The resilient rural backbone
Assoc Prof Tom Wilson
University of Canterbury
Dr Nick Cradock-Henry
Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research
New Zealand’s rural landscapes and communities are an iconic part of our national identity, a key economic driver – not only through our productive primary industries, but also attracting hundreds of thousands of international visitors annually, and vitalising our social and cultural identity. The Resilient Rural Backbone programme (RNC-Rural) is dedicated to finding innovative solutions for enhancing the resilience of rural New Zealand, to better protect these integral and potentially vulnerable communities and enable them to thrive in the face of natural hazard risks.
The programme is supporting and enabling resilient outcomes for rural New Zealand through development of an integrated framework for assessing resilience to natural hazards across rural value chains, producing tools for resilience-interventions, and building a researcher-stakeholder co-creation team and outreach network as ‘honest brokers’ for policy and practice leadership.
Rural team graduate Kristie-Lee Thomas speaks on Radio NZ’s Nine to Noon show about her master’s thesis research, in which she used Māori oral histories alongside archives and literature to uncover previously undocumented insights about past tsunami on the Chatham Islands.
Resilience Solutions for Rural New Zealand
Co-producing and brokering innovative solutions for enhancing the resilience of rural New Zealand.
Project lead: Dr Nick Cradock-Henry
Host: Landcare Research
Developing and applying an integrated, analytical framework for promoting resilience at multiple scales across rural value chains. The project is working to showcase the economic consequences of resilience initiatives for agri- and tourism businesses under multi, cascading and creeping natural hazard events.
Project lead: Assoc Prof Thomas Wilson
Host: University of Canterbury
Resilience to Wildfire Challenges
Co-developing resilience initiatives for wildfire with communities and integrating rural wildfire hazard risk assessment and resilience initiatives within a multi-hazard environment.
Project lead: Dr Lisa Langer
Host: University of Canterbury
Resilience in Transient Rural Communities
This project, funded through the Challenge’s contestable funding process in 2017, is examining and documenting the response and recovery to Kaikōura-Hurunui earthquake from a community perspective, in order to identify community structures that can help foster greater resilience.
Project lead: Prof David Simmons
Host: Lincoln University
Rural Value Chains
This project, funded through the Challenge’s contestable funding process in 2017, sees several methodologies combine to analyse disruptions in complex networks of interdependent rural value chains and how these networks will react in a natural hazard.
Project lead: Dr Carel Bezuidenhout
Alistair is from the UK, where he studied Geography at the University of Cambridge and worked as a flood consultant before moving to New Zealand to pursue his PhD. Alistair is studying Disaster Risk and Resilience at the University of Canterbury. Outside of university, you can catch Alistair on stage performing musicals, with credits including “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” and “Wicked”.
A future Alpine Fault earthquake is one of the largest natural hazard risks to New Zealand, likely to affect most of the South Island including disruption to distributed infrastructure networks and iconic rural industries, and isolating rural communities. Project AF8 is tasked to develop a coordinated response to an Alpine Fault rupture to assist and enhance community resilience across the South Island. RNC-Rural is working closely with CDEM, lifelines agencies and government stakeholders to a) co-create the latest scientific approaches to estimate the likely impacts to critical lifeline infrastructure, buildings, communities and industries from the initial earthquake and cascading hazards; b) translate and communicate technical science into useful, useable and used products for increasing disaster resilience; and c) actively contribute to CDEM sector and community resilience building initiatives.
Kaikōura EQ event
During the response phase, RNC-Rural provided direct science support across affected communities, lifelines, economics, hazard assessment and then into the recovery. Building on relationships and networks in affected communities, the team has been documenting lessons, tracking the evolution of networks, activtities and initiatives, and exploring the ways in which a rural community recovers. The insights from this work not only with the communities, but also transient populations (tourists, and seasonal workers for example) have the potential to inform preparedness, and resilience-building initiatives elsewhere in NZ. Working with the rūnanga, new understanding and appreciations for iwi roles in recovery have also been developed.
Recent wildfire events throughout NZ have highlighted our vulnerability to these damaging events (e.g. 2017 Port Hills fire). The Wildfire programme is working with two Northland communities on wildfire preparedness, focusing on risk awareness and better understanding Māori perspectives and practices for fire management. The team is also focused on the role of volunteers in fire risk management and response, hoping to be better understand the role of volunteers across the 4Rs (Reduction, readiness, response, recovery, Resilience).
We live in a risky environment. New Zealand experiences wildfires, floods, landslides and earthquakes far too frequently. But are we aware of the risks, and how prepared are we to reduce their impact and cope with a disaster?
Research is currently underway to better understand the unique features of rural New Zealand and its populations. The work is helping scientists, as well as policy and decision makers to re-imagine rural resilience, and to make sure that we have plans, processes and principles to respond effectively during emergencies, and ensure that rural New Zealand thrives – no matter what.
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Stevenson JR, Becker J, Cradock-Henry N, Johal, S., Johnston, D., Orchiston, C., Seville, E. (2017) Economic and Social Reconnaissance: Kaikōura Earthquake 2016. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering 50:343–351
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