Multihazard Risk Model

PhD scholarships available 




We have six PhD scholarships available, under the Multihazard Risk theme. The successful applicants will be helping deliver world-leading multi-hazard risk and impact modelling, to support better decision making and planning.

The positions are based at different New Zealand universities, depending on topic and supervisor.

There is no closing date for applications, but we hope to have the positions filled within three months. 

Contact details for each position can be found in the position descriptions linked below. 


Student Profile: Sara Harrison


Exploring the Data Needs for Impact-based Forecasting and Warning Systems in New Zealand




A bit about me 


I’m from Barrie, Ontario, Canada – a mid-sized city north of Toronto, in between the Great Lakes. We’re exposed to

 lots of active weather year-round. We experience white-out conditions from snowstorms in winter, and thunderstorms and the odd tornado in summer. Severe weather has always impacted my life, causing ‘snow-days’ due to rough winter roads, or outdoor soccer game cancellations due to risk of lightning strikes.

With a fascination for natural hazards and a love for reading and creating maps, I decided to study Geography at the University of Waterloo. For my honours thesis, I assessed the post-storm damage surveys conducted in Canada following potentially tornadic events. This sparked an interest in understanding how we could use crowdsourcing for disaster management, which I explored for my Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) degree, at the same university.

After completing my MES, I did some private GIS work but found that I preferred research. Fortunately, I met my current supervisor, Dr. Sally Potter from GNS, at the World Weather and Open Science Conference in Montreal just before starting my MES. We added each other on Facebook and three years later Sally posted a call for scholarship applications for a PhD project that aligned perfectly with my interests. The rest is history! In my spare time I enjoy rock climbing (bouldering), SCUBA diving, and travelling. 


My project


For my PhD I aim to map out existing and potential impact data sources from severe weather events in New Zealand to support a fairly new kind of warning system: impact-based forecasts and warnings. My guiding research question is: How is impact data currently collected, stored, and shared in New Zealand and how can this impact data support an impact-based forecasting and warning system?

In answering this question, I hope to identify current and potential sources of impact data for impact-based forecasts warnings and other applications like risk/impact modelling, response and recovery efforts, as well as challenges and opportunities in sharing the data and strengthening inter-agency collaborations for enhanced disaster risk reduction in New Zealand.

To do this, I’m interviewing people with expertise in creating, collecting, sharing, and using impact data for a variety of purposes including impact/risk modelling, severe weather warnings, and response. I’m using a grounded theory methodology to identify relationships and interdependencies between components in the impact-based forecasting and warning system and associated data infrastructure. I’m taking a sociotechnical approach so that I can explore both the social aspects of data creation, sharing, and use; along with the technical capabilities, limitations, and opportunities.

My research fits under the RNC2 Weather & Wildfire theme and aims to contribute to three efforts of the theme:

  • to help build national extreme weather hazards and impacts datasets,
  • to increase our understanding of impacts on communities, infrastructure, and economic activity, and
  • to improve the forecasting and warning services in New Zealand so that they provided more meaning to warning recipients.

My supervisors guiding me through this journey are Dr. Sally Potter (GNS), Dr. Raj Prasanna (Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University), Dr. Emma Hudson-Doyle (Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University), and Prof. David Johnston (Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University).



Next steps


The expected outcome is to outline the process of getting impact data from the source (e.g. the public) to the end-users (e.g. Civil Defence groups, the MetService, impact/risk modellers, etc) for impact-based forecasts and warnings. This will help stakeholders understand what is available to them, and how they can access and contribute to it. Within a wider scope, this will support efforts towards meeting the requirements of the Sendai Framework to build a national impacts and losses database, as well as contribute to the implementation of impact-based forecasts and warnings in New Zealand.




Q & A with Dr Bill Fry



Q: Congratulations on your recently completed Hochstetter Lecture tour – how did it go?

Great! It was truly a rewarding and humbling experience. The audiences throughout the regions were as varied as the New Zealand landscape. However, the uniting characteristic was the genuine thirst for knowledge. I’ve been interacting with the New Zealand public for over a decade and I never fail to be impressed by the high level of understanding of geohazards and the keen desire to take on new science.

Q. You’re a seismologist and you also work a lot on tsunami hazards – how did you arrive at your current field of research?

I started my career in fundamental (academic) seismology, with very little focus on geohazards or societal application. Moving to New Zealand in 2008 changed all of that. I was fortunate enough to get a job with GNS as a civil servant, monitoring and responding to earthquakes. Almost immediately, the Mw7.8 Dusky Sound earthquake happened and my first real event response began. I was told that it was a “once in a career event”. Ha! The next decade produced three more M7+ earthquakes in New Zealand and a handful of tsunami responses. Once I saw tangible societal benefit in science and the true power of “science to practice”, there was no turning back.

Q: Your Hochstetter talk focussed on Kermadec trench earthquakes, and their potential to generate large tsunami for Aotearoa New Zealand. What are the major takeouts from this research?

Natural warning self evacuation (Long or Strong, Get Gone) is absolutely crucial to protecting coastal communities from many local tsunami-generating earthquakes. However, we’ve also documented local and regional tsunami-generating earthquakes that require a combination of natural warning, and science-based instrumental warning to keep coastal communities safe. The talk brought together geophysical observations, numerical simulations and observations of New Zealand citizens to highlight improvements that can be made to our tsunami response plans.

Q. You’re co-leading the Earthquake-Tsunami theme for Phase 2 of the Resilience Challenge. Can you talk us through the main projects in this theme?

Sure. The biggest challenge of putting hard numbers to seismic hazard in New Zealand is overcoming the limits of having a very short record of earthquakes. To capture the full range earthquake behaviour, we’d need to record earthquakes for tens of thousands of years. We obviously can’t do that (modern GeoNet recording only goes back to about 2001). Our theme will use our understanding of the physics of earthquakes and specific knowledge of New Zealand’s faults and tectonics to computationally model hundreds of thousands of years of earthquakes. We’ll look for earthquake sequences in those models that look like what we’ve seen over the last decade, and then see if subsequent earthquakes in the model inform us about what we might expect to see over the next 50 years. We’ll also evaluate whether this type of earthquake catalogue can underpin next-generation hazard models.

Q. How have the Canterbury and Kaikōura earthquakes affected the priorities for earthquake research?

When you see first hand the impact of these sequences on local communities, the need for applied research is absolutely obvious. One of the main changes that was driven by both of the sequences is the understanding that hazard before the event is not the same as hazard after the event. We’ve become better and better at using science to inform future hazard following big earthquakes. We’ve also become better at quantifying the influence of differences in geology and the particular characteristic of individual earthquakes on the resulting strong ground shaking.

Q. The research involving synthetic earthquakes has led to collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?

For the last six or eight years, we’ve had a close three-nation collaboration with Taiwan and Japan that has focused on seismic hazard. All three countries face similar geohazard challenges. Through this collaboration, we’ve realised that many of the benefits of our RNC2 research program are also applicable to Taiwan. We decided to move forward together, pooling our talents to make better outcomes for both counties.

I recently undertook a visiting professor position in Taiwan to help launch the project and now both we and Taiwan are well on our way.

Q. Looking beyond Phase 2 of the Challenge, what future avenues of research would you like to pursue?

I’m particularly interested in understanding the ways in which we can use sophisticated geophysical analyses (that we currently only apply in academic ways well after the response need has passed) to produce real-time products that can be used to save lives, limit risk and improve recovery as the event is happening and immediately after it.



Q & A with Dr Rob Bell



Rob receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award with Hon James Shaw & NIWA Board chair Barry Harris. Credit: Stu Mackay

Q: Congratulations on your recent Lifetime Achievement Award from NIWA – what does this award mean for you, and the research you’ve been involved in?

It was a total surprise (a well-kept secret), but I’m humbled to have been honoured by NIWA for my work over the decades and to have the award presented by the Minister for Climate Change Hon James Shaw at our Leaders’ Forum. But really it is down to team effort, as many of the coastal and climate change issues and planning/design challenges require an inter-disciplinary approach and I’ve been fortunate to work with some great researchers and practitioners – both in and outside NIWA. The Award also highlights the growing need for action on climate change matters, with our collective efforts culminating in guidance for local government on coastal adapation. It is a testament to the multi-year research and innovative approaches needed for responding to changing risk that sits behind such decision-support systems.

Q: You studied Civil Engineering and have worked extensively in the areas of coastal and estuarine management, flooding, coastal hazards and the impacts of climate change on our coasts. What drew you to studying the power of water?

I grew up in a small village in South Canterbury spending time at the nearby river, coastal hāpua and gravel beach. There were occasional evacuations up the nearby hill due to floods and the 1960 Chile tsunami. These experiences drew my curious mind to how these coastal-river systems work, both in peace time and in nature’s fury. Fortunately, I had an astute science teacher at high school who had a Civil Engineering degree. He advised me to try engineering, as I wanted to work with science but come up with practical solutions to complex problems, which is at the heart of the engineering process.

Q. It seems there has been an upsurge of awareness about climate change and coastal risk in recent years. Does it frustrate you that it has taken so long, or are you heartened by it?

Yes it has been a slow burn since 2001 when three of us developed the first coastal climate-change guidance for the Ministry for the Environment. records. But I have been heartened working with university and NIWA researchers along the way, to build the evidence base and chip away at improving awareness through public and conference presentations – especially the “aha” moments when people get it. Certainly, a year ago when we rolled out the MfE coastal guidance at 13 locations around New Zealand, which came on the back of the 2017/18 summer of coastal storms, we detected a  groundswell of change to asking “what can we do about it?” rather than probing the evidence.


Q. Your recent report with Dr Judy Lawrence and others looked at lessons learned from applying the approaches in MfE’s Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance.  Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Credit: Dave Allen

The Living at the Edge team from Phase 1 of the Resilience 

Challenge worked alongside councils, consultants, community panels and local iwi/hapū in developing the Hawke’s Bay Coastal Strategy 2120, as a ‘trusted friend’ of the process. It was a pilot application of the Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning approach, which the MfE guidance recommends. The engagement processes, governance arrangements and methods worked well overall in achieving a suite of pathways out to 100 years (2120) for each coastal area north and south of Napier. The Strategy is now in the implementation phase. But some lessons were also gleaned from the experience. Some of these included the critical role of transparent and enabling governance, the value of engaging collaboratively with communities, seeking the wider-community views and the importance of vulnerability assessments alongside the more conventional risk assessments that look out at least 100 years. The report is available on the Challenge website.

Q. You’re co-leading the Coastal theme for Phase 2 of the Resilience Challenge, and you also contribute research to the Deep South Challenge. What appeals to you about working on National Science Challenges?

Credit: Stu Mackay

I’m collaborative by nature and enjoy working in multi-discipline teams solving complex multi-faceted problems like the conundrums posed by ongoing sea-level rise and the interface with planning and engineering.

Q. Is there a project or planned outcome in the Coastal programme that you’re particularly excited about?

We need to improve the picture of our national and regional-scale exposure to sea-level rise – especially coastal erosion, and to back-fill some of the gaps around tools and guidance that we could only cover lightly in the MfE guidance, e.g. how to do coastal vulnerability assessments in Aotearoa NZ, embedding and implementing adaptive pathways in statutory processes, and how to undertake adaptive design for coastal infrastructure.

Q. You’re well travelled – how do you think New Zealand’s
level of preparedness for coastal hazards compares with other coastal nations?

It varies. We are starting to see more central government direction and coordination (work packages on statutory enablers and starting our first national climate risk assessment) that some other jurisdictions like the UK are ahead on, but internationally we have been one of the first to adopt an adaptive pathways planning framework into national guidance – working closely with colleagues in The Netherlands.

Q. When it comes to coastal resilience, where do you hope we’ll be as a country in a decade?

Rob on the Motu trail near Opotiki. Credit: Ruth Bell

In relation to low-lying coastal areas, we only have a decade to develop and implement alternate pathway plans before coastal flooding becomes more frequent – both nuisance (disruptive) and larger events. Somehow, we need to move from fighting and defending our exposed housing and services from the advancing sea, to working more with nature-based solutions. In parallel, we need to turn our attention to how we accomplish equitable and coordinated relocation or managed retreat, which will be inevitable for some areas in the face of the sea rising for several centuries. The other side of the response over the next decade is the need for a serious attempt to mitigate carbon emissions, which globally can reduce the rate of that rise in sea level.



Q & A with Dr Sally Potter



Q. Have you always been interested in science? When did you realise you wanted to be a scientist?

I’ve always liked understanding ‘why’ things happen, and enjoy the process of investigation. My favourite movies as a kid were disaster movies, and now being able to spend my days looking into more effectively warning people about hazards is pretty much a dream come true!

Q. What did you study at university, and what was your PhD on?

I completed a Bachelor of Science in Geology at Victoria University, and an Honours degree at Massey University in Volcanology.

My PhD was in Emergency Management (Social Science and Volcanology) through Massey University. My PhD topic looked at the communication of volcano information, particularly for caldera unrest. I reviewed New Zealand’s Volcanic Alert Level system with volcanologists and various stakeholders using social science methodologies, and then implemented the new system with MCDEM in 2014; I investigated how often, and how severely, Taupō volcano has had historical unrest; and I developed a Volcanic Unrest Index to combine the various volcanic monitoring parameters for easier communication and decision-making. I then did a post-doc with MetService looking at the challenges and benefits of impact-based severe weather warnings.


Q. Your recent work has focused on warnings for natural hazards, what drew you to that subject?

I find it exciting looking at warnings – they are the final step in reducing risk to natural hazards. Once you’ve done all the planning and policy changes you can, improved building codes and infrastructure resilience, and people are prepared and are aware of the hazards, and have strong community networks, then all that’s standing between you and a hazard is this little piece of information that alerts you to take action. It might be a natural warning (like earthquake shaking alerting you to a possible tsunami), or come from a colleague, family, TV, or an official agency. By making sure that warning is as effective as possible, it enables people to take the most appropriate action for themselves and their family to stay safe.

Q. What makes a warning effective?

People respond to warnings in different ways, depending on things like:

  • if they can sense the event (e.g. see severe weather, hear a roar, feel earthquake shaking, smell smoke);
  • what other people are doing in response (if anything);
  • whether they receive, pay attention to, and understand a warning;
  • their own mindset;
  • how threatened they feel from the hazard;
  • whether they think they can respond to the event and if that response will be effective in keeping them safe; and
  • whether they trust the agency/person and warning.

By providing an effective warning, we can slightly influence some of these factors. So, we can make sure as many people as possible receive the warning and pay attention to it (e.g. NZ recently implemented Emergency Mobile Alerts to quickly reach more people), make sure the warning is easy to understand (language and terminology), help people to understand the threat and impacts that might happen to them personally and to their family, and suggest protective actions that are achievable and effective. The warnings also need to be accurate and consistent between sources.

Q. You were part of a team that recently won the 2019 Excellence in Emergency Communication Research Award. Congratulations, and can you tell us a bit more about that?

The award-winning team: L-R Emma Hudson-Doyle (Massey), Sally Potter (GNS Science), Julia Becker (Massey)

Thanks! The award was from EMPA (Emergency Media and Public Affairs), and the result of an epic 5-year research project that looked at aftershock information needs for agencies and the public following the Canterbury Earthquakes, and how people interpreted and responded to it. Our main findings were that it’s important to include information and training about aftershocks prior to an earthquake; people wanted information in a variety of formats (e.g. maps, tables, graphs, text, analogies) and their needs changed over time; showing empathy in information is important; and that geoscientists need to strategise how to best provide the information before an event happens.

The project was led by Julia Becker (Massey University), and involved researchers from GNS Science (me), Massey University (Emma Hudson-Doyle), US Geological Survey (Sara McBride and Anne Wein), and Charles Darwin University (Douglas Paton).

Q. You’re co-leading the Weather theme for Phase 2 of the Resilience Challenge. What drew you to working on the Challenge?

I am excited to be working with such a multidisciplinary team to conduct underpinning research on hazard and impact models for severe weather, landslides and wildfire; investigate engineering solutions; as well as utilise social science to improve mitigation measures with stakeholders and communities. It also gives me an opportunity to work with stakeholders and the wider weather community, as well as the researchers in the other themes, to help link research to practice. It works in well with my role of co-leading the Communication Task Team for the World Meteorological Organization’s High Impact Weather research programme, so that I can align our NZ research with global research directions.

Q. What are your future aspirations? 

A bit of stretch goal for me is to eventually look into warnings across all of the natural hazards – the trickiest one would probably be warning systems for meteor impacts! I’d also like to investigate more effective warnings to all parts of our communities, and their diverse needs.

And my overarching goal is to maintain a careful work-life balance as I have two young sons.


Student Profile: Nhi Le



Using social network analysis in the study of supply chain resilience




A bit about me 


I grew up in a lovely little town of an agricultural province in Vietnam. My love of warm-hearted and hard-working farmers in my hometown has nurtured my passion to contribute to the agriculture sector.

When I was 18, I moved to the big Ho Chi Minh city to pursue a Bachelor of International Business Economics. After 2 years working for a Vietnamese Logistics Research and Development Institute and a local logistics company, I gained a meaningful scholarship from the New Zealand Aid Programme to study in this beautiful Kiwi land which is world-famous for its agriculture.

I am now pursuing a Master’s in Supply Chain Management in Massey University. Here, thanks to my supervisor, I have received the awesome opportunity to work a Scion project titled “Evaluating the Resilience of NZ Rural Value Chains against Natural Hazards”. Within this Resilience Challenge project I have been working on my thesis, aiming to apply social network analysis to evaluating resilience, especially for agricultural supply chains.

In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips and playing the guitar.


My project


The purpose of my thesis project is to assess and select suitable tools for social network analysis of supply chain resilience. The main question of my research is: “How can Social Network Analysis (SNA) be applied to evaluate the resilience of supply chains?”

Specifically, below are some questions I hope to answer with this research:

Q1: Which tools of SNA are applicable in the study of resilience?

Q2: Which properties of supply chains networks can SNA tools investigate?

Q3: Which aspects of supply chain resilience can SNA tools evaluate?

Q4: What values could SNA add to the research area?

Q5: What are the limitations of applying SNA to the research area?

My research uses a network of agricultural supply chains in the North Canterbury region of New Zealand’s south island as a case study. The data is gathered by a data collection team in Scion’s resilience project. The research analysis ranges from micro to macro level, including bottom-up and top-down approaches. It involves selecting potential useful tools of SNA, conducting each analysis tool and combining results from those tools to evaluate the network resilience, then, critiquing the applications. In each analysis I aim to explore the network structure and configuration and how complex it is with organizational interdependency, connectedness, and positions or roles in the network. The network resilience is investigated through its attributes of robust sub-structures, vulnerability, knowledge and information management, and disruption response.


Next steps


I have finished data collection and cleaning, and chosen specific analysis tools already. Now I am concentrating on results interpretation and analysis critiques. Once the findings and core contents are finalized, I will complete writing up the remaining parts. My thesis is due to be completed in July 2019. Afterwards, I will submit it to some academic conferences to prepare for writing up a paper from the research.

Even though the project is challenging for me as SNA is quite new in the research area, I enjoy discovering the NZ agricultural network in a rural area, especially working in an awesome team with support from my supervisor Prof. Paul Childerhouse (Massey University), my project leader Dr Robert Radics (Scion), and my teammate Ngoc Le (Massey University).

Student Profile: Ngoc Le



Diagnostics of Supply Chain Agility in rural New Zealand using Social Network Analysis




A bit about me

Xin chào! I am from Vietnam. My teachers, lecturers, and friends usually call me Ms. “1000 questions” as I tend to ask until I understand almost every piece of a phenomenon. My recipe for battling stress is volunteering, wandering around, talking with the locals, and trying local/ signature food.

My undergraduate background is finance. I worked in Operations and Business Analysis for 6 years before pursuing a Master of Supply Chain Management at Massey University, New Zealand in 2018. This programme fits me well as I am really keen on understanding the linkage between and among entities which form and govern economic systems.  Thanks to Professor Paul Childerhouse, I had a priceless opportunity to work on the Rural Value Chains project led by Scion and funded by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges.


My project


The Scion’s project has two key parts; economic input-output analysis and network analysis. These parts mutually complement each other and allow us to evaluate rural value chain resilience in the context of natural hazards.

My thesis project stems from and builds on the second part by examining supply chain agility in rural settings. Agility is a critical component for survival and competitiveness and is usually regarded as the other side of supply chain resilience, along with robustness. My research focuses on three key aspects of agility; visibility, responsiveness, and network reshaping after disruptions. From the social network perspective and social network analysis methods (SNA), this study factors in both dynamics and interconnectedness of relationships among supply chain members.

The direction of my research is determined by the following set of questions:

Question 1: Which network characteristics may impact supply chain agility?

Question 2: How is agility distributed across the network? In other words, is it equally distributed or skewed towards some subgroups?

Question 3: Which entities are important in terms of both potentially positive and negative impact on supply chain agility?

Question 4: In which industry does the supply chain tend to be more agile?

I’m using data collected from the larger Scion project as a case study to perform analysis using SNA tools that are currently available. We hope to determine the overall state of network agility in Hurunui District through this work. We may also be able to discern the facilitators and barriers for network agility in the area. Our relative comparison of agility between agriculture and tourism and hospitality networks may also result in the discovery of practices that are worth learning and sharing among economic sectors.

Despite challenges of paucity in references, I enjoy every piece of this journey. There is always something new to learn every day. Many “wows” appear when some initial findings beat my ingrained assumptions. For instance, as illustrated in the following figure, without B017, information cannot flow across the network. This entity is important to network vulnerability though it is of medium size and just has a few supply chain connections.

Next steps


I am going to finish up my thesis in the next two months. By then, I hope my findings may shed light on how organisations can manage their portfolio of relations to leverage critical relationships in SC disruptive events. This may also help to identify the opportunities and constraints each of them faces when developing resilience capabilities because of specific positions in the network. My project may provide a starting point for more empirical research and levelling up the agility to multidimensional resilience for rural value chains.


Student profile: Nwadike Amarachukwu Nnadozie



Disaster risk reduction and building code amendment in post-disaster reconstruction in New Zealand




A bit about me 


I was born in Owerri, the capital of Imo state which is located in the eastern part of a multi-cultural country in Africa called Nigeria. I gained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (B.Eng) and my first master’s degree in structural engineering (first class honours), both from the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. My desire to know more about disasters in the built environment and how I can contribute to reducing their impact propelled me to obtain my second master’s degree in Natural Hazards and Risks in Structural Engineering (NHRE) from Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany. I also have several years of working experience as a structural engineer, site engineer and research assistant.



I moved to New Zealand in 2018 to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Auckland and to learn more about disasters. I enjoy playing football, cooking and practising my German language. My interest lies in finding solutions to hazards in the human-built environment.


My project


My PhD research focuses on the impact of rebuilding New Zealand cities with amended building code compliance documents, with emphasis on Christchurch and Kaikōura. To do this, I will identify the impacts of building code amendments on post-disaster reconstruction, and examine the process of building code amendment and its relationship to disaster risk reduction.

I am using the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquake and 2016 Kaikōura earthquake as my case studies. The knowledge gained from these case studies will be used to check the preparedness of Auckland and Wellington, particularly in the context of the anticipated ground shaking in Wellington. The aim of this research is to provide recommendations on how to reduce the impact of earthquakes in post-disaster reconstruction and inform building code regulators on how to improve the code adaptation process through a developed framework. My supervisors are Professor Suzanne Wilkinson and Associate Professor Charles Clifton.


Next steps


My first phase of data collection started in April 2019. This involves administering questionnaires to building code regulators, building and construction industry, building consent authorities, government officials and other stakeholders. The data I obtain will then be validated with existing literature. The aim of this phase is to develop an understanding of the impact of building code compliance document amendments on post-disaster reconstruction.

The second phase of my research will involve conducting semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders. This will focus on using the gained knowledge to check the preparedness and mitigation strategies in place for Wellington.

Although the entire project is challenging, I enjoy exploring New Zealand performance building code and relating it to post-disaster reconstruction processes. I am planning to continue the research work by using knowledge, results, and developed frameworks in other cities globally.

Student profile: Hauiti Hakopa



He reo kōrero te pūrākau ki a Ngāti Tuwharetoa


Ko te tuhinga kairangi a Hauiti Hākopa he waihanga i te hohonu, i te ātaahua, i te māramatanga o te hono tātai o te pūrākau hāngai pū ki te whakapūmautanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ka tātaritia, wetewetehia ngā hekenga mātauranga hohonu, uarā, tātai whakawhiti kōrero kai roto ake anō i ēnei kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ko aua hekenga kōrero whakaarorangi nei i ahu mai i te karamata, manawapū o ngā papa tipu whenua reo kōrero. Kai konei ka ora mai te mauri, te tuakiri, te tiketike tūahu whakapiringa, whakahāngai kōrero ki roto i tēnei tuhinga kairangi. Ko ngā pātaka, kete kōrero o tēnei tuhinga kairangi ka tūhono e puaki mai ai te tiketike o te reo kōrero ā-waha, ā-hinengaro, ā-ngākau whakawhiti whakaaro.  I konei ka whakaaria anō ētahi atu kōrero mai i ngā pukapuka kua tāia, ā, i ngā pukapuka kāre anō kia tāia kia au ai te rongo o te hohonu o te mātauranga haere ake nei ngā tau, hāngai ki te reo kōrero o te whenua matatū tonu.

Kai roto i ngā kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa te hohonu, taketake o ngā kōrero tīpuna hai āwhina i a tātau ki te whakatipu i ngā hohonu mātauranga kaiārahi, tūhonotanga mo nga tau kai mua i a tātau e puare ai te tatau hou ki ngā hangarau kawe i te reo ipurangi hononga ki ngā hangarau whakaora, whakatinana kōrero, whāingai i aua kōrero whakaheke ki ngā whakatipuranga hou o ngā tau tuangahuru haere ake nei ngā tau.   



Pūrākau and the sacred geographies of belonging



A bit about me 


Tēnā tatou. Ko taku taumata ko runga ko Tongariro. Mārama te titiro ki te ao o tōku tipuna a Tūwharetoa. Ko au tēnei e mihi ake rā ki te nui, me te rahi o Aotearoa me te Waipounamu.

I derive my whakapapa connections to the Taupō region from my eponymous ancestor Tūwharetoa and his sons. I was born and bred in the southern region of Taupō, in Tokaanu. My family were domiciled in Taupō throughout my school years until I left for University.


Taupō-nui-a-Tia, Lake Taupo. Photo © GNS Science


I graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Surveying, a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, a Master’s in Science and finally a Doctorate in Spatial Information Technology and its’ application to mōteatea. My abiding interest is in land and whakapapa thereof, cartography and the mapping of Māori connection and relationship to their ancestral landscapes.


My project


My 2019 doctorate from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi was supported by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges. It is primarily focused on pūrākau and how Māori connect to their ancestral landscapes, what I termed as the sacred geographies of belonging. Moreover, it argues that identity, located in the ethos of tangata whenua, is the basis for resilience for Māori. Resilience for Māori had been described in terms of the relentless motion of the tide. The metaphor of the tōrea pango (black oyster-catcher) was used to describe the patience necessary to hold a steady course. It was necessary to converge three threads: one, identity located in sacred places; two, the tangata whenua ethos; and three, resilience located in identity.

The primary aim of this research was to define/find/illustrate the explicit link between identity and ancestral landscapes and vice-versa; but more than that, it was to discover how each of these concepts interact and influence the other.


There were three primary objectives:

  1. To examine the esoteric knowledge and wisdom of Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau and its’ impact and influence on shaping how we think about cultural identity embedded in ancestral landscapes.
  2. To critically examine the tangata whenua ethos and the connection between identity, resilience and its’ relevance for Māori in the digital era.
  3. To critically examine converging modern technology with pūrākau as a platform for disseminating cultural content

The research questions were focused on the following:

  1. What are the critical elements of cultural identity layered within Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau that provide guidance for connecting with the tangata whenua ethos?
  2. What is the value of the tangata whenua ethos today in the digital era?
  3. How can modern technology provide a gateway for Māori to develop a relationship with ancestral landscapes?


The research revealed the following insights:

One, it provides evidence that Mātauranga Māori is of the highest form of academic scholarship;

Two, it unpacks the vitality, essence and meaning of pūrākau and positions it as a knowledge system within the traditional sense of Mātauranga;

Three, it positions pūrākau as an appropriate traditional framework for examining tribal cultural identity located in sacred sites steeped in whakapapa;

Four, it unravels the key messages contained in Tūwharetoa pūrākau, the intimate link to ancestors found therein and provides a way for tangata whenua to develop resilience;

Five, it advances the concept that sacred geographies (significant sites that contain the vitality of ancestral footprints) are a reservoir of accumulated ancestral strength essential for maintaining the vitality and ethos of tangata whenua;

Six, it outlines a process for Māori who live remotely from their homelands around the world to develop a relationship with their sacred ancestral geographies using pūrākau.


Finally, I used the whakatauākī from one ancestor Tamamutu to frame the approach to the research. The compelling parts of the whakatauākī refers to: kia ata whakatere I te waka nei – to take care when making decisions, and “ka whakahoki atu ki te kapua whakapipi”, the clouds the travel the southern parts of Lake Taupō and for Tūwharetoa to always remember that our reservoir of strength resides in the Taupō ancestral landscapes.


Next steps


I am currently exploring a number of avenues to extend the doctoral research, one is to pursue post-doctoral research within the Resilience Challenge theme.

Towards a stronger Kaikōura: a community event





Kaikōura community members gathered on the 10th of April to hear from researchers who have been working in the area since the 2016 quake.

The event, hosted by two government-funded National Science Challenges – Sustainable Seas and Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, saw seven multi-disciplinary researchers speak about their work.

Topics ranged from the physical recovery of marine ecosystems whose habitats were altered in the quake, to the recovery of Kaikōura’s hard-hit tourism industry and the quake’s impact on the Māori marine economy and ‘Blue economy’ in the area.

At the midway point the group gathered for refreshments, over which many lively conversations were had about the preceding talks.

After the break speakers resumed, with the first outlining her work understanding how community initiatives facilitated social recovery. This was followed by a talk on how we can ensure our visitors are prepared for future events, and finally preliminary findings from a study looking at tsunami evacuation after the quake.

At the end of each session the floor was opened for comments and questions, which resulted in interesting discussions between locals and researchers. In many cases those who attended provided valuable insight and information that will go on to inform this research in the future. 

The event was widely appreciated by attendees, and demonstrated the value and importance of researchers sharing the work they are doing with the affected community and participants. 

Kd Scattergood, Kaikōura District Council Emergency Management Officer said, “Over the last two years, we have been talking to a lot of researchers and sharing our experiences with them. It was great to see the fruit of all that work and I look forward to working with them to help the community better prepare in the future.”


If you would like to view one or all of the presentations, they are available in the video below.