The 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence: a legacy of research collaboration



By Dr Matthew Hughes and Dr Liam Wotherspoon

This year February 22nd marks the eighth anniversary of the devastating 6.2 magnitude Christchurch Earthquake, which occurred at 12.51 p.m. in a busy lunch hour. What we now call the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake Sequence had begun nearly six months earlier, in the early hours of 4th September 2010, when the region was rocked by the 7.1 magnitude Darfield Earthquake. While no fatalities occurred during this initiating event, the damage to land and the built environment was a foretaste of the impacts to come throughout 2011.


Damage to the railway line in Christchurch after the 201 Darfield Earthquake. Photo © GNS Science

One of the enduring legacies of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence is strong relationships between Resilience to Nature’s Challenges researchers and a range of stakeholder organisations. These collaborations are examples of successful co-created research projects that have both academic and practical value. 

The February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake set in motion a mammoth campaign of infrastructure repairs and assessments undertaken by utilities operators. In parallel to this campaign, multi-faceted research programmes began, forging  collaborations between utility operators, consulting firms, universities and Crown Research Institutes, all of whom worked together closely to understand earthquake impacts to vital infrastructure lifelines.

Severe liquefaction across Christchurch led to significant damage to a range of buried infrastructure networks, including the water supply pipe network and electricity cables. Following each significant earthquake, Christchurch City Council recorded damage to the water supply network, and Orion recorded damage to the electricity distribution. The collation of these authoritative damage datasets, compiled from inspections and repair records, has enabled researcher and stakeholder collaborations to figure out why the damage occurred, and to work towards a better understanding of future network performance.

For example, the precise locations of network damage, their specific modes of failure, and the pipe or cable types on which they occurred, have been linked to the severity of ground shaking and liquefaction at those sites. Now this research is being used to develop models that can estimate damage, being able to both represent the observed damage in past events, and assess how much damage future events might cause. The research has stimulated thinking behind more resilient design, including informing design standards and asset management approaches.


Model output of the estimated probability of water outage for the Christchurch earthquake. Source: Earthquake Spectra: The Professional Journal of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

Irmana Garcia Sampedro is a Strategic Asset Engineer at the Christchurch City Council, and was formerly a member of the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, an alliance of utility owners and consulting firms tasked with rebuilding Christchurch’s water and road infrastructure.

She says: “As a reticulation asset manager, since 2014 I have been heavily involved in several research projects including investigating damage to, and loss of grade of, Christchurch’s wastewater pipe network. This work has shifted to deeper analysis comparing pre- and post-earthquake waste water condition assessments, and linking these observations with geospatial models of ground deformation. These projects have provided to industry a good understanding of the damage.”

“Moving into the ‘preparedness’ space, in 2017 I was involved with very interesting research on a decision-support algorithm for post-earthquake water services recovery. And in 2018, a researcher and I documented lessons learned for assessing earthquake impacts to buried assets, including best approaches for data systems and management. This work was awarded paper of the year by the New Zealand arm of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, showing how the engineering and emergency management industries found high value in these collected lessons learnt.”

Orion is Christchurch’s primary electricity distributor, and due to asset strengthening prior to the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, the networks demonstrated resilience to earthquake shaking and liquefaction. This enabled rapid restoration of service across the city. Never the less damage did occur, providing valuable lessons on impacts to electricity systems.

Shane Watson is Orion’s Network Strategy and Transformation Manager. He says: “Orion has worked with researchers to analyse the effects of the 2011 earthquakes on its underground infrastructure. The accurate characterising of cable damage, associated with geospatial modelling, delivers enhanced spatial views that allow us to better understand, assess risk and better plan for the future replacement and development of the electricity network. The continued development of spatial models has led us to further collaborate, and develop further modelling to allow for multi-hazard and system resilience assessments.”

It is often said that crises present opportunities. While Christchurch’s built environment and infrastructure lifelines were severely tested, close collaborations between Resilience Challenge researchers and key stakeholders have helped enhance our understanding of disaster impacts, and will continue to inform resilience across Aotearoa/New Zealand.

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 lead 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 program. 


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. One 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: Niransha Rodrigo



‘Anchor projects’ as cornerstones of city-rebuilding post-disaster




A bit about me 


I’m from Sri Lanka, the island paradise of the Indian Ocean. I’m currently a second year Civil Engineering doctoral candidate at The University of Auckland. I initially completed my BA (Honours) in Economics at the University of Colombo whilst also reading for a Professional Post-Graduate qualification in Marketing. I then went to the UK where I did an MSc in Project Management and that led me to my current research in New Zealand in the area of disaster management. I’ve specialised in vastly different subject areas and I strongly believe that this sets me apart from the typical engineer. I believe knowledge in many areas is an added bonus when working in teams because knowing more gives one more control over the process.



Even though my research focuses on disaster management, there is a huge part of me that loves art, languages and creativity in any form. As a result, I learnt French and then at one point started giving lessons too!  I’m also totally into nature these days. I have fallen for the natural beauty of New Zealand and it has brought out the photographer, voyager and nature lover in me.


My project


A disaster marks a remarkable turn-around for a country, whether it is economic, social, political or a fusion of all three. Therefore, it is crucial that governments make the best decisions with regard to their post-disaster rebuilding. In the recent past, the world has witnessed cities being rebuilt through key public projects. These are also known as Anchor projects, Priority Projects, Catalyst Projects or Flagship projects. The main objective of these projects is to aid the rebuilding of cities post-disaster. Substantial investment, resources and time are dedicated to these. It is expected that these projects are pioneers in economic regeneration and are focal points in the urban plan following a disaster.

My work is mainly focused on understanding these key public projects that have been undertaken by governments in the developed world following large natural disasters. I’m using the case studies of the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes and Australia’s 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria. In Christchurch only a handful of projects out of the proposed 17 have been completed 9 years down the line (see the map of proposed Christchurch Anchor Projects below).


Christchurch ‘Anchor’ Projects. Source: Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, 2012

In Australia, even though the projects were completed on time, whether they have actually delivered what was expected remains to be seen. Most of the projects have become of little use after being constructed and handed over to the public.  Lack of planning, hasty decision-making, resource management issues and project portfolio management pitfalls have all contributed to the negativity surrounding them. It is questionable whether the timing and planning of these can be justified.


Next steps


I will start my first phase of data collection in March, 2019. This will involve conducting one on one semi-structured interviews with government officials in both Victoria and Canterbury. I hope to gain an understanding of the planning process and the project management issues. The data gathered will be validated against findings from focus group discussions involving all stakeholders, including government officials, architects, contractors and the end users of these establishments. This phase will shed light on how planning and project management affect the end results of these projects. It is expected that my research will deepen the understanding of the role of anchor projects in post-disaster rebuilding efforts of the government. I will also produce best practice decision-making guidelines for future reference of the respective governments.

I am excited about the potential of this research as one of the few studies focusing on  the role of public projects following a natural disaster. I also hope that the decision-making guidelines I produce will help governments make better decisions around post-disaster planning and government spending.


Niransha’s PhD is being supervised by Professor Suzanne Wilkinson and Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara and is being partially funded by the Resilience Challenge.

Being part of Generation Zero



Lisa McLaren

Resilience Challenge PhD candidate by day, climate change hero by night.

We speak with Lisa McLaren who, when not researching citizen science and community resilience to hazard events, is a convener and spokesperson for Generation Zero, a youth-led organisation helping New Zealand cut carbon pollution.



What sparked your interest in climate change policy and research?

Growing up on a farm I felt that the connection between weather and our environment was really clear. It was only in my last stages of my undergraduate degrees that I started to pay attention to the growing noise around how climate change was effecting our environment.

I studied at Victoria University of Wellington – completing a BSc in Environmental Studies, BA in Anthropology, and a Masters in Environmental Studies with a thesis on climate change education. I started to learn the academic side of climate change science and policy through these degrees.

I attended two major UN climate change conferences – COP19 in Poland (2013) and COP21 in Paris (2015). COP 19 was the place I learnt I really wanted to do something to help solve the climate crisis, and COP21 was the place where I learnt how to do this.

I came home from Paris and felt the need to put my newly found climate campaigning skills to good use. I had to do it voluntarily as there were hardly any jobs related to climate change action at that time. Instead, I worked for four years in local government with roles in sea level rise planning and emergency management. I spent a lot of time working with community groups on how to build their resilience to natural hazard events, including those that will be exacerbated by climate change in the future. I gave up my paid local government role to work full time on my PhD and my volunteer role as the National Convenor of the Zero Carbon Act campaign with Generation Zero.


Tell us about Gen Zero and your role in the team

Gen Zero is basically a group of passionate young people (or young at heart!) who volunteer their time to work on creative, positive solutions to climate change through transport and city design, education, and our proposed new climate change law – the Zero Carbon Act.

I have volunteered as the National Convenor of the Zero Carbon Act campaign for the last 2.5 years. I coordinate a team of 10 core volunteers, and a wider pool of around 100 people.

The campaign for a Zero Carbon Act started in a cafe in Wellington in early 2016. Gen Zero had done some research prior into what the UK’s climate law looked like and that day in the cafe we decided as a group that we might as well try to create one here too. We launched our intent to draft a new climate law outside Parliament in June 2016 and by the end of 2016 we had formed a policy team who had begun drafting our blueprint for what we were then calling a ‘Zero Carbon Act’. We created a policy reference group made up of policy experts, lawyers, academics, who could guide our policy team on their journey. Our proposed law was similar to the UKs Climate Change Act in many ways, but it had to be tailored for the Aotearoa New Zealand context. While our policy team was getting the technical details right, our campaign team focused on socialising the new proposed law with anyone that would listen. We did presentations up and down the country, wrote Opeds and blogs, and formed a group of allied NGOs who could share our idea with their networks. Our blueprint was launched in April 2017 outside Parliament once again – this time we had an extensive list of supporting groups and individuals, including support from youth political parties from all sides of the house.

We were amazed when the Green Party announced that they would establish a Zero Carbon Act if they got into government, and even more amazed when the Labour Party and NZ First signaled similar promises. The new coalition government then consulted on the proposed new law in mid-2018. There were 15,000 submissions on that consultation – this was huge success considering it is common to receive around 500 submissions for proposed legislation. As a group we have been training our volunteers to have meetings with their local MPs to discuss how climate change impacts them, their whanau and wider community.

Our campaign has now changed – we no longer have a say on the outcome of the draft law and the name will probably change.  The government and opposition are currently still in talks about what this law should look like and we will hopefully know the outcome of their negotiations early this year. This loss of power over our proposed law is exactly what we wanted to happen when we started the campaign. We needed it to be taken up by the politicians who can bring it to life. But it has taken us a while to feel ok with giving up control over something we have all worked so tirelessly to create.

This next stage gives us an opportunity to critique the bill when it is drafted early next year and as a team we are aiming to broaden our campaign scope, from selling a climate law to developing a vision. We want to go around the country in the new year and see what New Zealanders from all walks of life want our low emissions 2050 Aotearoa to look like.



Why do people get involved?

There are multiple different reasons, often quite specific. We talk about our ‘climate story of self’ a lot. This is based on the climate change journey people have been on, and usually includes an ‘aha!’ moment where they decide to put lots of time and energy into solving the problem.

Mine is based on how the storms, floods, and droughts that hit my home region are going to made worse by climate change in the next few years. And that’s going to keep hurting my home community in the Wairarapa. I want to make sure all our rural communities are set up to succeed during this transition to a low emission economy and I am glad to see these discussions have already begun. But I also want the rural community to realise that they have many parts to play in the much needed plan to reduce our countries greenhouse gas levels. And I hope they come to the table with innovation and creativity, rather than resentment and narrow-mindedness that we have seen from many to date. The same goes for those in the urban areas who will need to tackle low emissions transport and housing. This journey is going to need all kiwis to be a part of it and will require change in all sectors and all communities.

My worry is that we are not talking about these issues in the right way. We are often talking past each other, or at each other, but not having a genuine conversation about it. And that is where the change will start, with genuine conversations using up to date science and with a lens of New Zealand’s responsibility as a developed nation to be doing more than the bare minimum to solve this problem.



What do you have to do as a member of Gen Zero?

There are really variable roles within the organisation. In the Zero Carbon Act team we have roles in policy/research, engagement with communities/NGOs, social and traditional media, as well as admin and team organising. As we are all volunteers we play to people’s strengths and work with the skills we have available at any particular time. In means having to adopt an adaptable work style but the results are great.  

Has there been a standout moment?

The highlight of the Zero Carbon Act campaign has to be when the new govt announced they would implement a Zero Carbon Act after a consultation period. They did this consultation in June/July 2018 and it was unreal to see our concept being debated up and down the country.

How can people find out more about volunteering for Gen Zero?

They can sign up on our website – or contact one of the Zero Carbon Act team at



Your research with the Resilience Challenge is centred around climate change and adaptation too, can you tell us about that?

My PhD is funded through the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges programme and it is looking at how citizen science can be used to build community resilience to hazard events. In a nutshell it is looking at how participation in science can help to increase knowledge of hazards and build trust of science/scientists within communities. I am building a model for how hazard researchers can include citizen science more effectively in their work and hope to trial it with a community-based coastal hazards project late next year.

What is the importance of citizen science?

I think that citizen participation in science is really important, especially in the age of ‘fake news’ and a growing distrust of the legitimacy of science in some circles. Citizen science has the ability to connect people with science in a way that builds trust in the process and the data produced. I like the ability of citizen science to empower groups to use the data they collect to manage problems in their environment.

Find out more about Lisa and her research here. 

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

Operationalising resilience through a practice-science collaboration: A match made in heaven?



By Ellie Kay and Dr Joanne Stevenson

How can scientists and practitioners work together to improve the resilience of our communities? Researchers in the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Trajectories, Culture, and Economics Toolboxes have been collaborating with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office to develop indicators of resilience to measure the capabilities of the Wellington Region.

The Trajectories Toolbox team have been hard at work on the resilience “Warrant of Fitness” project, which is aimed at testing, refining, and enhancing the New Zealand Resilience Index. The project aims to provide a measure of resilience that incorporates the views of those living and working in the communities being measured, producing a more holistic understanding of resilience capabilities. The Trajectories team have partnered with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) to aid with the development of their Group Plan, connecting indicators of resilience to WREMO’s vision of a resilient community that is ready, connected, and capable of responding to and recovering from a disaster.


Photo: Michael Coghlan via Flikr

As well as developing indicators of resilience across a multi-capital model for the WREMO Group Plan, the project highlights the necessity of balancing the unique needs of both researchers and practitioners. This ensures everyone benefits from the collaboration, leading to better improvements for communities. Additionally, consultation with Disaster Risk Reduction and resilience practitioners led us to reconsider the types of indicators included in the New Zealand Resilience Index, demonstrating the importance of practice informing science, as well as science informing practice. These two-way conversations and collaborations are vital for pooling collective knowledge of a complex system like resilience.

The Warrant of Fitness is making important steps to bridging the gap between science and practice, with the aim of improving resilience in place-based communities. In line with the Sendai Framework, the team is producing actionable knowledge that can be used by different groups to address resilience issues in their communities.

Awkward first data: Giving the DIVE Platform a second chance



By Dr Joanne Stevenson

Despite many calls for the creation of a metadata catalogue and repository for disaster risk reduction and resilience data, engagement with the first prototype of the New Zealand Resilience Data Integration and Visualisation EnMasse (DIVE) Platform has been poor. The developers of the trial platform have recently received additional funding to increase engagement with DIVE and explore ways to deliver on the site’s promise to provide a place to make resilience data more visible.


The Homepage of

The Resilience Challenge Trajectories Toolbox team has now launched the New Zealand Resilience Data Integration and Visualisation EnMasse (DIVE) Platform, and it is ready to start receiving data and information from researchers and stakeholders engaged in resilience and disaster risk reduction work across the country. The DIVE Platform provides a catalogue of research and information relevant to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience in New Zealand. Anyone can view and login to the DIVE Platform web interface at:

This launched prototype exceeds the team’s initial expectations for what the “resilience digital information system” project under the Trajectories Toolbox workstream was meant to achieve. The concept for the DIVE Platform was drawn from wide-ranging consultation with researchers and potential stakeholders of DRR and resilience research. The team were always aware that it was going to be a hard sell to get busy researchers excited to enter metadata and share their resources for the greater good of the resilience researcher and practitioner community. The Trajectories team continues to explore avenues to incentivise and simplify engagement with the platform.

The Trajectories Toolbox recently secured additional funding from a Resilience Challenge contestable funding round to support the ongoing development of the platform, encourage engagement, and allow systematic evaluation of the engagement and development of the system. We have welcomed Becca Fraser, a master’s student at the University of Canterbury, to the team as a research assistant to help with this portion of the project.

Part of Becca’s role is to encourage and assist researchers across QuakeCoRE and Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, as well as any additional stakeholders, to input metadata, host unique datasets for others to see and use, and feature their initiatives on the DIVE platform.

There is an increasing flow of information from governmental sources, organisations, researchers, and the public. This information can help us answer some of society’s most pressing questions, but we need to be able to find, understand, and apply it in meaningful ways. Processes such as recording and sharing high quality metadata can increase the interoperability and reusability of the information being collected and shared. The DIVE Platform was created by the Resilience Challenge’s Trajectories Toolbox, but it needs to be ‘owned’ and maintained by New Zealand’s research community going forward. This additional funding will buy some time to map a path to a system that can deliver the data visibility and cross-pollination desired by people across the research and practitioner community.

What gets measured gets done: The New Zealand Resilience Index



By Dr Joanne Stevenson, Chris Bowie, Ellie Kay and Dr John Vargo

The New Zealand Resilience Index will help decision-makers stay on track as we find ways to build disaster resilience in our communities, environments, and economies. This index, developed by the Resilience to Natures’ Challenges Trajectories Toolbox, is part of the holistic national strategy to ensure long-term community wellbeing despite inevitable disruption and environmental change. 
Model of a Resilient Nation (from NDRS 2018, p.17)

Measuring resilience helps make an abstract concept visible. Once resilience is visible, we can do something about it.  As noted in the National Disaster Resilience Strategy (NDRS) currently out for public consultation, “Holding ourselves to account is paramount,” and part of this accountability is systematically measuring and monitoring progress (NDRS 2018, p.30). The Trajectories Toolbox team, led by Dr Joanne Stevenson, a principal consultant with Resilient Organisations Ltd., has worked along-side the development of the NDRS to create a composite indicator of resilience that conceptually aligns with the multi-capital approach laid out in the strategy.

The New Zealand Resilience Index (NZRI) uses quantitative indicators to assess place-based communities’ resilience across the six ‘capitals’ that compose society: social, cultural, economic, built, natural environment, and governance/ institutional capital.

To enable comparisons between places and across time, the data for the NZRI needed to be quantitative, consistently available at a standard geographic area, and collected at regular time intervals. To make the index manageable and cost effective in the long-term, the researchers decided to aim for cost-free secondary data (i.e., data collected for another purpose like the Census) that is published publicly. Repeatability allows researchers, decision makers, and communities to track progress, assess whether interventions are making a difference, and check with the indicators can predict post-disaster outcomes.

The data for the New Zealand Resilience Index needed to be available at the territorial authority or census area unit (CAU) level. CAUs were selected as the preferred ‘place’ as they are likely to best reflect a community of people and organisations at a local level. CAUs generally coincide with suburbs and have a population of 3,000 to 5,000 people. These areas are also small enough to identify the many differences between places and groups of people that shape the community’s resilience to disruptions and could be addressed by community-based interventions.  After a rigorous selection process, including the development of a ‘bank’ of over 1,000 indicators drawing on indices from around the world, we identified a number of common resilience concepts to focus the NZRI indicators within. The concepts are as follows: community networks and sense of belonging, economic sector diversity, household capacity to cope with economic disruption, networked infrastructure resilience, functionality and safety of buildings following a disruption, household emergency preparedness, community access to shelters and welfare centres, heritage and culture is valued and preserved, resilience capacity of individuals, quality of legislation and planning addressing hazards, health system response capacity, and availability of natural buffers to hazards. Selecting indicators that measure each of these concepts using available data and then combining these into a single composite indicator allows us to create a relative resilience ‘score’.

Not all indicators are created equal. We realised that some indicators will have a more significant impact on a communities’ ability to survive and thrive in the face of disaster than others. As a result, the team employed an approach called conjoint analysis, which allowed us to determine weights for the different indicators of resilience using expert knowledge. To do this, we employed a novel survey software developed in New Zealand called 1000 Minds. Experts in New Zealand’s disaster resilience across theory and practice engaged in the 1000 Minds exercise making trade-offs between various indicators to reveal their ‘preferences’ for certain indicators over others.  Research over the last 30 years has shown that people generally have a poor understanding of how they make trade-offs during decision making, making it useful to have a structured way to help us make consistent judgements when considering multiple objectives or criteria. 1000 Minds provides such a structure, using the PAPRIKA (Potentially All Pairwise RanKings of all possible Alternatives) method to rank all pairs of of the criteria being considered.  89 experts from across New Zealand with extensive knowledge across a range of specialist areas from social science to engineering completed the 1000 Minds exercise.

The results of the 1000 Minds analysis show that networked infrastructure resilience along with community (inter-personal) networks and long-term residency, used as a proxy for place-attachment, are likely to have the biggest influence on a place’s disaster resilience. The smallest influence on disaster resilience is attributed to heritage preservation. The results revealed, however, that all of the indicators will have some influence on resilience.

The research team has spent considerable time and effort considering other datasets and exploring ways to assess other dimensions of disaster resilience. For example, two indicators were included in the 1000 Minds exercise that are not included in the current baseline calculation of the NZRI. The proportion of total commercial prone buildings that are considered “earthquake prone” was considered an important indicator of resilience of the built environment, but the best dataset available does not have adequate coverage for the entire country. Similarly, we asked experts to rate the importance of sheltering and welfare centre data availability as a proxy for local civil defence and emergency management preparedness and resourcing. This dataset has been omitted from the calculation of the NZRI due to incompleteness and significantly different policy approaches to the provisioning of civil defence centres by local and regional authorities.

There are many high-quality datasets collected and maintained by local and regional authorities, and the team is exploring ways to integrate additional datasets into the national NZRI baseline.

Going forward we will finalise the statistical analysis of the index, circulate the initial results to our co-creation partners at MCDEM, Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office, and the Auckland Emergency Management – Auckland Council. We will then work with these co-creation partners to understand how the calculated NZRI aligns with their experiences, and plan how we can better integrate local data into the national baseline. A wider release of the results will be coordinated with MCDEM in 2019.

The New Zealand Resilience Index will be a useful addition to New Zealand’s resilience building took kit, but we must be careful about how we interpret and use it. It will not, for example, be a good tool for making definitive choices about funding allocations. It is, however, a useful tool for ensuring that we think beyond buildings and consider the way our communities, institutions, and the natural environment contribute to resilience. Taking a holistic view of resilience will improve our chance of delivering resilience building programmes that account for the many interactions that make up our society.   

Behind the scenes: Chris Bowie and Ellie Kay on resilience measurement in New Zealand



This profile features two up-and-coming young researchers who have been working in the Trajectories Toolbox.

A bit about Chris and Ellie


Chris Bowie enjoys the multi-disciplinary collaboration within the Trajectories Toolbox.

Chris Bowie is a geographer with a keen interest in the role of our urban environments in creating vibrant and engaging communities. At WSP Opus his research and advisory work is focused on exploring the levers we have for unlocking the potential of our cities to meet the needs and aspirations of our people and communities. Since moving north to Wellington from Christchurch Chris has taken up freediving and spearfishing around the local coastline, though he still tries to get back down south to ski when the opportunity arises. 

Having spent the last 14 years in Christchurch, Ellie Kay has a background in Social Psychology, Anthropology, and Community Engagement, completing her study at the University of Canterbury.  Ellie is a researcher with Resilient Organisations Ltd. and in her spare time enjoys roaming around the Canterbury hills on her bike and relaxing at the beach on a nice Christchurch day.


An overview of their contributions to the Trajectories Toolbox


Chris has been involved with the Trajectories Toolbox since its inception in 2015. He’s focusing on assisting with the development of the New Zealand Resilience Index (NZRI) to benchmark and monitor community trajectories of resilience to Natural Hazards. The NZRI is a multi-capital index integrating indicators of resilience across multiple domains: built environment, social, economic, cultural, institutional and governance, and environmental. He has enjoyed engaging with resilience researchers and practitioners during this project, all of whom have a slightly different take on what can/should be considered when measuring the resilience of an area. In Chris’s words, “It has been a challenge trying to combine all of this input into a manageable index with a limited number of individual indicators, but it has also shown us the importance of ensuring that the NZRI can adapt over time as new priorities and better sources of data emerge.”


Ellie Kay, a researcher on the rise.

Ellie started with Resilient Organisations in February 2018 and jumped straight into the Trajectories Toolbox; working on the development of the New Zealand Resilience Index and how to enhance the measurement of community resilience by using locally available data. Ellie’s currently working in collaboration with the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) to integrate indicators of resilience into their Group Plan. By supplementing the national indicators of resilience with locally available datasets, Ellie’s work will provide a rich view of place based resilience.


Next steps


“At its heart I think the NZRI is a prompt for discussion and not just a metric assigned to individual areas. The NZRI is intended to be used by decision makers and leaders to better understand the resilience of their community, and identify opportunities for investment, growth and training, among other things,” Chris notes. This work will continue to be refined and developed by the team and their many co-creation partners going forward. This includes Ellie Kay’s work, which going forward will include developing a framework to help other communities across the country to measure their own resilience. This will allow for stakeholders to identify their resilience strengths and weaknesses and define priority areas for intervention, as well as assessing their progress towards improved resilience.