Our people



Governance Group


Jenn Bestwick (Chair)

Jenn is an independent Director with a background in business and management consulting. She currently works as a Lead Reviewer with the States Services Commission Performance Improvement Framework and provides strategic consultancy to a number of private and public sector organisations. Jenn spent many years working with KPMG leading their Auckland strategic management consulting practice before moving to Christchurch where she worked for a number of years with Ngāi Tahu including in a role as General Manager, Strategy and Planning for Ngāi Tahu Holdings Group. Jenn has worked with a number of organisations in the science and research sector having led MBIE’s Review of CRI Core Funding, been on a number of panels reviewing performance of MBIE science investments, been involved in the establishment of Callaghan Innovation and worked with a number of Crown Research Institutes.

Bruce Willis

Bruce has a background in commercial banking and finance for the agricultural sector and is the immediate Past President of Federated Farmers. He is currently a board director of Ravensdown Ltd., representative of NZ and international Farming and Trade forums, and an active farmer in the Hawkes Bay.  In addition to this role, Bruce sits on the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge board

Greg Orchard

Greg is by background an accountant, and over the past two decades has provided governance and high-level strategic leadership in organisations such as Wellington City, BRANZ, and the Housing Corporation, in particular for areas related to healthy, safe and socially accessible housing. In his previous role as the Wellington City Council Chief Operating Officer he was responsible for improving the resilience of Wellington’s building stock. His experience places him in an excellent position to provide strategic local government-centred advice to the Challenge.

David Middleton

David was appointed CEO of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) after a twenty year career in the insurance industry.  Since leaving EQC David has worked as an independent consultant at Kestrel Group. David is currently the Chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Natural Hazards Research Platform and Chair of the Strategic and Scientific User Advisory Panel that reports to the GNS Board.  In 2010 David was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and an Honorary Fellow of Engineering New Zealand.

Dr Jessica Hutchings

Jessica (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Huirapa, Gujarati) is a well respected leader in the Māori science sector. For the last three years she has held the role of Tumu Whakarae/Director Māori in the the Building Better Homes Towns and Cities National Science Challenge. She is the current Chair of the Rauika Māngai (a cross-NSC senior Māori leadership group) and is also a member of the MBIE Science Board.  She has a PhD in environmental studies and has been working at the crossroads of Indigenous knowledge, whānau and environmental wellbeing for the last two decades. Jessica is a widely published author, and currently works as a consultant across a range of projects that contribute to the broad goals of kaupapa Māori and science. She is also the founder and teacher of – Yogahā.





Challenge Directorate

Dr Richard Smith  

Richard has a hybrid background in research facilitation, disaster risk reduction policy and practice, and natural hazards research. Most recently he was Research Strategy and Investment Manager with the New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC), with responsibilities for EQC’s National Research Capability and Science-to-Practice programmes. Before joining EQC, Richard held various roles in the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), supporting policy and capability development and provision of science advice. Richard has a PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of Canterbury, and prior to taking up a position with MCDEM was a Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of Waikato.

Delia Tamsen
Challenge Manager

Delia has worked in geosciences in New Zealand since graduating from Otago University with an MSc in Physical Geography. Prior to joining the Resilience Challenge, Delia project managed a range of natural hazards research programmes at GNS Science and was the collections manager for New Zealand’s national rock and minerals collections. Delia enjoys seeing science come to fruition, from the early days of exciting research ideas and proposal development all the way through to putting tools and guidance into the hands of end-users for incorporation into decision-making. Alongside managing Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, Delia is the project manager for It’s Our Fault, the award-winning Wellington region earthquake hazard, risk and resilience programme.

Caitlin Carew
Science Communications Adviser

Caitlin has a background in the environment sector, having worked in environmental advocacy, education and communications both in Aotearoa and Australia. Before joining the Resilience Challenge team, Caitlin worked as a senior communications advisor at Forest & Bird which sparked her interest in science communication. Caitlin enjoys the challenge of communicating complex science in a way that is easy to understand and engaging for a wider audience. Outside work, Caitlin loves spending time outside with her young family, helping out with local conservation work, and training for triathlons.

Josh Te Kani
Vision Mātauranga Knowledge Broker

Ko Josh Te Kani tōku ingoa. 

He uri tēnei o Mauāo maunga, ko Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui me Ngāti Pūkenga ngā iwi. 

He uri anō hoki o te Tairāwhiti, o Ngāti Porou, o Te Whānau a Apanui, o Te Whakatōhea ki te taha o tōku nei pāpā.

Kei te taha o tōku māmā, ko Ngāti Rangi, ko Te Āti Haunui ā Pāpārangi, ko Ngāti Tū, ko Tūwharetoa anō tēnei.

I tipu au i ngā wai koiora o Tauranga Moana.

I am a specialist in Māori communications with a background in iwi broadcasting, iwi health program development and consult for iwi council/crown engagement. My role as Vision Mātauranga Knowledge Broker is to increase the transmission of cultural knowledge across the Resilience Challenge, building our understanding of Mātauranga Māori, increasing our cultural capability, enabling effective iwi engagement and enhancing our research to give enduring results for our communities. Mauri ora kia tātou.

Nicky Smith
Challenge Coordinator

Nicky Smith joins the Challenge from the business events sector where she was an event manager, working with a range of organisations across Aotearoa. Prior to this she managed a not-for-profit community arts venue in the Far North. Through these roles Nicky has worked with communities, businesses and organisations across all sectors and demographics. Nicky is looking forward to collaborating with the Resilience Challenge team and supporting the ongoing development of the Challenge’s work.



Programme Leaders


Dr Julia Becker
Co-leader, Resilience in Practice

Julia is a senior lecturer at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research in the School of Psychology at Massey University. She specialises in researching individual and community preparedness, community resilience, land-use planning for natural hazards, and hazard-event warnings. She has worked extensively in Canterbury before and during the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, and following the Kaikōura earthquake. As well as working closely with the Ministry for Civil Defence and Emergency Management and regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups, she has also worked in Australia, USA, Japan and the wider Pacific on social issues of hazards and disasters.

Dr Nick Cradock-Henry
Co-leader, Resilience in Practice

Nick is a senior scientist with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research’s Landscape Policy & Governance team. His research focuses on social-ecological system dynamics, with a particular emphasis on rural landscapes at multiple scales and across several research themes. This includes work on risk and resilience, and the impacts of earthquakes and other hazards on rural communities and agribusinesses and rural value chains (wine, kiwifruit, and dairying); climate change vulnerability and adaptation, and governance for sustainability outcomes. He is Regional Coordinator for the Earth System Governance project, and holds funding from the RSNZ Marsden Fund, MPI, NHRP, and other National Science Challenges.

Prof Tom Wilson
Co-leader, Rural

Tom is a Professor at the University of Canterbury with a high-profile research track record in understanding the impacts of volcanism, earthquake and snowfall hazards on infrastructure, lifelines, agriculture and community resilience. In recent years he has contributed underpinning societal and agricultural impact measures to the major New Zealand Riskscape initiative, investigated GIS tools for evacuation planning and disaster management, and worked extensively on collaborative projects in and around the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Producing over 50-refereed publications and several PhD graduands, Prof Wilson’s research has spanned diverse settings from Indonesia to South America.

Dr Caroline Orchiston
Co-leader, Rural

Caroline is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago in Dunedin. She has more than ten years of applied social science research experience focussed on rural, community and tourism resilience related to earthquake, tsunami and climate-related hazards. She has published conceptual and empirical contributions in science and business journals on tourism resilience and sustainability, post-disaster community recovery and rural resilience. In addition to her role as co-lead for the Rural programme, Caroline is on the Leadership team for QuakeCoRE and is the Science Lead for Project AF8, an award-winning multi-agency Alpine Fault response planning initiative

Prof Jan Lindsay
Co-leader, Urban

Jan is a Professor in the School of Environment at The University of Auckland. Jan’s research focuses on making society more resilient to volcanic hazards through improving understanding of volcanic processes, and developing and testing techniques for better communication between scientists and stakeholders to ensure efficient uptake of hazard and risk research. She has worked in the broad area of volcanic geology, hazard and risk in New Zealand, Chile, the Lesser Antilles and Saudi Arabia. She co-leads the multi-agency, transdisciplinary research programme DEVORA (Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland). Jan has produced over 80 refereed publications and supervised 12 PhD students to completion. She is a Vice President of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI), and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Volcanology.

Prof David Johnston
Co-leader, Urban

David is Director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research in the School of Psychology at Massey University and Deputy Director of QuakeCoRE, NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience. His research focuses on human responses to volcano, tsunami, earthquake and weather warnings, crisis decision-making and the role of public education and participation in building community resilience and recovery. In 2016 he became co-chair of World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) High Impact Weather Project (HIWeather) steering group. This follows his role as the chair of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Scientific Committee (IRDR) (2013-2015). He is the editor of The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies; and was the founding editor of the Journal of Applied Volcanology.

Prof Tim Sullivan
Co-leader, Built Environment

Tim is a Professor at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has been leading research in New Zealand through his role in QuakeCoRE over the past three years. Prior to this, he was based in Italy where he was head of the Design Methods Section of the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering, and Assistant Professor at the University of Pavia. Tim’s research interests lie mainly in the examination of the fundamentals of seismic design and experimental testing techniques. Tim has more than 100 peer-reviewed publications related to seismic design, seismic assessment, seismic retrofit and mitigation of seismic risk. Tim is also a chartered professional engineer with the UK institute of Civil Engineers, having worked in the UK, New Zealand, Germany and Italy on a wide range of building and bridge projects.

Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon
Co-leader, Built Environment

Liam is an Associate Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Auckland. He is involved in engineering research across a range of natural hazards, with a particular focus on New Zealand’s infrastructure networks. He is a Fellow of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, and on the leadership team of QuakeCoRE, the NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience. Liam was heavily involved in post-earthquake response and research during the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence and following the Kaikōura earthquake.

Dr Wendy Saunders
Co-leader, Mātauranga Māori

Wendy (Raukawa) is an accomplished social scientist specialising in land use planning to reduce risks from natural hazards and climate change.  Wendy co-leads the Mātauranga Māori research programme in the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge; leads the Improved Risk Governance research programme at GNS Science; is on the QuakeCoRE leadership team; and until recently led the Engagement Programme for the Deep South National Science Challenge.  Her research has focused on investigating the role of iwi/hapū management plans in natural hazard and risk management; and how iwi/hapū management plans can inform research directions.

Dr Acushla (Dee) Sciascia
Co-leader, Mātauranga Māori

Dr Acushla Sciascia is of Ngāruahine Rangi, Ngāti Ruanui and Te Āti Awa descent. She completed her doctoral studies in 2013 with Massey University and since then has been working in the public sector as a research, evaluator and strategist. Dee’s research background has largely emerged from kaupapa Māori research, specifically Māori negotiating and navigating new technologies and online environments. Dee’s research interests have transitioned into the climate change space and she was a part of the National Risk Assessment Framework for Climate Change panel and is co-leading the Mātauranga ā iwi programme in the ‘Transitioning Taranaki’ MBIE Endeavour-funded programme. Dee is passionate and committed to championing mātauranga Māori across disciplines, working towards the recognition of the value and mana of our knowledge system in its own right in the sciences, particularly through the Resilience Challenge.

Dr Garry McDonald
Co-leader, Multihazard Risk Model

Garry is a Director of Market Economics Ltd, an economics consulting and research company. His research focuses on the integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of resilience and sustainability. This includes development of dynamic and spatially explicit decision/policy support systems; ecological economics and urban/regional economics; and critical infrastructure investment and interdependencies; and indicator development (e.g., full cost accounting, genuine progress). Garry led the Economics Toolbox in Phase 1 of the Challenge, and is also co-developer of the Measuring Economic Resilient Infrastructure Tool (MERIT). This suite of web-based and desktop decision support tools is designed to assess economic impacts, allowing modelling of critical infrastructure outages and mitigation solutions. These tools have been used for various resilience projects including by the Wellington Lifelines Group, NZTA, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, as well as private sector electricity, financial and port companies.

Prof Mark Bebbington
Co-leader, Multihazard Risk Model

Mark is Professor in Geostatistics at Massey University, with a split appointment between the Statistics Group of the School of Fundamental Sciences and Volcanic Risk Solutions in the School of Agriculture and Environment. His research interests include stochastic modelling, especially in geophysics, inference and computational methods for stochastic processes, and reliability and statistical quality control. Mark has published over 100 international journal papers and received over 20 contestable research grants; with a focus on developing methods for assessing and forecasting natural hazard risks, especially volcanic and earthquake hazards. He is also an associate editor for the journals: Frontiers in Earth Science Geohazards and Georisks; Statistics in Volcanology; and The Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics.

Prof Andy Nichol
Co-leader, Earthquake-Tsunami Theme

Andy is Professor of structural geology at the University of Canterbury in the School of Earth and Environment. He studies earthquakes in New Zealand and overseas to understand better earthquake processes and hazards. His research interests include the 2016 Kaikōura and 2010 Darfield earthquakes, changes in earthquake behaviour in space and through time, quantification of sample incompleteness and seismicity induced by human activity. Andy has published over 240 research papers, book chapters and reports, and been awarded over 30 research grants. He collaborates widely with national and international colleagues on a wide range of research topics.

Dr Bill Fry
Co-leader, Earthquake-Tsunami Theme

Bill is a physical scientist at GNS Science. His expertise spans earthquake and tsunami hazard as well as the physical processes that create these perils. He currently chairs the UNESCO-ICG/PTWS task team for “Optimal sensor networks for tsunami detection and characterization”. He has served as a New Zealand delegate for the Pacific Tsunami Warning System’s steering committee. He is a member and past chair of New Zealand’s National Tsunami Expert Panel and is a member of the New Zealand Tsunami Monitoring and Detection Steering Group. He has briefed cabinet-level central government during numerous earthquake and tsunami event responses. He also has the distinctions of having led two Marsden projects and providing the keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America.

Assoc Prof Jon Procter
Co-leader, Volcano

Jon (Muaupoko, Ngati Apa, Ngai Tahu) has a background in Geographical Information Systems, mapping, geology and numerical mass flow modelling. He currently leads the multi-agency $2.5 million Living with Volcanic risk programme (2016-2019) and has also led a diverse range of other Māori-specific projects via MBIE, NZ Natural Hazards Research Platform, Landcare Research and variety of Iwi Authorities and Regional councils. His experience includes Māori-resource and landscape mapping and iwi-based initiatives into volcanic hazard mapping and environmental/pollution monitoring and management. Dr Procter is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University and has published over 35 papers in refereed international journals.

Dr Arthur Jolly
Co-leader, Volcano

Arthur is a volcano geophysicist with expertise in volcano seismology, volcano acoustics and volcano monitoring.  He currently leads the GNS Science volcano research programme, a $1.4 million multidisciplinary endeavour focused on volcanic hazards.  His primary research is in the fields of volcanic unrest and eruption forecasting precursors, eruption and mass flow dynamics and energetics.  He currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research and Earth, Planets and Space and has published over 40 international journal articles.  He has worked on volcanoes in Alaska, the West Indies, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vanuatu over the past three decades.

Dr Richard Turner
Co-leader, Weather & Wildfire

Richard is a research scientist in the Meteorology and Remote Sensing group at NIWA. His research interests lie in the observation and modelling of weather, with a strong focus on the application of this science to impacts of weather related hazards, particularly wind on buildings and power networks. Additional areas of expertise have been to apply these sophisticated wind and weather models to study the atmospheric dispersion of volcanic ash, insect pests, myrtle rust spores, and diseases like Foot-and-Mouth.

Dr Sally Potter
Co-leader, Weather & Wildfire

Sally is a social scientist at GNS Science, with a background in geosciences and emergency management. She conducts research on early warning systems, particularly the communication of warnings for a range of natural hazards. Her current focus is on impact-based warnings for severe weather, and optimal messaging for short warnings such as Emergency Mobile Alerts. She is the co-lead of the Communication Task Team within the World Meteorological Organization’s High Impact Weather research programme, linking her to a global network of experts.

Assoc Prof Mark Dickson
Co-leader, Coastal

Mark is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland. He is an international expert in coastal processes and coastal management, having focused much of his research career on understanding drivers of coastal erosion and exploring possible future shoreline changes under climatic change and coastal management activities. He has published over 50 refereed journal papers across various aspects of coastal geomorphology, engineering and management. Mark collaborates on a number of international projects, but is focused on coastal erosion research in NZ, in which capacity he engages with a range of NZ regional authorities and consultants.

Dr Rob Bell
Co-leader, Coastal

Rob has nearly 40 years’ experience in coastal engineering, risk from natural hazards, and the impacts of climate change on coastal communities and infrastructure. Rob is the Programme Leader for Climate Adaptation in NIWA’s Climate, Atmosphere & Hazards Centre. He has published papers on sea-level rise, coastal hazards (including tsunami), coastal adaptation planning and the development of RiskScape to compare risk from natural hazards. Rob has been the technical lead on recent coastal road/bridge and airport infrastructure projects, coastal risk exposure reports for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2015) and was the Lead Author of the 2017 coastal guidance for local government published by the Ministry for the Environment for planning adaptation to climate change. Rob was selected for the Expert Panel working with the Ministry for the Environment to produce the risk framework for the first National Climate Change Risk Assessment. He is currently a Contributing Author for the IPCC Working Group II 6th assessment report on climate change impacts for Australasia.