Major power failure or earthquake biggest risks to NZ – survey shows

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Risk NZ chair Geraint Bermingham.

Source: Make Lemonade Media.

Risk NZ chair Geraint Bermingham.
Risk NZ chair Geraint Bermingham.

Quake Risks: A major power failure or an earthquake on the Alpine fault or in Wellington are two of the biggest risks New Zealand risk managers worry about, according to a Risk NZ survey.

Risk NZ, the peak sector and professional body in New Zealand bringing together people and organisations managing risk, surveyed its members late last year.

They will be discussing the risks faced by New Zealand a year on at our risk forum in Wellington on October 13. The event, which is open to the public, will be concentrating on the thinking on the management of risk across a range of central government agencies.

Other than a big power cut or earthquakes, the survey found people also saw long term climate change and cyber security threats, disrupting overseas links as key risks. Looking globally, risk managers felt natural disaster events, climate change, the Middle East conflict, oil supply disruption are top of mind. A global pandemic and cyber security were the major issues.

Risk NZ chairman Geraint Bermingham says risk managers identified a lack of workforce skills, cyber threats, commercial failure, a Wellington earthquake and customer-client privacy as key risks for organisations. 

“In their personal lives family ill health, unemployment, redundancy and direct impact from a natural disaster were key concerns. A proper and disciplined approach to managing risk gives organisations a solid foundation on which to make decisions. We have just in the last few days seen the situation where an organisation (VW) clearly did not consider the risks when they decided to develop and install software in their diesel cars to defeat the United States environmental tests.

“It is easy to point out an organisation which clearly was not managing risk well.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it is difficult to go past this large corporate deciding to do such a thing.  Risk managers must ensure their organisations take a step back and think first says Bermingham, who was the safety officer for the Dutch salvors, Svitzer BV, during the Rena recovery.

As the leading national organisation for a profession that crosses all sectors, RiskNZ members are drawn from Government, local government, industries, utilities, insurance, finance, aviation as well as the traditional high-risk sectors such as oil and gas, and mining.  Some New Zealand organisations are very advanced in their understanding of risk and risk management.  However, others have a long way to go while some professions are many years behind current thinking in the field.

“There are clearly many lessons to be drawn from the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.  Some are simple, like the need for engineers to have integrity and follow the spirit as well as the letter of the rules, and that even simple relatively cheap mitigations can be valuable – for example ensuring building missionary is secure. Other lessons are complex, such as what is an appropriate time to bring old buildings up to new standards,” Bermingham says.

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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