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New Zealand's National Security System during a crisis

The National Security System is activated if the impact of a situation of national security is sufficiently complex, significant or imminent that the attention of the broader system is deemed necessary to tackle it.

The system is activated by DPMC on the instruction of (in priority order):

  • the Chief Executive of DPMC;
  • the Deputy Chief Executive National Security Group, DPMC or;
  • the Director of National Security Systems, DPMC.

Any activation of the system will usually be at the request of, or in discussion with, the Chief Executive of the lead agency.


The National Security System is activated when one or more of the following apply:

  • Increasing risk, or a disaster or crisis, affects New Zealand interests;
  • Active, or close coordination, or extensive resources are required;
  • The crisis might involve risk to New Zealand’s international reputation;
  • An issue is of large scale, high intensity or great complexity;
  • Multiple smaller, simultaneous events require coordination;
  • An emerging issue might meet the above criteria in the future, and would benefit from proactive management.

If the National Security System is activated it means that pre-arranged coordination mechanisms occur. These arrangements may include:

Governance during a crisis

As with business-as-usual activity, the National Security System operates at three levels during a crisis response:

  • The Cabinet External Relations and Security Committee – made up of ministers and chaired by the Prime Minister
  • The Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination - commonly referred to as ODESC.
  • Watch Groups and Working Groups of senior government officials.
Last updated: 
Tuesday, 27 October 2020

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