Understanding how the people of Petone and Eastbourne responded to the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and subsequent tsunami warning



By Denise Blake

When an earthquake is ‘long or strong’, the directive is that people need to ‘get gone’. This simple message is used to educate the people of Aotearoa New Zealand about tsunami risk and what to do following a significant earthquake. The national message encourages people to move inland or upward and away from a potential tsunami. However, little is known about how people do respond after an actual earthquake and tsunami threat, and little is known about people’s evacuation behaviour.


Wellington Harbour, overlooking Petone, with Eastbourne to the east. Photo: D. Blake

In 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the northeast coast of the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, destroying buildings and critical infrastructure. Two people lost their lives. Named the Kaikōura earthquake, it lasted approximately 2 minutes and was felt widely throughout the South and North Islands.

The earthquake produced a local-source tsunami that reached the Wellington region within 30 minutes. Fortunately, the largest wave was only about 60 centimeters in height and took between 1-5 hours to reach shore. No tsunami warning occurred immediately following the earthquake, however after approximately one-hour, an official tsunami warning was issued and people in tsunami risk zones were urged to evacuate. It was considered necessary for the residents of the Petone and Eastbourne areas of the Hutt Valley, Wellington region to evacuate. They were officially warned through social media and activation of the Lower Hutt flood siren.

The quake presented an important source of knowledge to better understand how communities react to earthquakes and tsunami warnings. Wanting to draw from that knowledge, researchers from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (Massey University/GNS Science) conducted citizen science research in Petone and Eastbourne about three weeks after the Kaikōura earthquake. This citizen science approach involved researchers and key people from Petone and Eastbourne Community Boards gathering, and engaging others to gather, survey data over a two-week period. People were surveyed at a range of sites, including on the street, at local fairs, doctor’s surgeries, on the ferry and at a local supermarket and gym. In total 409 surveys were completed, 245 from Petone and 164 from Eastbourne.

Two survey collectors in Petone getting prepared. Photo: D. Blake

The two suburbs are very different geographically. Petone is located on a flood plain and surrounded by the Hutt River and two transport corridors, a rail line and State Highway 2. Eastbourne is located on a narrow coastal flat area with higher ground directly behind. In this way, Eastbourne residents have less time to travel to safety than the Petone residents.

The study showed that of the total number of people that responded to the survey, 69% evacuated, but only 33% did so within the crucial 10-minute natural warning time. The ‘long or strong, get gone’ campaign stipulates that should an earthquake be so strong that it is hard to stand up, or lasts longer than a minute then people near a coastline should go to higher ground or inland quickly. Supporting information also advises that people should evacuate by walking or biking. That 64% of the total respondents felt that the earthquake lasted for more than one minute, and 70% felt it was violent and severe but did not evacuate immediate is concerning. Only 11% of respondents reported evacuating because of the earthquake. Traffic jams and congestion were also reported by Petone respondents as 78% said they evacuated by car, and only 2% by foot. Of the Eastbourne respondents 42% said they left by car and 15% by foot. Petone residents mostly said they went inland or up a surrounding hill, while Eastbourne residents had easy access to high ground due to the high terrain in that area. Interestingly, 3% of Eastbourne residents still traveled along the coastal road towards Lower Hutt to evacuate.


A team of survey collectors at a local Eastbourne fair.

Overall this citizen science research project demonstrated that there is an urgent need to engage people in tsunami preparedness and evacuation behaviours. The public need to understand that an earthquake provides the most natural and reliable warning system. They need to respond to the earthquake, or any agency-generated tsunami warning, immediately in a way that is safe and efficient and which ensures safety for themselves and the wider community.

Cultural resilience in the capital



By Julia Becker

Are Wellingtonians prepared for a natural hazard event?


Wellington has long been regarded as a city vulnerable to natural hazards. As a nation, we have generally expected that our capital is likely to experience a big quake, sooner rather than later. Previous surveys indicate that over 95% of Wellingtonians are aware of the earthquake risk in Wellington. However, despite this being the case, knowledge of the earthquake hazard doesn’t always translate into preparedness and resilience in local residents.


Wellington Harbour. Photo: Ben Arnold

Researchers in Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Cultural Resilience programme have been exploring the resilience of Wellingtonians, and their knowledge of, and response to natural hazards.

The Christchurch quake came as a shock to many Cantabrians, who didn’t expect to be affected by an earthquake, and surprised Wellington residents who suspected that they would be the ones under which the ground was moving. Wellingtonians may have breathed a sigh of relief in 2010, but it was a different story when the 2016 Kaikōura quake hit. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, centred 60kms south-west of Kaikōura was felt throughout the Wellington region, causing damage to buildings and infrastructure. This served as a wake-up call for many, and provided researchers with an opportunity to find out how the event affected residents, and how they responded.

The Cultural Resilience team has conducted several surveys in the Wellington region, aimed at enhancing our understanding of disaster readiness. Two of these took place following the Kaikōura quake. First, residents of Petone and Eastbourne were surveyed to understand people’s response to the Kaikōura earthquake and tsunami. They discovered that many people are confused about what to do following a long or strong earthquake (which poses a tsunami risk). 69% of residents of two Lower Hutt suburbs evacuated after the quake, but most of them took too long, or evacuated inappropriately. Only a third of those who evacuated did so within the recommended 10-minute window, with others taking anywhere from 10 minutes to over three hours to seek safer ground. Respondents also reported evacuating, and then returning home only to evacuate again.  This indicates that people were confused about whether they were at risk from a tsunami and what they should be doing to respond. In addition, 64% of respondents evacuated by car, which is not recommended as it causes congestion, stopping people from reaching safe ground quickly. Further results from the study are available online here.

The second survey conducted after the Kaikōura quake focused on apartment dwellers in Wellington’s CBD, and the unique challenges they face following an emergency. The team wanted to know how residents of small, high-rise apartments were impacted by, and responded to, the quake in terms of evacuation, preparedness and wellbeing. They found that many people (43%) didn’t evacuate for a tsunami, and many of those who did relied on looking to what others in the building were doing before deciding what they should do. People also evacuated for various reasons that weren’t related to tsunami risk, such as fear, the need to be with other people and because of damage to their apartment buildings. Most people stayed within the Wellington region after evacuating (96%), with 80% staying within the city itself. This has implications for planning for a future major event, in terms of where displaced people might be accommodated in the region.


Apartments along Wellington’s waterfront

The Kaikōura quake motivated apartment dwellers to become more prepared, with many more likely to undertake easier preparedness actions like collecting survival items after the quake. However, respondents weren’t as likely to participate in complex actions like securing furniture or attending community-based activities. Those renting their apartment noted that securing furniture was difficult as rental contracts generally didn’t allow tenants to put holes in walls. Apartment dwellers in general also said that lack of space was an issue and they didn’t have many places to put survival items. The results from this survey will be published in the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies later this year.

A third Wellington-based study explored the development of resilience indicators from a local social perspective. Resilience indicators are key factors that can be used to measure the resilience of a community. For example, the diversity of food supply in an area might be one indicator, while the amount of connection, coordination and cooperation within and between communities might be another. An understanding of how a community is performing across a range of resilience indicators gives us a clearer picture of its overall resilience. The study looked at how local resilience indicators and frameworks might be developed using the perspectives of stakeholders from urban neighbourhoods, with a focus on Wellington, New Zealand, and San Francisco in the USA. Researchers talked with community stakeholders to understand their values, their perspectives on the concept of resilience, and the essential elements that they believed would contribute to the resiliency of their neighbourhoods.  The study found that stakeholders from both cities shared common values and perceived characteristics of disaster resilience. For example, they both valued the importance of neighbourhood identities and social connections, and considered disaster resilience to be the continued wellbeing of residents within a functioning community.

From this study a framework for understanding how to measure neighbourhood-level resilience has been developed.  It includes individual/psychological, socio-cultural, economic, infrastructural/built, and institutional/governance dimensions of disaster resilience. Building upon this framework, the Cultural Resilience team are currently collaborating with Resilience Challenge Trajectories programme researchers to take this work further. They’re working with Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) to develop resilient indicators for the Emergency Management Group Plan. Such indicators may incorporate the neighbourhood-level indicators developed though this research, as well as suburb-level and regional-level indicators.


Wellington City at dusk from Mount Victoria. Photo: russelstreet via Flikr

The final piece of Wellington-based work that the team has undertaken, has involved investigating whether people’s opinions about earthquake strengthening are influenced by the opinions of others.  Being a city at risk from earthquakes, strengthening of vulnerable buildings is a hot topic of debate, and often disagreement. We know that seeing someone pick up litter makes you more likely to pick up litter yourself, so we wanted to investigate if that was also the case with earthquake strengthening. One of our key questions was, would knowing if others thought earthquake strengthening was a good idea make you think it was a good idea too? The result was yes; respondents were more likely to approve of earthquake strengthening legislation if they were told that most Wellingtonians approved of it too. This provides a way for groups like the government or councils to increase public support for new initiatives such as earthquake strengthening legislation.

These studies allow us to better understand how resilient Wellington locals are, where potential problems might lie and how we might be able to increase resilience. They provide a good basis for developing resilience planning nationwide, and enhancing relevant policy and legislation, so that we can be better prepared when the next big one hits.

Learning from public response to natural hazard videos



By Caroline Orchiston

Videos are the current digital media of choice. They have been on the rise for several years now, and in 2017 74% of all internet traffic was video. However, creating quality videos can be costly and time-consuming, and as attention spans grow ever shorter, that effort could be wasted if you don’t get the video right.

This is why researchers from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Cultural Resilience team wanted to understand the public response to a series of videos created for Project AF8.

Project AF8 is addressing the knowledge gap around the impacts and consequences of a magnitude 8 earthquake on the Alpine Fault. The fault runs along the spine of New Zealand’s South Island, and has a regular history of producing large earthquakes: every 300 years on average. The last quake was in 1717, meaning that the next severe earthquake, which would have major direct and indirect impacts throughout New Zealand, is likely to happen in our lifetime or our children’s.


The videos


Project AF8 developed a series of videos in 2017 to provide information to the public about a future Alpine Fault earthquake, and how to prepare. These were released via the media in May 2018, and can be found here. The researchers wanted to find out how people responded to and engaged with the videos, so that they could learn from them and use the insights in their ongoing communication and outreach activities. To do this, they evaluated how audiences responded to the videos before and after their public release.


AF8 video showing Alpine Fault and surrounding towns


Collecting the data


Prior to their release, a series of workshops were held in three locations across the South Island. These were designed to get a sense of how accessible, engaging and informative the public thought the videos were. Once they were released publicly, digital reactions to the videos were monitored and reviewed using a content analysis process to understand how the videos were received online. Social media metrics were also monitored to measure levels and locations of engagement in the project before and after the videos were made publicly available.


Response to the videos prior to release


The feedback collected during the workshops highlighted a number of common themes. There was a high level of engagement in the videos at every session and it was generally agreed that the content and its delivery was relevant and informative without being too overpowering or complicated (e.g. ‘not too scientific’).


Steve Hewland speaks about Camp Glenorchy’s proactive approach

Participants liked that the videos showed real-life experiences. They appreciated seeing examples of proactive, forward-looking approaches to Alpine Fault quake preparedness illustrated by regional businesses. These were seen as good practical actions and prompted a few participants to consider their own operations. However, all the groups asked for more advice on how individuals, households and other community groups could prepare. People also wanted more detailed explanations and information on specific regional impacts. A few groups noted the lack of economic, cultural and gender diversity represented in the videos too, and one suggested adding subtitles, making the point that this information needs to be accessible to all members of the community.

The graphic animation of the rupture was of particular interest at every session. However, there remained some confusion about what exactly it was showing and what it meant for specific regions or cities. Many groups also had questions relating to the terminology used in the videos, for example asking ‘what does resilience mean?’, ‘what is the rate?’ and ‘what does magnitude 8 mean?’. This suggests that the use of such terms, without further explanation, can obscure meaning and even distract from key messaging.


Graphic representation of the rupture


Online response to the videos


The content analysis and review of social media metrics showed that the release of the videos via public broadcast media was successful in increasing the visibility of the project and raising awareness of the Alpine Fault hazard, indicating that this remains a key channel in improving awareness of disaster risk. However, the digital findings also suggest there is perhaps some ‘audience fatigue’ towards the reporting of disaster preparedness information via national media platforms. Nearly a third (30%) of the online reactions indicated that they felt the information was too scary and the media was scaremongering, or that there was no point in preparing for such a devastating event. Although these comments were not necessarily directed at the videos they do highlight the value in self-produced and self-managed content, which supports a deeper level of engagement with audiences and offers opportunities for interaction with community.


Lessons learned


Overall, the videos were received well in the workshop setting and proved successful in stimulating discussion and questioning around risk awareness and preparedness actions. Their online release made the content available to a larger audience and has increased engagement and awareness of Project AF8 and the Alpine Fault hazard.

Findings from the workshops indicate that people want to see videos that contain specific details about the impacts of such an event, particularly in their region or city. They also want practical advice on how households, communities and regions can prepare. This suggests that in creating a video it is important to consider what the viewer can get out of it, rather than what you want to get across. Shaping your message in a way that adds value for the viewer is vital to ensure a positive reception.

The workshops also highlighted the need to ensure videos show diversity and are accessible to as much of the community as possible. This includes being conscious of the use of jargon when explaining complex science. Using words like resilience or magnitude without clarifying their definition can cause confusion and prevent viewers from grasping key messages. Unpacking these terms further could enhance audience interpretation, leading to more effective and useful communication.


Student Profile: Lisa McLaren





A bit about me 


I’m originally from a farm in the Wairarapa, so floods and droughts were a common talking point at our dining room table. That upbringing, combined with a slight obsession with tornadoes as a child, meant it was no surprise when I ended up working in the hazard space. I live in Wellington where I completed my Master’s degree from Victoria University with a focus on environmental science and climate change education. I then worked for four years in local government, with roles in city resilience policy at Wellington City Council and emergency response/community resilience at the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO).

I left the workforce last year to pursue my PhD at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, as part of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Cultural Resilience programme. My passion has always focused on how coastal communities can adapt to increasing coastal erosion, storm damage and sea level rise in the South Pacific – and now I get to dedicate almost four years to it. In my spare time, I do a lot of work with both domestic and international climate change policy, which included attending the UN climate talks in Paris in 2015. I currently volunteer as the National Convenor of the Zero Carbon Act campaign, run by Generation Zero. I also love dancing, dogs, hiking and walks on the beach.


My project


In a nutshell, my PhD research aims to analyse how citizen science can be used as a tool by coastal communities to increase their resilience to High Impact Weather.

Adapting to coastal hazards is going to be an increasing burden on coastal communities over the coming decades. My research will explore how communities can use citizen science projects to better understand changes in their environment and increase their resilience to these changes.

To start, I have been unpicking what design goes into a citizen science project and how that can influence the outcome. I then aim to explore if participants gain trust in coastal science and a sense of agency through being part of a citizen science project.

I am currently developing a series of citizen science projects across Aotearoa NZ, Tonga and Samoa aimed at collecting photos from beach-goers that communities could use to demonstrate how their coast is changing. The project is an entry point into communities, with the hope to add to current conversations around coastal change and management. I hope to co-create more citizen science projects with communities that show interest in the process.



Next steps


Through this research, I aim to add to a community of practice for coastal hazard research that uses a citizen science lens. My ideal outcome would be to co-create a network of varied coastal citizen science projects across Aotearoa NZ and the South Pacific Islands, which would include a number of different hazards such as storms and tsunami.

I hope that I can help other scientists and government agencies inject citizen science into research projects that are happening in the hazard space.

I have two years to get out into different communities and test my initial findings from the literature. I plan to submit my thesis by mid-2020.


Drop, cover and… Tweet?



By Abi Beatson

Investigating Community Resilience in the Age of Social Media



So here’s the question: can social media increase the opportunities for New Zealanders to become more resilient after a disaster event? In order to answer this question, members of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Cultural Resilience programme investigated the key practices concerning the use of social media that support resilient capabilities within the community. So, what did they find?


Research Findings: Three main areas where social media supports community resilience


The researchers reviewed multiple national and international disaster case studies of collective community responses based on the use of social media technologies after a disaster event. They identified three main areas where social media has facilitated and supported resilient capabilities within the community. The first was the role of social media in supporting information-seeking behaviours during a crisis event. The second looked at how social media empowered individual and community actors. The third discussed the role of social media in mobilising volunteers. All three of these key areas showed that social media is now one of the established tools in the toolbox of resources that increase the opportunities for New Zealanders to become more resilient at the community level.



Research Gap: We need to take more steps in the community’s shoes


The review also highlighted a significant research gap in the number of social media research papers adopting a citizen or community perspective. Instead, the majority of research in this area focused on the social media needs and perspectives of official agencies and actors. In order to inform future preparedness efforts, we urgently need to close this research gap, and step back into the shoes of the community when investigating the role and nature of social media in contributing to community resilience.



Upcoming Research: Strengthening the relationship


The researchers also identified the need for a more effective relationship between digitally empowered volunteer groups (think along the lines of the Student Volunteer Army and the Digital Humanitarian Network) and emergency management groups in New Zealand. This recommendation for future research included the need for the relevant policies and procedures to be established pre-event to support and strengthen these critical relationships. Research in this area is supported by The Resilience Challenge, and will commence shortly under the Cultural Resilience Research Programme.


Want to know more?


The Cultural Resilience Research team will present their research at The Emergency Media and Public Affairs (EMPA) Conference, which will take place between Monday 20th and Wednesday 22 August 2018, at Te Papa, Wellington.

You can access the full report here

Fostering children’s participation in DRR with Minecraft and LEGO



By Loïc Le Dé

Children and disasters


Children pose an interesting challenge when it comes to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). They are vulnerable, so we instinctively want to protect them and not involve them in DRR. However, children also own valuable knowledge about hazards such as floods or earthquakes in their local area. They are also cognizant of vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly or those with disabilities, and of local capacities like emergency services and resources within their community. These are all key elements of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Children can conduct risk assessments and have the legitimacy to participate in DRR activities, but they tend to be seen as weak and passive. As a result, they are often excluded from DRR initiatives. Furthermore, a challenge lies in making children’s knowledge tangible, usable and communicable to outside stakeholders such as government agencies, scientists and non-government organizations so dialogue can take place. This is important as generating discussion is essential to achieve DRR and build resilience at the local level.

One way that we may be able to overcome these obstacles is by taking advantage of recent advances in technology, with portable devices such as GPS, mobile phones, digital cameras, tablets, video games, and drones. Together with play, these technological innovations have the potential to better allow children to participate in DRR initiatives, while posing different challenges.

Researchers in our Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Cultural Resilience team have been assessing the role and contribution of technology and play in fostering the participation of children in DRR. The work pioneers two initiatives, including participatory mapping using Minecraft and LEGO modelling. The research project links researchers from Auckland University of Technology and The University of Auckland and practitioners from Hawke’s Bay region with CDEM groups and East Coast Lab as well as end users including Maraekakaho school and the wider community. 


The potential of Minecraft and LEGO for building resilience


LEGO modeling and Minecraft provide opportunities to conduct participatory mapping, which is the collection, plotting and analysis of georeferenced data such as natural hazards, vulnerability and capacities in facing hazards. Children are very familiar with both LEGO and Minecraft since these games are grounded in their daily life. They potentially provide a platform for dialogue with practitioners and policy makers involved in DRR.

The project is done in partnership with the Maraekakaho school in the Hawke’s Bay region. LEGO and Minecraft were included in the school curriculum over one semester, which included two weekly sessions over an eight-week period. LEGO mapping was conducted with 13 children aged 10-12 years.


Participatory mapping using LEGO

Children used 30,000 pieces of LEGO and came up with a 190cm x 114cm map which represented 3.12km x 1.92km of Maraekakaho. Participatory mapping using Minecraft involved 16 children aged 8-10 years.


Children mapping their community using Minecraft

Geographic information system (GIS) data was inserted into Minecraft, so children could map their school and the surrounding area. Check out the Minecraft version of Maraekakaho here.

For both Minecraft and LEGO, children identified the legend (i.e. hazards, vulnerability, capacities, land use type etc.) of their map, had to think about what constitutes a community, decided what could and could not be mapped, and reflected upon past events and their own knowledge about disasters and risk reduction.


Activity to define the legend

This participatory process involved discussions, critical thinking and consensus building to map relevant information. Some of the positive outcomes and limitations associated with this process are summarized in the table below.


Strengths and weaknesses of LEGO and Minecraft to foster participation for DRR

Strengths / positive outcomes Weaknesses / challenges
  • The process was fun and enjoyable, which led to active participation.
  • Familiarity with the tools
  • Tools enabled creativity, dialogue and critical thinking about hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities.
  • Children’s knowledge became tangible and communicable to outsiders.
  • Both LEGO and Minecraft can be costly (i.e. buying bricks, Minecraft license etc.).
  • The participatory process is time consuming.
  • Age needs to be carefully considered.
  • Technical aspects, especially for Minecraft (i.e. school firewalls, reliance on Microsoft server/internet) can be a significant barrier. 

Both LEGO and Minecraft worked very well in fostering participation with children taking ownership of the process. This is because children are very familiar with both tools, and activities were fun rather than tedious. Produced maps are powerful tools for planning and carrying out DRR activities since they enable dialogue between children and external stakeholders. On the other hand, we also faced some difficulties related to the cost of buying and implementing the tools. Minecraft presented different technical challenges such as reliance on the Internet and Microsoft server, which can affect the entire process, while building a map at scale with LEGO is time consuming.


Ways forward


The team is currently working with the local stakeholders (schools and practitioners) on the different opportunities that LEGO and Minecraft provide to increase children’s participation in DRR. These include photogrammetry (see an example here), inserting scenarios (i.e. earthquake, tsunami, flood and climate change models) within Minecraft and LEGO modelling, and use of these tools in the long term, as well as scaling up in other schools.  

Student Profile: Marion Tan



Usability of disaster apps




A bit about me 

Marion out hiking


I am originally from the Philippines, a country that has its fair share of exposure to natural hazards. I have experienced first-hand numerous typhoons and the challenges of information exchange during crisis events. I grew very interested in the integration of technologies and human behaviour in disaster settings. Luckily, I found a PhD supervisor who had similar research interests here in New Zealand and he encouraged me to pursue my current research project on the ‘usability of disaster apps’.

When not doing my PhD project, I enjoy hiking and I spend a lot of my time practicing aikido.


My project


My work contributes to enhancing resilience through understanding the intersection between human behaviour and technology during disasters. My particular research topic is on the usability of disasters apps. Through the PhD project, I advocate for the responsible design of apps that are meant to be used during disaster situations.

Smartphones are so embedded into our daily lives that we also expect to interact with them during disaster events. However, during high-stress situations, an individual’s cognitive capabilities may be compromised. Users may find it harder to process information if apps are not designed appropriately. In this context, my research project aims to find the critical usability characteristics that must be upheld so that the apps can be usable even during crises.

My project centralises on developing and testing a usability framework for disaster apps. We hope the framework will be beneficial to the future development of mobile apps for disasters.


Marion presenting her work at the 2017 Disastrous Doctorates event in Christchurch

Next steps


I am in the final stages of theorising the conceptual framework. The next step is to create an app prototype. The prototype and the results from its usability testing will showcase the practical side of the PhD project. I plan to submit my thesis by mid 2019.

Student Profile: Lauren Vinnell



Increasing Individual Natural Hazard Preparation



A bit about me 


I was born and raised in Lower Hutt, and so am well aware of the natural hazards Wellington faces. I chose to study psychology as I have always been interested in understanding peoples’ behaviour. In the final year of my Bachelor’s degree, I studied applied social psychology, which uses our understanding of behaviour to improve society, and that interest became a passion. I completed a master’s in Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, during which my supervisors encouraged me to apply for a PhD scholarship to work on this project. To maintain a work-life balance, I like to take boxing classes (great stress relief!) and spend time with my friends and family (including, of course, my pet cat).


My project


Resilience is a broad concept, with many levels. My work is targeting the base level – resilience of individuals. If individuals are better able to survive, respond, and recover in a disaster, then communities and cities will have a better chance at doing the same. To achieve this, we need to make sure people are prepared before a disaster occurs, including taking actions to help them survive (such as storing food) and to reduce damage (such as strengthening homes). Within Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, I’m part of the Culture team. Natural hazard risk is well-known in Wellington, and New Zealand more broadly, but for us to become resilient to these challenges we need a cultural shift – that is, we need to change the way we think and behave in regards to natural hazard preparation. The aim of my project is to understand why people in Wellington are and are not preparing, and then to use that understanding to test ways to address those reasons and get people preparing more. The first step is to conduct surveys which measure beliefs such as attitudes about the experience and outcomes of preparing, social pressures to prepare, and beliefs about control and capability to prepare. I have completed a preliminary survey, and am using that data to design a follow-up survey.


Lauren presenting her PhD plan at the Disastrous Doctorates workshop in Auckland, February 2018

Next steps


Once I complete my surveys, I will design and run an intervention. Research in other areas tells us that we can change behaviour with simple messages and tasks, such as goal-setting. Testing these strategies will be a fairly intensive process, and take up the rest of my PhD, which I aim to submit in mid-2020. The main objective of the project is to provide valuable insights and tools for NZ practitioners – who are already doing great work to get people prepared – to make that work more effective and increase individuals’ resilience to natural hazards.

Minecraft & LEGO Used For Emergency Preparedness



Students at Maraekakaho School have been using two popular children’s pastimes to help their community become more prepared for an emergency.
Maraekakaho School students show off their hazard maps
Maraekakaho School students show off their hazard maps



The students have been using online video game Minecraft and LEGO to map their community, locating its hazards, vulnerabilities and resources that could be useful in an emergency.

This is part of a research project to trial the use of these two popular pastimes for disaster risk reduction and explore if these are effective tools for children to use.

Researchers from the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and East Coast LAB (Life at the Boundary) developed a series of lessons and activities for the students to learn more about natural hazards, vulnerabilities and resources.

“We started off in the classroom mapping our hazards and resources on really big maps using lots of stickers, pins, and string,” said Year 6 student Raiha.

The students were then divided into groups to build their maps using Minecraft and over 10,000 Lego blocks.


Students building their LEGO hazard map
Students building their LEGO hazard map


“I really enjoyed playing on Minecraft to build the map of our school and learning about the hazards that have affected us in the past,” said Year 5 student Jodi.


A group of 12 students have been documenting the process on video. It will be released online once the project has been completed.

Researchers are also working with other members of the community to help develop a Community Resilience Plan with the Hawke’s Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

This is part of a two-year research project funded by the Resilience to Nature’s Challenge strand of the National Science Challenge. For more information: www.eastcoastlab.org.nz/our-science/our-projects/participatory-technology/