For the last 14 years EMPA has brought together expert practitioners and researchers from around Australia, the US, New Zealand and Europe. They share frameworks and lessons learned – to stimulate thinking, encourage conversation and create change.

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  • DAY 1 - Tuesday 16 March 2021
  • DAY 2 - Wednesday 17 March 2021


Day 1





Chair: Michele Poole, Conference chair


Mihi whakatau / Welcome


It’s been ten years since the Christchurch 2011 Earthquake!

Lee Cowan, fmr PIM Christchurch City Council 2009-2014

Hear about what it was like as a PIM before the 22 February 2011, learn about what is was like to be the first PIM at the scene of the earthquake response and pick up learnings and insights into being a PIM through that extraordinary time. We explore how PIM has changed in the last ten years since the earthquake and has become intrinsically embedded in crisis response. 


COVID-19 – Public information in the emergency phase

John Walsh, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ

The presentation covers the emergency phase of the response to COVID-19 from March 2020 to June 2020 – the period New Zealand’s border was closed, we went into lock down and came back out at Alert Level One. This will include the process and strategy behind establishing the Unite Against COVID-19 campaign, how all of government coordination was approached, and insights into the  leadership and personal  challenges of such a large scale response.


Morning tea

Chair: Anthony Frith, National Emergency Management Agency


Public health messaging during COVID

Dr Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health, Ministry of
Health , NZ


Being prepared to change: the future of Emergency Management in Aotearoa New Zealand

Carolyn Schwalger, NEMA

The last decade has tested our emergency management system, teaching us some hard lessons, while paving the way for dramatic improvements.  As CE of the newly established NEMA, Carolyn outlines the case for change, and the need for a truly inclusive approach to emergency communications.



Chair: Sam Rossiter-Stead, Wellington City Council


News Bulletin: 18 months in review


Media Panel
View from the frontline – role of journalists throughout COVID-19

Chair: Andrew Holden, former Christchurch Press Editor, NZTE

Panellists: Kathryn Ryan, Radio NZ  |  Bernard Hickey, The Kākā  |  Michael Morrah, TV3

During New Zealand’s first lockdown, the 1pm press conference, with the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health, became the key set piece for Kiwis, to learn about the impact of the pandemic.

But what was it like for journalists in the room, whose persistent questioning made them frenemies for an absorbed public? And how did other journalists, who weren’t in the Beehive, able to do their work?

Join Kathryn Ryan, of Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon, business journalist Bernard Hickey, and TV3’s investigative reporter Michael Morrah as they discuss the role of the journalist throughout COVID-19 with former newspaper editor Andrew Holden.


The future of wildfire in NZ and implications for communications

Kelley Toy, Marketing Manager, Fire and Emergency NZ

Increasingly, due to climate change, where we’re living, and how we’re living, it’s getting harder to put wildfires fires out. Wildfire used to be a rural thing, now we’re seeing houses burn – homes in villages and urban areas.

New Zealand has experienced a number of high consequence fires in recent years – Ohau, Pukaki Downs, Port Hills and Tasman – but they are not frequent enough for the public to see this as a big enough risk to take action.

The challenge for us is to get the public to accept and acknowledge the rising wildfire risk and do something about it.


Afternoon tea

Chair: Jen Andrews, Flying Squad Communications


News Bulletin: EMAT


How the role of the chief science advisor changes in a crisis

Prof Juliet Gerrard, Chief Science Advisor, NZ

In this talk I will outline my role as the PM’s Chief Science Advisor and explain how this adapts in a crisis. I will draw on three recent examples in Aotearoa New Zealand: the Christchurch mosque shooting, the eruption of Whakaari White Island, and the COVID-19 pandemic.


Lessons learned at the science: practice interface: five years of AF8

Caroline Orchiston, University of Otago & Science Lead, AF8

Partnerships between science and public agencies are critical as we navigate increasing risks from climatic and geophysical hazards in Aotearoa-New Zealand. AF8 [Alpine Fault magnitude 8] is a collaboration between emergency managers and scientists to improve our response capability for a future major South Island earthquake, and to engage widely to improve the risk literacy of New Zealanders. This presentation will share honest experiences of the challenges, delights and barriers in trying to effectively communicate earthquake risk over the last five years of AF8.


Day one wrap-up

Michele Poole, Conference Chair.


Conference Close


Conference dinner – Te Papa, Wellington


Day 2





Chair: Lee Cowan, Communications and Engagement Consultant


The challenges of dealing with COVID-19 in the UK
(via video uplink)

Chris Webb, Emergency Practitioners in Crisis Communication (EPiCC), UK

Chris will share his first-hand experience of dealing with the media and communication response both in London and subsequently in Surrey and how trust and confidence in the communication response would be at the heart of the pandemic.


EMPA NZ Awards for Excellence in Emergency Communication

2020 Award winners


Morning tea

Chair: Karl Ferguson, Ministry of Health


Communicating COVID-19 messaging to Pacific communities in Aotearoa

Annique Davis, Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ

Working shoulder to shoulder with government agencies, our Pacific communities, churches, and organisations have provided the vital link that has ensured Pacific peoples have been engaged and supported in their languages. Annique will talk about the essential role of Pacific Languages during crisis communications, the “We got your back Aotearoa” campaign and the importance of partnerships.


Harnessing the power of humour
(via video uplink)

Dr Sara McBride, United States Geological Survey, US


EOC PIMs PANEL – Extreme weather events: Flood and Drought

Facilitator: Victoria Walker
Panellists: Kay Boreham, Whakatane District Council   |  Drew Broadley, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council  |  Adrienne Henderson, Environment Southland  |  Jo Davidson, Auckland Council

Rain or shine, Aotearoa always has something to test PIMs. Join this session to hear some gems about floods and droughts from North, South and in between.



Chair: Victoria Walker, Auckland Council


News Bulletin: Highly commended 2020 award finalists


Navigating the ministerial office

Stefan Weir, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

After giving a brief overview of the Ministerial Office, Stefan will outline what happens for Ministers when an emergency occurs, explain why information is sought in such a hurry and what it is used for and provide some useful tips for supporting Ministers prior to and during emergencies.


Whakaari – Living with the legacy 

Kay Boreham, Whakatane District Council

At 2.11pm on 9 December 2019, Whakaari/White Island erupted.

To many, Whakaari had become ‘an event’ – to the peoples of the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Whakaari has myriad meanings and connections and that fact shaped and continues to shape community recovery.


Working with remote communities

Catherine Coates, Marlborough Emergency Management

While increasing urbanisation and changes in industry have seen a reduction in the number of people living in the Marlborough Sounds, several small and isolated communities remain, as well as isolated residents. Our role as an emergency management organisation requires us to engage with all our communities, and to ensure that people are made aware of the hazards around them and the actions they can take to reduce the risk of being adversely affected by an emergency. 


Afternoon tea

Chair: Michele Poole, Conference chair


How to care for yourself and others in times of crisis

Dr Maureen Mooney, Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University

It is normal to experience stress in challenging situations. Looking after ourselves is a priority if we are to continue our work effectively. Learning how to care for oneself and others is possible and a core component of the work.


Conference Close