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.


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


Day 1






Mihi whakatau / Welcome


Christchurch 10 years after

Lee Cowan, fmr PIM Christchurch City Council 2009-2014


COVID-19 – Public information in the emergency phase

John Walsh, Ministry for Primary Industries, NZ

John will talk about the challenges of establishing an all of government Public Information Management function and developing and delivering a campaign to inform and rally New Zealand at break neck speed and in a fast-changing environment.  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


TBC: Messaging during the pandemic

Annique Davis, Ministry for Pacific Peoples, 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.




News Bulletin – a year in review


View from the frontline – Media perspectives on covering COVID

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


News Bulletin


The role of science in communicating during a crisis

Prof Juliet Gerrard, Chief Science Advisor, NZ.


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. Translating complex science into useful risk communication products (oral, visual, written) using a wide range of channels (social media, print, radio etc) targeting the right audiences (agencies, communities, individuals, iwi, youth etc) is a niche skillset. It requires a team of people to ensure the outputs are scientifically credible, are trusted and have appropriate reach and impact. 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 1 wrap-up

Michele Poole, Conference Chair.


Conference Close


Conference dinner – Te Papa, Wellington


Day 2






EMPA NZ Awards for Excellence in Emergency Communication

2020 Award winners


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

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

Chris Webb (MCIPR) is recognised as one of the UK experts in crisis management and crisis communication. In his 30 year career, Chris dealt with some of the biggest disasters and emergencies to impact on London and beyond. However, nothing could prepare him for Covid-19.  He would need to call upon his years of experience to get the communication response right, to keep people safe and protect life. 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.




Morning tea


Public health messaging during COVID

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health & Chief Executive. Ministry of Health NZ


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  |  TBA, Northland CDEM




News Bulletin


Navigating the ministerial office

Stefan Weir, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet


Whakaari – Observations on Recovery

Kay Boreham, Whakatane District Council

On 9 December 2019, Kay was  holding the Emergency Management Bay of Plenty rostered PIM phone. 

On 9 December 2020, Kay remained the communications lead for the Whakaari Recovery Project.

Her presentation to EMPA 2021 will share observations of those intervening 12 months.


Working with remote communities

Catherine Coates, Marlborough Emergency Management

Marlborough is a small region, well-known for its wine culture and for the Marlborough Sounds. It’s perhaps less well-known that the Marlborough Sounds are the result of climate change, they comprise around 20 percent of New Zealand’s coastline. Unsurprisingly, it’s an area rich in history – part of a trade route for pounamu and argilite, fishing, whaling, farming, forestry and tourism. 

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. 

The exciting part of working with people living remotely is that it provides an opportunity to do things differently, and also provides a chance to learn the things that will make our future communication more effective.  We’re not alone in having remote communities; that’s part of living in many regions in New Zealand. This is a snapshot of the approach that we took with particular communities and some of the things we’ve learnt. 


Afternoon tea


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