Back to top anchor

New Zealand's Nationally Significant Risks

New Zealand faces a range of complex hazards and threats with the potential to have serious, long-term effects on our national security, wellbeing and prosperity.

New Zealand’s National Risk Register

We use a National Risk Register to support a proactive and coordinated approach to identifying and managing the most significant risks to New Zealand.

While it is not possible to capture every risk facing New Zealand, the Register helps us consider how many nationally significant risks may affect us, and how we can build resilience to them in light of key challenges and trends.

How are our risks managed?

A range of organisations at the national, regional, local and community levels contribute to the management of New Zealand’s nationally significant risks.

At the national government level, the Officials’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) boards, the Hazard Risk Board and the Security and Intelligence Board, oversee and govern our management of national risks.

Evidence and expertise, including science, research and data, underpins our understanding and assessment of nationally significant risks. Intelligence helps us understand more about the intentions and capabilities of those who may wish to do New Zealand harm, the drivers and methods for such activity, as well as the extent and likely impact of their efforts. The National Security Intelligence Priorities outline key areas of focus for New Zealand’s intelligence efforts, supporting the government to make informed decisions about our national security.

Summary of New Zealand’s national risks

The tables below summarise the nationally significant risks currently on New Zealand’s National Risk Register.

The risks are assigned Risk-Coordinating Agencies to support a shared understanding of the risk across government. These agencies are responsible for leading the assessment of risks, drawing on relevant evidence and subject matter expertise, and for identifying opportunities to reduce risk and improve resilience. They support the Hazard Risk Board and the Security and Intelligence Board to strategically govern our national risks.

We will regularly review and update this page to support public access to current information on our national risks. 

Summary of New Zealand’s national risks

Risk Description

Risk-Coordinating Agencies

Further information
Natural and environmental hazards

Drought

Drought is an extended period of unusually dry conditions or below normal rainfall which can have serious impacts for plant growth, food and fibre production and water availability (quality and quantity). Drought risks are compounded by concurrent hazards such as wildfire, flooding, water insecurity (quality and quantity) and heat waves.  Ministry for Primary Industries 

Dealing with drought conditions | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Earthquake

An earthquake is a natural event caused by the release of strain energy in the Earth’s crust, resulting in strong and sometimes extremely violent ground shaking. Earthquake hazards include fault rupture (surface cracking, uplift and deformation) shaking, liquefaction and lateral spreading, triggered landslides, fires and triggered tsunami. A long-term change in ground surface elevation can also change flooding patterns, including coastal inundation.

National Emergency Management Agency 

Earthquake » National Emergency Management Agency (civildefence.govt.nz)

Coastal hazards

Weather-related coastal hazards include coastal erosion, coastal storm inundation and rising/salinisation of coastal groundwater. While coasts are by nature dynamic, changing environments that can periodically advance and retreat, coastal erosion is the long-term retreat of the shoreline.

National Emergency Management Agency, Ministry for Environment   

Floods

Flooding occurs when a river channel or lake receives more inflow than it can contain or rainfall exceeds drainage capacity. Catastrophic flash flooding occurs where meteorological circumstances or dam failures produce a surge of water. Flooding can also be exacerbated by changes in topography following an earthquake. New Zealand has widespread flooding risks due to its geography and temperate climate.   National Emergency Management Agency, Ministry for Environment 

Flood » National Emergency Management Agency (civildefence.govt.nz)

Severe weather

Severe weather is the occurrence of strong winds and/or heavy rain and/or snow that causes significant damage to the built and/or natural environment as well as potential loss of life.

National Emergency Management Agency, Ministry for the Environment 

Storms and severe weather » National Emergency Management Agency (civildefence.govt.nz)

Space weather

Space weather relates to the effects of solar activity on the electromagnetic condition in the near-space around the Earth. This can cause severe geomagnetic disturbance that could negatively impact information and communications technology (ICT), global navigation satellite system (GNSS), and other critical infrastructure, including national (electricity) grids, navigation/operation of aircraft, and the safety of passengers and crew.

To be confirmed  

Tsunami

Tsunami is a natural event consisting of a series of waves generated when a large volume of water in the sea, or in a lake, is rapidly displaced by a large submarine or coastal earthquake, underwater or terrestrial landslide, volcanic eruption or meteorite splashdown. Tsunami have the capacity to violently inundate coastlines, causing fatalities, injuries and property damage, and have the potential to have one of the most widespread impacts, particularly on individual health.

National Emergency Management Agency 

Tsunami » National Emergency Management Agency (civildefence.govt.nz)

Volcanic activity

Volcanic activity is a natural phenomenon with events involving either a volcanic eruption or sustained levels of volcanic unrest, which may or may not be a precursor to an eruption. Volcanic hazards include ash fall, lava flows, pyroclastic flows (superheated ash and gases), ballistic ejecta, lahars (ash and mudflows) and toxic gas emissions. Volcanic activity can also trigger earthquakes, landslides, tsunami and wildfires.

National Emergency Management Agency  Volcanic activity » National Emergency Management Agency (civildefence.govt.nz)
Wildfire Wildfire is an unwanted, uncontrolled fire which occurs within an area of combustible vegetation. Wildfires often move rapidly across the landscape causing destruction to life, property, and the environment. Although wildfires most commonly occur in rural areas, they also may occur within urban environments. Fire and Emergency New Zealand  Wildfire Readiness and Prevention | Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Biodiversity loss Biodiversity loss refers to a significant deterioration in the number and variety of plants and animals in a defined area, as well as endemic species that are endangered, or a local population of any species that is highly valued.  Department of Conservation  Biodiversity in Aotearoa - an overview of state, trends and pressures (doc.govt.nz)

Ecosystem disruption (soil)

Ecosystem (soil) disruption refers to the permanent, sudden or gradual, loss of healthy productive soil and the associated loss of biodiversity and other ecosystem services provided by soil. Ministry for the Environment   
Resource depletion (marine fisheries)

Marine resource depletion refers to fisheries resources and/or associated endemic species being depleted faster than they can be replenished due to a combination of overfishing, adverse environmental changes and invasive species.

Ministry for Primary Industries

Fishing and aquaculture | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Protecting aquaculture from biosecurity risks | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Ocean pests and diseases | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Biological and human health hazards
Pests and diseases Pests and diseases refers to agricultural and environmental pests, animal and plant disease-causing organisms, and their vectors, which present a biosecurity risk to New Zealand. They may cause economic losses, unwanted environmental impacts, and be harmful to human health and damage our socio-cultural values. Ministry for Primary Industries

Biosecurity | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Report a pest or disease | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Pests and diseases to look out for - including brown marmorated stink bug, fruit fly and myrtle rust | Biosecurity in NZ | Ko Tātou This is Us

Foot-and-mouth disease response plans | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Brown marmorated stink bug: threat to NZ and identification | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Queensland fruit fly | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Communicable diseases Communicable diseases are diseases that spread from one person to another or from an animal to a person. Communicable disease events may lead to localised outbreaks or result in more widespread epidemics or pandemics, that may result in large-scale health emergencies. Ministry of Health Communicable Disease Control Manual | Ministry of Health NZ
Vector-borne diseases Vector-borne diseases relates to the establishment of a competent disease vector (e.g. exotic mosquito) followed by transmission of an arboviral disease which in severe cases could have significant impacts on public health. Ministry of Health   
Food safety incident A food safety incident is a serious and uncontrolled foodborne risk to public health domestically or internationally that requires urgent action, as identified by a competent authority. Major food safety incidents have the potential to result in death or serious illness, or a widespread foodborne illness outbreak nation-wide or in an export market. Ministry for Primary Industries 

New Zealand Food Safety Strategy | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Food business | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Food safety at home | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)

Technological hazards
Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) disruption Global navigation satellite system disruption is a loss of the functioning of information systems, assets, facilities, and networks, that provides essential geospatial services relied upon for essential services. Global navigation satellite system disruption can come from a variety of unintentional or intentional sources, including space weather events, to jamming or spoofing devices that intentionally block or replace Global navigation satellite system signals to manipulate information.  To be confirmed  
Critical infrastructure failure Critical infrastructure failure considers the significant loss of nationally significant services due to the disruption or loss of infrastructure, across four core sectors, including water, energy, transport, and information and communications technology infrastructure sectors.

Water infrastructure resilience: Department of Internal Affairs (TBC - Interim)

Energy infrastructure resilience: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Transport infrastructure resilience: Ministry of Transport

Information and communications technology infrastructure resilience: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

 
Fire and explosions The fire and explosions risk refers to a structural fire or explosion in an inhabited location or location where business activities are carried out. Fire and Emergency New Zealand Home | Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Hazardous substances emergency A hazardous substances emergency refers to an incident involving a hazardous material, including chemical agents, corrosive materials, explosives, flammable gases/liquids, non-flammable gases, organic peroxides, oxidisers, radioactive material, toxic and infectious substances, and unexploded ordinances. During the use, transport or storage of a hazardous substance, an unplanned or uncontrolled release of hazardous material can occur having adverse effects on people, property and the natural environment. Fire and Emergency New Zealand  
Major oil spill A major oil spill refers to a widespread or large volume petrochemical spill onto land and/or sea and/or waterways. They are typically a result of a shipping or transport, or offshore oil and gas accident. Oil spills may be either crude oils from offshore installations (including pipelines) and/or oil tankers, or refined products such as petroleum. Maritime New Zealand New Zealand Marine Oil Spill Readiness and Response Strategy: 2022–2026 (maritimenz.govt.nz)
Radiological incident A radiological incident is a release of ionising radiation that is, or has the potential to be, hazardous to the health of people and the environment.  Ministry of Health Ionising radiation safety | Ministry of Health NZ
Major transport incident A major transport incident is a significant air, sea or land incident involving one or more vehicles, ships or aircraft, with impacts that exceed normal events attended by emergency service responders such as multiple fatalities or significant damage. Ministry of Transport   
Economic crises
Commodity/
energy price shock
A commodity/energy price shock is a sudden or significant increase in the price of a commodity or the supply of energy resources. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment   
Major trade disruption Trade disruption occurs when barriers arise preventing or reducing New Zealand traders’ access to export markets for goods and services and/or hindering access to critical imports. Many natural, economic, and political factors could cause this, including market access risks, biosecurity threats (such as an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease), a major shock to multiple countries such as a pandemic or global financial crisis, and risks to the safe transport of goods to and from New Zealand. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry for Primary Industries  Export | NZ Government (mpi.govt.nz)
Financial crisis A financial crisis can be defined as the failure or disruption of a major financial mechanism or institution due to a variety of situations. Financial crises have the potential to severely disrupt the provision of credit, transactional banking, insured risks or the payment and settlement process with consequent economic and social (asset) impacts.  New Zealand Treasury  Financial Stability Report (updated  6 monthly)
Malicious threats
Armed conflict Armed conflict can be broadly understood as situations in which two or more opposing groups (either state actors or non-state actors) use organised armed violence to pursue their objectives at the expense of others. Armed conflict can be considered as one extreme on a spectrum that spans cooperation, competition, confrontation, and conflict. New Zealand’s interests can be put at risk by a wide range of actual and potential armed conflicts. Armed conflicts, even when principally conducted in specific geographic areas, can have much wider impacts. These can include disruptions to global supply chains, international relationships, multilateral organisations, and the international information environment. This risk focuses on armed conflicts the New Zealand Government decides to commit national capabilities to protect, preserve and promote our interests to, particularly including the New Zealand Defence Force. New Zealand Defence Force, Ministry of Defence   
Weapons proliferation Weapons proliferation refers to the proliferation of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction as well as the items, materials, technologies and knowledge that can aid in their development, production and use. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Disarmament | New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (mfat.govt.nz)
Civil unrest Civil unrest is defined as significant and persistent unlawful mass disorder/activity arising from an event or mass act of civil disobedience (such as a riot) in which participants may become violent and hostile towards authority and/or their actions impact the functioning of key institutions and infrastructure. This is distinct from lawful protest activity and non-violent civil disobedience, which may have elements of minor short-term disorder or disruption. New Zealand Police   
Corruption Corruption is the misuse of entrusted power for private gain, which can harm and erode public trust in government, institutions and the rule of law, and the global economy. Corruption takes many forms including, but not limited to, bribes or secret commissions, manipulation of tendering or procurement processes, misuse of information or influence and undisclosed conflicts of interest. Serious Fraud Office  Fraud & Corruption - Serious Fraud Office, New Zealand (sfo.govt.nz)
Foreign interference and espionage

Foreign interference is defined as an act by a foreign state, or its proxy, that is intended to influence, disrupt or subvert a New Zealand national interest by deceptive, covert or threatening means. By its nature, foreign interference can be difficult to discern and can take many forms (eg control or harassment of communities that whakapapa to foreign states, or cultivating relationships of influence or dependence, that can be leveraged, such as with government officials).

Foreign interference differs from legitimate influence activity by states (such as diplomacy and open lobbying) because the activities are purposely misleading, deceptive, covert or clandestine and circumvent norms of international engagement.

Espionage refers to clandestine activities undertaken to collect information, materials, or capability to obtain competitive advantage. For instance, state espionage targets New Zealand government entities for sensitive and protected information and capabilities, both in New Zealand and abroad; while, economic espionage targets New Zealand’s commercial, research, and industrial entities for proprietary technology, research, and commercial information.

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 

Countering foreign interference | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)

Countering Espionage and Foreign Interference | New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (nzsis.govt.nz)

Pacific Regional Instability or emergency

New Zealand’s national security relies on a stable, resilient and prosperous Pacific. Instability in the Pacific region could result from challenges to internal resilience including environmental, economic, social, or political factors.

Our region is also prone to natural disasters such as cyclones, volcanic activities, and earthquakes. Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to supporting our Pacific partners to respond to these incidents.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Defence   
Mass arrivals A mass arrival is when over 30 people, who do not have permission to enter New Zealand, arrive on board one craft or more at the same time, excluding scheduled international services. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Immigration New Zealand)  Preventing people smuggling | Immigration New Zealand
Major cyber incident A major cyber incident is an activity or event that threatens or affects the confidentiality, availability and integrity of data and information infrastructures, that leads to detrimental impacts on New Zealand’s society, economy and national security. Threats can come from malicious, state-sponsored actors, as well as organised criminal groups and individuals.  Government Communications Security Bureau, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet 

Cyber Security Strategy | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)

Incidents | National Cyber Security Centre (ncsc.govt.nz)

National Cyber Security Centre | Government Communications Security Bureau (gcsb.govt.nz)

Maritime territorial incursion Maritime territorial incursion refers to the deliberate act of incursion into territories where New Zealand exercises sovereign authority by a state actor that threatens New Zealand’s maritime territorial interests. New Zealand Defence Force, Ministry of Defence   
Terrorism

Under New Zealand law, a terrorist act is defined as an ideologically, politically, or religiously motivated act – including, but not limited to, those causing death or serious bodily injury – intended to intimidate a population, or to coerce or force the government to do or not do certain things.

The scope of this risk considers the risk of a terrorist attack in New Zealand, and a terrorist attack off-shore impacting New Zealanders (e.g. while travelling, living/working off-shore or attending an international event).

It includes violent extremism in so far as it is a precursor to, or supportive of, a terrorist activity.
New Zealand Police, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Counter-terrorism | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)

Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism | New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (nzsis.govt.nz)

Designated terrorist entities | New Zealand Police

Protecting crowded places | New Zealand Police

Transnational organised crime

Transnational organised crime refers to planned and systematic criminal activity, committed by a group or network, that has the objective of gaining profit, power or influence.

Transnational organised crime specifically operates across national borders or has strong offshore links. Transnational organised crime poses significant risks to our national security, law and order, public safety and wellbeing, and to the environment.
New Zealand Police, New Zealand Customs Service Transnational Organised Crime in New Zealand: Our Strategy 2020 - 2025 | New Zealand Police
Border incursion Border incursion or smuggling is the deliberate and undetected movement of contraband into sovereign territory. It enables other national security threats such as transnational organised crime, terrorism, biosecurity threats and others. If successful, it has adverse impacts on many different aspects of New Zealand, such as its people, communities, economy, and the environment.  New Zealand Customs Service  
Last updated: 
Thursday, 15 December 2022

Help us improve DPMC

Your feedback is very important in helping us improve the DPMC website.