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.


Student profile: Laura Tilley



Understanding community evacuation dynamics following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and tsunami




A bit about me 


My passion for learning about multi-hazard disaster risk and resilience began when I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree in physical geography at the University of Canterbury. Having experienced the 2010/2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence (CES), I wanted to explore how disasters such as the CES and the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake impact people and places, and how we can build resilience into communities so that they are better prepared for future hazard events. This led me to enrol in the Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience (MDRR) programme at the University of Canterbury.

Since completing my master’s I have had exciting opportunities to apply the wide range of skills I learnt during the MDRR programme. In 2018 I worked at GNS Science as a research assistant on the RiskScape project. Since finishing that summer internship at GNS, I have spent the last year working as a graduate advisor in the Hazard Risk Management team at the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, whilst working on my thesis project.

I also love pizza, wine and puppies.


My project


My project was scoped and requested by Environment Canterbury and Kaikōura District Council Emergency Management as part of ongoing collaborative research supporting recovery in the Kaikōura District following the 2016 earthquakes. I have the awesome opportunity to work with local emergency management, hazard analysts and the Kaikōura community to better understand evacuation dynamics of the tsunami risk which followed the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and tsunami.

The aims of my research are to:

  • Understand the risk to population and relevant assets exposed to tsunami hazard in Kaikōura
  • Develop an optimal evacuation model for emergency managers and the Kaikōura community
  • Utilise evacuation modelling to inform evacuation decision-making in planning and practice

The end goal of my project is to inform development of an optimal tsunami evacuation plan for emergency management and the Kaikōura community using agent-based modelling. Agent-based modelling will allow me to apply specific ‘rules’, based on information provided by the community, to represent realistic evacuation behaviour that was experienced during the 2016 Kaikōura event. I hope my research will increase community readiness and response and ensure safe and efficient evacuations for future tsunami hazards.

My project is a collaboration between the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Rural research programme, and a Natural Hazards Research Platform project called ‘Quicker and safer tsunami evacuations through agent-based modelling’, led by William Power. 


Next steps


Recently, I asked for the community’s help to understand their evacuation response and tsunami preparedness. I distributed 1000 surveys around the Kaikōura township and am now processing the amazing response. Once I have finished processing the surveys I will use the information provided by the community to help inform the tsunami evacuation model. My project is due to be completed in 2020.

The awesome supervision team helping me on this project are: Assoc Prof Tom Wilson (UC), Dr Matthew Hughes (UC) and Dr Sarah Beaven (UC), with support from ECan, Kaikōura District Council Civil Defence and GNS Science.

Tourism and food security research in post-quake Kaikōura



Gradon Diprose is one of the Resilience Challenge’s newest researchers. He started at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research in February 2019 and has jumped straight into the RNC – Rural workstream.

Gradon grew up on a dairy farm in the Waikato, and later moved to Raglan, so appreciates the importance of food production and tourism for rural and small town communities around Aotearoa. With a background in resource and environmental planning and human geography, Gradon is particularly interested in how people come together around shared concerns to create more sustainable communities.   

He’s currently working alongside Nick Cradock-Henry and Joanna Fountain (Lincoln University) in Kaikōura and North Canterbury focusing on the dynamics of rural disaster response strategies and recovery trajectories. This research has two main foci – tourism disaster response and recovery, and enhancing food security and food networks.

The work on tourism disaster response and recovery includes a recent survey (February 2019) which collected data on over 500 visitors to Kaikōura. The survey asked about their motivations to visit the region, decision-making processes, and participation or interest in a range of existing and proposed activities in the town and surrounding area. This information will be used to inform future tourism planning and regional economic development.  The survey also explored tourists’ understanding and preparedness for natural hazards, their awareness of appropriate responses, and their expectations of host communities during and after such events. The results will provide valuable insights for other rural tourism destinations throughout New Zealand, and highlights the need to consider international and domestic visitors in emergency preparedness and planning.

Gradon is also contributing to work on issues relating to regional food security and resilience in Kaikōura and North Canterbury. This workstream is investigating the emergence of new opportunities to build and strengthen local food networks for greater resilience at the community level including food tourism and rural supply chains. Food tourism is seen as a way to strengthen local networks of producers, as demand for local food products and experiences from tourists will help to ensure their economic sustainability. The findings so far suggest that having a diverse range of locally produced food can be important for a community in a natural disaster or extreme weather event, while also reducing vulnerability to international price fluctuations, shifting market demand and supply chain changes.

You can hear more about both of these pieces of research in this recent interview on RNZ with Rural’s Dr Joanna Fountain.

Student Profile: Mat Darling



Modelling transient population exposure to disaster risk





A bit about me 


I proudly hail from Otago, where my family grows fruit just outside of Cromwell. I completed an undergraduate BSc in Geology and Geography at the University of Otago in 2013. While studying, I helped NZ Red Cross out a bit through training and leading a youth emergency preparedness program. I also held roles in disaster response, youth governance and was eventually elected onto their National Board in 2012, a position I held until last year.

Following completion of my degree, I went and worked for a couple of different engineering consultancies mainly in geospatial and environmental management roles. After five years of this, I decided to return part-time and complete a Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience (MDRR) here at the University of Canterbury. I saw the field of disaster risk reduction as a nice union of my technical skills, my growing governance ability, and some of the important work Red Cross was doing following the Kaikōura and Christchurch earthquakes.

Following the completion of my MDRR I decided to move to a PhD program full time. When I am not at university you can either find me working part-time for Pattle Delamore Partners leading their Christchurch geospatial work group or volunteering with a local club skifield.


My project

My research project is tackling a significant challenge faced by New Zealand; that is understanding the exposure of our ‘transient’ visitors to disaster risk as they travel around the country. Significant decisions are often made by government stakeholders to reduce this exposure. However, we have very limited models available to understand how visitors move through New Zealand in time and space. I am aiming to build on and improve these models using big data and geospatial modelling.

This project has come as a direct outcome of the work undertaken by Project AF8, which recognised that the next step in improving New Zealand’s disaster risk modelling was to develop more dynamic ways to assess population exposure to disaster risk.  My project aims to develop new, novel indicators to build a model which better characterises transient population movements in time and space.

Further disaster risk assessments will be undertaken using this model at two scales; South Island-wide, and then a high-risk case study area (i.e. Queenstown). Given the relationship between visitor flows, infrastructure demand and likely impact on rural communities, this project has cross-cutting objectives which fit within both the Resilience Challenge’s Rural and Infrastructure research programmes.


Next steps


My PhD research is just kicking off. The initial phases I have been working on include undertaking a systematic literature review of how transient populations are included in disaster risk modelling internationally, and understanding how decision makers are currently using big data sources to understand visitor population exposure to disaster risk. Through using both of these and collaborating with stakeholders, I am working to understand the scale and accuracy of information needed to make informed decisions.

We have also been working with proof of concept geospatial modelling, applying data sources such as infrastructure load and social media to understand how well various sources characterise populations.

Critical to the success of this project is the close collaboration with stakeholders, be it decision makers or data providers. I have really enjoyed working closely with stakeholder groups in these initial stages as we collectively realise the potential of this project.



The rural impact of natural hazards



By Tyler Barton



The 2010 / 2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence had devastating consequences for urban centres such as Christchurch. Rural regions were also strongly impacted by the earthquakes, although in very different ways.

PhD candidate Tyler Barton is looking at the impacts caused by natural hazards in rural areas and how these affect individuals, businesses, and communities. He has been speaking with rural stakeholders in order to find out and document disaster impacts (and implications) specific to the rural context, and highlight the unique and very specific needs of rural populations and agribusinesses following a natural hazard. These rural needs cannot be assumed but rather must be identified by all rural actors (including communities) who are involved in the rural disaster resilience context.


Tyler Barton, PhD candidate at the University of Canterbury 


He uses experiences and insights gained from rural residents and emergency managers following the November 2016 North Canterbury earthquake as an example of how co-seismic and multi-dimensional hazards affect rural businesses and communities.

Tyler’s research explores how the compounding effects of North Canterbury’s pre-existing multi-year drought coupled with the 2016 Mw7.8 earthquake severely impacted the livelihoods of farmers and rural residents.

Rural livelihoods rely on successfully completing daily tasks, such as feeding livestock or providing water to crops. These, in turn, rely on the availability of natural resources (such as aquifers) and access to critical infrastructure (such as roads and power). The drought had created a resource-poor environment, while the co-seismic landslides resulted in roadblocks that prevented farmers from obtaining the basic requirements for a farm, such as water for crop irrigation and/or animal welfare needs.

Current disaster response practices are fundamentally based on urban models, and are not fit for purpose in the rural context. As a result, the critical importance of addressing these rural needs in a timely manner was not immediately recognized by emergency managers following the earthquake.

Tyler’s research argues the critical importance of ensuring that rural needs, priorities, and perspectives are considered in future rural disaster responses, as well as included in official disaster risk reduction efforts at all levels.


Castle Hill Station in rural Canterbury

Student profile: David Wither



Social Resilience in the Hurunui: Outcomes of Institutional Support after Adverse Events



A bit about me 


I spent the first five years of my life in Dunedin, the second five years in India and the next eight in Wanaka. The different cultures I grew up in galvanised my interest in people and led to me studying sociology as an undergrad at the University of Otago. After graduating, I spent the next 4 years working at the Social Research Centre in Melbourne. As a part of this job I was involved in many different government and university research projects, where I spoke with a wide variety of people. During my time there I became very interested in the systems we create for ourselves, and how they impact on people. I returned to Dunedin to do honours, after which I ended up in this programme. 


My project


Within the challenge, my project is seen as a bridge between the rural and cultural teams. The brief of my scholarship was to integrate within both teams and investigate social and community resilience to natural hazards in rural North Canterbury. North Canterbury has experienced many adverse events over the last decade. Most notably, the region was peripherally impacted by the Canterbury Earthquakes. Following this there was a major drought lasting approx. 4 years, at the apex of which the Hurunui-Kaikoura earthquake struck. And during the aftermath of the earthquake, the true extent of the M. Bovis outbreak also became apparent.

Given the experiences faced by people in North Canterbury, and my interest in the systems we create for ourselves, and how they impact on people, I decided that I wanted to understand how the government had responded to these adverse events, and how that response impacted the people. I wanted to get multiple perspectives on this issue from all of the people involved, from those who enacted the response, to those who experienced it. As such, broadly, I am speaking to three different groups of people – 1) Local farm households in the Hurunui, 2) Local and Regional government/organisations 3) National government and organisations.


View over Cathedral Gully at Gore Bay


Next steps


I am currently finishing up my fieldwork. I have captured all the local and regional data, and am about to head off to collect national level data. Once this is done, I’ll be doing analysis and writing it all up – the final stage of a PhD.

Ultimately, the goal of this PhD is to gain a much better understanding of the human dimensions of disaster resilience. Previously a lot of attention has been paid to the business,  infrastructure and economic side of things, yet common to all these are people. In this vein, this research attempts to integrate with the recent focus on wellbeing by the government. We need a better understanding of how people react in disasters, in order to create better systems for managing the response and recovery. These factors can be complex as, for example, much was learnt in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, yet not all of these lessons applied to the Hurunui-Kaikoura earthquake, as the way rural and urban communities react to adverse events can be extremely different.


Q & A with Dr Caroline Orchiston



Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!

Thank you. How amazing that we live in a time when women are making such an incredible contribution to science in our country. We have some incredible role models to inspire us, e.g. Chief Scientist Juliet Gerrard, and of course our own Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who are breaking down barriers and stereotypes as successful working mothers with children and fabulous careers. I have three children and a really satisfying job, and I’m happy to be able to show them that it is possible to do great things in your work AND home life.

So tell us about your work life, when did you realise you wanted to be a scientist? 

I’ve always loved landscapes and I wanted to know more about how and why landforms came to be. I travelled overseas during my final year of high school, and I was given a geology text for my birthday that year – it is funny to think in retrospect, but getting that book really inspired me to become a geologist – so once I’d returned from my gap year I headed straight into a Geology degree at the University of Otago. The absolute highlight of my degree was our third year field school to the West Coast, where my passion for the Alpine Fault was born!

Did you like your science classes in high school?

I really enjoyed science at high school, particularly physical geography. I had a wonderful teacher who inspired me, and she must have seen something in me because years later (like, 18!) she sent a card to congratulate me on getting my PhD! I was so touched by that – and it just reinforced for me the absolutely critical role of teachers in inspiring our young people to do the best they can in life.

What did you study at university?

I completed a first class honours degree in Geology, and then a Master’s in Tourism – I know, what a strange combination! After I finished my first degree I worked in the mining industry for five years, and during that time I realised I wanted to continue my academic endeavours. I dreamed of doing a PhD on the Alpine Fault from an interdisciplinary perspective. But in order to move into a social science discipline I needed to do a Master’s first, hence the study of environmental management in the marine tourism industry in New Zealand. Then I launched straight into the PhD after my first child was born in 2005. 


Caroline standing right on the Alpine Fault at Gaunt Creek

Have you ever felt like the odd one out because you’re a woman?

When I was doing my undergrad the class had a 1:3 female:male gender split. Since then it has improved a lot. I didn’t really feel like the odd one out in my class, but I did notice the lack of female teaching staff (and hence, role models). The mining industry was certainly a very male-dominated environment, and for quite some time I was the only woman working in the mine itself. That was a very interesting challenge, and one that I’m glad I experienced because it taught me a lot about life and how to work alongside people with different ideas and ways of being.



Presenting at the South Island Civil Defence Conference in 2018


Your PhD thesis investigated tourism in places with high earthquake risk, what drew you to that subject?

As I mentioned earlier, the life-changing moment for me was visiting the Southern Alps on our 3rd  year Geology field trip. I was just blown away by the potential of this plate boundary fault, and the power of the landscape around the Alps. I did my Honours dissertation on the Mahitahi area of South Westland, and as I did my field work I used to watch the Maui vans pottering up and down the  highway and wonder if those tourists had any idea about the Alpine Fault and what they would do if it unleashed a big quake. Even in the early 1990s we knew a lot about the behaviour of the Alpine Fault in terms of the approx. 300 year return period for big earthquakes, but what I was concerned about was the lack of societal awareness and preparedness for the next event.  That stuck with me as I went through the next ten years, and so once I decided to do a PhD on the topic, the rest followed.

Have you ever had pushback from the tourism sector for your work? 

Speaking at a public lecture in Blenheim on the Alpine Fault


Over the years I’ve talked with many people about tourism and disaster preparedness, and there was a sense from some of them that if we talk openly about the Alpine Fault, it might not be good for business, because it may scare some tourists off. I don’t buy into that, and I think opinions have changed in the industry – we are far better off having good response plans within the tourism sector so we can expedite recovery and protect our international reputation post-disaster.

You’ve also looked at disaster preparedness in Washington State, USA – how does their preparedness compare with ours here in NZ?

We’re working with communities in coastal Washington who are highly exposed to a future Cascadia subduction (approx. magnitude 9) and associated tsunami. Since I became involved in the work in 2009, we have seen the development of one community-funded vertical evacuation structure, and there are two more in the pipeline – these are the first of their kind in North America. Certainly there is more that can be done in terms of community preparedness, but I believe there is a growing awareness both in NZ and Washington that we will need to look after ourselves for much longer than three days after a major disaster.

Now you spearhead Project AF8, can you tell us a bit about that?

Project AF8 is in its third year and is a partnership between Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) and the Alpine Fault science community, funded by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the Resilience Challenge’s Rural Lab. The purpose of AF8 early on was to develop a coordinated response plan for a magnitude 8 earthquake for the first seven days, which was delivered in 2018 and is known as the SAFER Framework (South Island Alpine Fault earthquake response). In our third year we are dedicating ourselves to increasing our outreach and engagement by running the AF8 Roadshow ‘The Science Beneath our Feet’, which will take Alpine Fault science to secondary school students around the Southern Alps. We are also building up to the 2020 National Alpine Fault exercise, which requires a lot of planning and further science input.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Personally I would like to keep contributing to our hazards and disaster risk reduction research in New Zealand by continuing to work with fantastic colleagues in research and practice. I’d like AF8 to continue to act as the interface between science and emergency management, and to keep on building our readiness for the next big earthquake in the South Island.

Student profile: Ashley Rudkevitch



Community initiatives in rural resilience and post-disaster recovery




A bit about me 


I was born and raised in the Canadian subarctic in a town called Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Eventually I moved south where I earned a BA in anthropology and human geography at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

After I completed my BA I moved east to the University of Waterloo in Ontario where I completed a MA in Planning. My master’s thesis brought me back to my hometown of Yellowknife where I decided to focus my research on applying a community planning approach to the impacts of international tourism on a small, isolated city.

Before I had submitted my master’s thesis, I was told about a potential PhD with the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge. As I was already moving to New Zealand in January 2017 it was a well-timed, exciting opportunity and by mid-2017 I was enrolled in the PhD program at Lincoln University.


Ashley standing on the sea level rise with the Kaikōura ranges in the background

My project


The Kaikōura earthquake and its impact on the community is the basis for my PhD research. My study is focusing on various post-quake initiatives as a way to examine how the community is actively participating in the recovery and rebuild process. These community initiatives include organised social groups, festivals, group projects, social enterprises, and local food events. Ultimately, my question is what do these organised activities mean in terms of community resilience, and what do they reveal about the priorities, aspirations, needs and associated practices of local people in different phases of disaster recovery? By better understanding the nature, intention and success (or failure) of community actions and activities – we can provide better information about the challenges of recovery and ensure effective future responses.


To assess community resilience and the social, human aspects of recovery, in-depth, qualitative research methods are being used to develop a rich picture of life in the community two years’ on. The study uses semi-structured interviews with community members, key stakeholders and decision makers to obtain information on various initiatives. Participant observation at different community events and activities and document analysis – media and newspaper accounts, council documents and the recovery strategy itself – are also being used to triangulate the data.


South Bay sea floor rise, facing south towards the Hundalees

Next steps


My hope is that this research will advance understandings of the human dimensions of disaster recovery and hone and challenge current theoretical interpretations of community resilience.

As I am currently doing fieldwork, my thesis will be submitted mid-2020. While in the write-up phase I anticipate to present my research at conferences and produce journal articles.


The view from the bridge over Waikōau/Lyell Creek looking towards the Kaikōura ranges

Student profile: Becca Fraser 



Rural resilience : A geospatial story


A bit about me 


I was born and raised in Auckland with five other siblings, and with strong ties to rural family in the South Island.

My interest in disasters began as I was nearing the end of my undergraduate degree in geology and anthropology at The University of Auckland. I have always been driven towards understanding how communities and people connect to each other, and how a deeper understanding of what makes up a community contributes to the wider picture of resilience. While I love the physical science aspect of geology, I think the anthropological modus operandi of collecting the narratives of people and communities is valuable in exploring the dynamic intersections between disasters and humans.

Moving to Christchurch to study in the Master of Disaster, Risk and Resilience programme was a way of combining these interests, allowing me to explore the impacts of hazards on people and places. Through this programme I was given the exciting opportunity to work on an internship with Tom Wilson (University of Canterbury) and Nick Cradock-Henry (Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research) aimed at improved understandings of rural resilience through geospatial data visualisation, leading into a thesis in 2019.


My project


My project is focused on building a geospatial atlas describing and visualising aspects of disaster resilience in New Zealand’s rural communities. New Zealand’s rural communities are an essential part of our national identity, but face a variety of natural hazards which can cause a range of social and economic impacts.  We are beginning to understand what factors can increase and decrease disaster resilience within our rural communities. Some are simple, such as remaining connected to friends and family (support networks), and some are complex. Recovery potential for example is often reliant on a business’ health prior to a disaster.  But this information can form a powerful communication and decision-support tool for pre- and post-disaster planning by rural households and other disaster decision makers.   My project is attempting to visualise some of these types of data in the form of informatics and maps, with the intention of empowering individuals and organisations to make better resilience decisions.


The questions my study aims to answer are:

  • What is rural New Zealand? – Where are rural communities located; what is their gender, ethnic and demographic makeup; what jobs do they have; and how has this changed over time? Has this been affected by policy, social and economic changes? And if so, how?
  • How might rural New Zealand be affected by natural hazard disasters? – Where are natural hazards in New Zealand; what are the short and long term impacts of disasters for rural NZ, including drought, snow, storm, earthquake; and what might be the potential impacts of future climate variations?
  • Can we assess rural resilience? Utilising geospatial data sets to track temporal change in rural communities and the state of rural resilience currently. These datasets include population, demographic change such as median workforce age change over time, economic indicators and even land use changes


I have drawn on the Resilience Challenge Trajectories Toolbox work to frame and develop this project and its future outputs. Trajectories research on resilience indicators, and how these contribute to the development of rural New Zealand as well as the work that has gone into building effective resilience data within the New Zealand specific context continues to guide the direction and scope of my project.

My project ties in with the Resilience Challenge Rural Co-Creation Laboratory, which is dedicated to finding solutions to enhance and understand the resilience of rural New Zealand, and to better protect and enable these communities to thrive. The project serves as a complementary link between the two research programmes and allows me to draw on many different researchers for expertise and assistance.

Rural community change over time (click to enlarge).


Next steps


In relation to my project, I am currently working on increasing engagement with the Data Integration and Visualisation en masse (DIVE) platform. The DIVE Platform is aimed at facilitating online data cataloguing, sharing and collaboration of New Zealand resilience data, and is intended to enable integrated and engaged research that will enhance New Zealand’s resilience to hazards. This ties in closely with my Rural Resilience/Indicators project. I am currently working on developing valuable and effective data visualisations to help build a Rural Resilience atlas.

I am excited about the future direction of this project using contemporary and emerging information techniques to help tell a story and making a positive contribution toward the understanding of rural resilience.

Project AF8 and RNC-Rural: New knowledge on Alpine Fault consequences



By Caroline Orchiston and Tom Wilson

 The Alpine Fault is expected to produce a magnitude 8 earthquake in future, which will widely impact the South Island and lower North Island. The Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Rural Laboratory (RNC-Rural) is working with Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) and lifelines agencies to improve the way we understand the likely impacts to enhance how we respond and recover.


Alpine Fault, Lake Poerua and Taramakau River.
Alpine Fault, Lake Poerua and Taramakau River. © GNS Science


Understanding the Alpine Fault

The Alpine Fault is a 800-long plate boundary fault that runs down the western side of the Southern Alps, and presents a significant seismic hazard for New Zealand.
The Alpine Fault is a 800-long plate boundary fault that runs down the western side of the Southern Alps, and presents a significant seismic hazard for New Zealand.

The Alpine Fault has a long history of generating large earthquakes, with 27 previous earthquake events in the geological record over the last 8,000 years. These earthquakes happen on average every 300 years, with the last event in 1717 AD.

An earthquake of this scale will cause damage and destruction across many parts of the South Island. Do we know what impacts it will cause?  Are we ready for it?  What can we do to prepare for it?  How can we reduce the risk?

RNC-Rural researchers and practitioners, along with our partners in the Resilience Challenge Infrastructure, Economics, Hazard and Culture Toolboxes, are trying to better estimate what the likely impacts and consequences of an event of this scale would be. We are looking at what effect mitigation actions may have on potential consequences, and how all this information can be useful, useable and used. Working closely with CDEM, lifelines agencies, rural communities, and government stakeholders we have developed a clearer picture of the level of disruption the quake would cause to critical lifeline infrastructure, the spatial extent of impacts and the cascading consequences that we might expect.


Project AF8

RNC-Rural has led a Resilience Challenge partnership with Project AF8, a South Island-wide Alpine Fault earthquake response planning initiative led by the 6 South Island Civil Defence Emergency Management groups (Canterbury, Marlborough, West Coast, Nelson, Southland, Otago) and the Ministry of Civil Defence Emergency Management. The goal of Project AF8 is to improve the response capability of South Island CDEM groups, and to develop an operational plan to support the response. In order to achieve this, Project AF8 needed hazard and resilience science from a trusted and credible source. RNC-Rural has co-funded the development of the resilience science outputs required for the project to be a success, in collaboration with QuakeCoRE and with input from the Resilience Challenge Infrastructure, Economics, Hazard and Culture Toolboxes. A scenario-based co-creation method has been used, with emergency managers, Alpine Fault scientists and partner organisations working together to build a clearer picture of what a future event might look like across the South Island. RNC-Rural has played a critical role in developing the impact scenarios for Project AF8, which present a gap in current knowledge and require the delivery of new models and outputs over relatively short timeframes.


The AF8 Scenario intensity model, overlain with critical infrastructure networks
The AF8 Scenario intensity model, overlain with critical infrastructure networks

Producing useful, usable knowledge

A key aspect of Project AF8 has been the co-creation of knowledge between researchers and practitioners.  It is an example of the Resilience Challenge shifting the focus from producing risk information per se, towards co-producing risk knowledge that is understandable and actionable by different kinds of users for a hazard of national significance in New Zealand.  This shift has been called for by the UNISDR Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which describes the need to “strengthen disaster risk governance and coordination across relevant institutions and sectors and the full and meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders at appropriate levels” (UNISDR 2015), and is core to our approach. 

Otago CDEM Workshop for the AF8 Scenario
Otago CDEM Workshop for the AF8 Scenario

One of the biggest ‘wins’ of the partnership with Project AF8 has been the relationships that RNC-Rural and Infrastructure researchers have built with stakeholders. Led by Ali Davies, the researchers have worked with West Coast lifeline infrastructure organisations, the Franz Josef community (located on the Alpine Fault) and the West Coast CDEM Group to plan for recovery after an Alpine Fault earthquake using detailed hazard, impact and resilience modelling research. These relationships are invaluable, and help to ensure that the research and outputs from this work are useful for those most affected.

The stakeholder support gained through Project AF8 was illustrated in a letter that Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel sent to Civil Defence Emergency Management Minister Kris Fa’afoi on behalf of the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee. It requested that the Government prioritise Alpine Fault response and recovery planning, and provide enough funding to ensure that the work is completed with urgency.


Sharing the knowledge

The RNC-Rural and Project AF8 science team have made a significant commitment to making the science of the Alpine Fault accessible through public outreach. There has been an incredible appetite for outreach and engagement in this space. Over the past 18 months, the science team have delivered more than 55 presentations to many groups, agencies, and communities all over the country.  We have presented to small rural communities, Mayors, CEOs and Directors, front-line emergency services staff, planning and intelligence groups, government ministries, health and welfare agencies, and even consulates (diplomatic offices from other countries).

The presentations have been well-attended and often receive high praise, showing how much the potentially affected communities and groups appreciate having our findings communicated. For example, following a presentation to a District Health Board, an attendee noted: “you achieved fabulous engagement and I am confident it will materially assist with an increase in resources to facilitate our planning”. 

We have also contributed to the design, development and content used in several series of public and specific sector-focused outreach materials used through the South Island. 



The impact, risk and resilience knowledge that RNC-Rural is developing will help New Zealand better understand the consequences of a future Alpine Fault earthquake. Using a co-creation model for developing the research agenda and tailoring the outputs to suit stakeholder needs has been very successful, and Project AF8 has achieved excellent reach, impact and trust with its stakeholders. Many organisations seeking to improve their emergency management and business continuity response plans have adopted the Project AF8 earthquake scenario as the basis for their planning.