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Watch Groups

Watch Groups are formed in response to a potential, emerging or actual event.

They are a tool to obtain situational clarity in what is often a chaotic environment, and are responsible for ensuring that systems are in place to ensure effective management of complex issues.

Watch Groups are ordinarily made up of senior officials able to commit resources and agree actions on behalf of their organisation. The exact composition of Watch Groups depends on the nature of the event, and includes agencies with a role to play in responding to the issue at hand.

Watch Groups ensure high-level coordination between agencies and coordinate assessments and advice up to ODESC. Watch Groups assess the risks, consider mitigations and identify gaps where further action is required

Watch Groups focus on the national interest and remain at a strategic level. Watch Group members test current arrangements, check with each other to ensure that all risks have been identified and are being managed, identify gaps and areas of outstanding concern, and agree on any further action required

A Watch Group will be called by DPMC if it becomes aware of a potential, emerging or actual issue that:

  • Affects New Zealand’s interests or international reputation;
  • Requires active or close coordination, or extensive resources;
  • Is of large scale, high intensity or great complexity;
  • Requires coordination of multiple, smaller, simultaneous events; or
  • Might meet one of these conditions in the future and would benefit from swift attention before things deteriorate.

The nature of the issue will determine how often the Watch Group meets. In the initial period after a no-notice event, Watch Groups may meet twice daily. For emerging events, Watch Groups may meet weekly or monthly. It is common for Watch Groups to meet more frequently than ODESC. ODESC meetings are normally preceded by a Watch Group, which will consider the issue and prepare advice to ensure that Chief Executives’ deliberations can be as effective as possible.

DPMC usually chairs and supports Watch Groups though in some circumstances the Watch Group chair and support functions might be carried out by the lead agency instead.

Watch Group examples

Watch Groups typically meet prior to each ODESC meeting – although there may not be an ODESC meeting just because a Watch Group has been called. Frequently Watch Groups alone are enough to achieve cross-agency coordination, and the other levels (ODESC or NSC) are not required.

Examples of when Watch Groups have met without a follow-up ODESC include:

  • Zika virus (2016)
  • Security arrangements for ANZAC commemorative events in Gallipoli (2015)
  • Tongariro volcanic eruption (2012)

Across the National Security System, a Watch Group is typically held on one or another topic every one to two weeks.

For more information download the National Security System Handbook.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 25 August 2016

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