1987.

The system provides a mechanism for dealing with major crises or other situations requiring an all-of government response. Across New Zealand more generally, it is able to facilitate the coordination of all sectoral, regional, and government capabilities where national planning or a national response is required.

Combined with the National Exercise Programme (and other readiness processes), this approach helps to ensure that risks receive appropriate attention, the right capabilities are developed, and lessons are identified and learned from

How you can get involved

In order to be successful, the National Exercise Programme needs to engage a wide range of government, industry and non-government organisations.

There are a range of opportunities for organisations to be involved in National Exercise Programme activities. These can range from observing exercises through to fully participating in the planning and delivery of activities. Organisations are also able to link into National Exercise Programme events to facilitate the testing of their own readiness and business continuity processes. If you think your agency wants to get involved then contact the National Exercise Programme Planning Team.

For more information



A number of exercise documentation templates have been developed by the NEP (interagency) Planning Team to assist you in writing and managing your exercise.

National Exercise Programme brochure (PDF 3.19 MB).

Aim, Objectives and Key Performance Indicators (DOC 503 KB)

The intention of this document is for agencies to use these objectives and key performance indicators in developing their own exercises (if applicable). They should then be modified to be made more specific and more measurable for your exercises

Exercise Concept template (DOCX 43 kb)

The purpose of the Exercise Concept is to provide initial information on the exercise to Management and to obtain official sign off.

Exercise Warning Order template (DOCX 44 KB)

The purpose of the Warning Order is to provide advance warning to likely participants that an exercise will be conducted and details key components of the exercise. It consists of an overview (confirming the approval of the exercise concept) and contains formal invitations and information to other participating agencies.

Exercise Coordinating Instruction template (DOCX 119 KB)

The purpose of the Coordinating Instruction is to set out the key measures to ensure the exercise is run smoothly. It is designed with two audiences in mind:

  • managers of participating agencies who have to allocate staff time and other resources to the proposed activity, and
  • the exercise planning team who need clear parameters with which to work.

Exercise Instruction template (DOCX 47 KB)

The purpose of the exercise instruction is to outline essential exercise information including administration arrangements specific to each participating, such as roster details, communication plans, and meal break times and how the exercise will be controlled. It should be distributed to all exercise participants.

Post Exercise Report template (DOCX 122 KB)

The Post Exercise Report should summarise the activity that has occurred and identify those areas, positive and negative, that require reinforcing or corrective action, respectively. From the lessons identified, a plan should also be established on how the remedial action will occur and a suitable timeline, to ensure these lessons become lessons learned.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 20 April 2016

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