Q & A with Prof Andy Nicol



Q. Tēnā koe Andy. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into geology, and how your research career has progressed?

I feel incredibly fortunate to have a career in research and teaching. I was encouraged by my family to attend university at a time when there were few financial barriers and, as a young person, many opportunities to find your way in life. In my first year at university I picked a range of subjects which included earth sciences. As it turned out earth sciences was something that I really enjoyed, which was probably not a great surprise given that I loved being in the mountains and spent many years listening to my grandfather talking about his soil science work.

I really thrived on self-directed research where it was possible to test ideas and to look at the world as it was millions of years ago. By the time I finished I’d been at university for 8 years and people were starting to ask “when are you going to get a real job”. Looking back there was no grand plan of what a real job might look like and, if I’m honest, I caught quite a few lucky breaks along the way.

After my PhD I secured post-doctoral positions in the Fault Analysis Group at Liverpool University (UK) and then at GNS Science. These jobs opened my eyes to the possibilities of research and exposed me to fantastic people, many of whom I am still working with and are good friends. Any success that I might have had in earth sciences can be attributed to the high calibre of these collaborators, to a fascination of the earth and to having a fair measure of tenacity.

Q. You’re now a Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Canterbury. How have you found the transition to university teaching, after many years at GNS Science?

As is the case for many new lecturers, preparing new teaching material is challenging, even if you are like me and had a lot of help from others. Teaching is great fun and gives me the opportunity to paint my fingernails and break frozen Mars bars, which I hope helps the students understand rock deformation and plate tectonics (my finger nails grow at the same rate as plate motion in Christchurch). Research at Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) and universities is very similar. One of the many great things about GNS Science is that it has many experts in different fields of earth science under the same roof, which is scientifically invigorating and promotes strong cross pollination. I am fortunate that I have continued to work closely with GNS scientists and have been able to marry this work with the scientific freedom and expertise offered by the university system. I think that New Zealand research would benefit greatly if we could promote stronger links between CRIs and universities.

Q. You’re co-leading the Resilience Challenge Earthquake-Tsunami programme. What aspect of the programme excites you most?

I am excited by the prospect of being able to conduct research that will help improve understanding of hazards and benefit all New Zealanders.

Q. The primary goal of the Earthquake-Tsunami programme is to generate synthetic earthquakes using computer models. How did the team get started on the path towards synthetic seismicity?

One of the thankful aspects of natural earthquakes and tsunamis is that the big ones don’t happen very often. The down side of this infrequency is that getting information on more than a couple of earthquakes for individual faults is relatively rare. Limited information from past earthquakes makes the job of forecasting future earthquakes and tsunamis challenging. One way of getting over these limitations is to generate synthetic earthquakes over millions of years using computer programs, which have been developed over the last 30 years. The current Earthquake-Tsunami programme is the culmination of discussions between seismologists and earthquake geologists over last few years. We think that synthetic earthquakes tested against real earthquakes are likely to be the way of the future, and the present programme represents an important stepping-stone for us to improve future earthquake, tsunami and landslide hazard models in New Zealand.

Q. You’ve studied the faulting in the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake extensively. How has that event shaped your current research interests?

An unfortunate truism about earthquakes is that you need to have them to understand them. I found the resilience and generousity of the farming community following the Kaikōura earthquake inspirational. The earthquake is distinguished by the number and complexity of faults that ruptured; many consider the Kaikōura earthquake to be the most complex surface rupture worldwide in the last 150 years. Despite this complexity, it is clear from other historical earthquakes that complex faulting has been very common historically in New Zealand. Understanding why complex earthquakes occur, testing to see if we can generate these earthquakes with our computer models and determining how they impact the timing and size of future earthquakes is a major focus of our work. We are hoping that ongoing studies of the faults that ruptured in the Kaikōura earthquake and computer modellings will provide value insights to these questions.

Q. What do you like to do outside work?

For many years I enjoyed spending time with my family and helping raise our two daughters, who have become awesome people. In recent years I have spent time travelling and, unfortunately, generating a sizeable carbon footprint. I also enjoy working with wood and have constructed many low-tech wooden structures, often with a lot of help from YouTube and my brother, who actually knows what he is doing.

Q. What are your future research ambitions?

Our research ambitions need to have stretch. The holy grail of earthquake research is to improve earthquake forecasting, which is many years behind weather forecasting. In New Zealand we are already using statistical analysis to forecast earthquakes on some faults and I have no doubt that with a better understanding of earthquake processes these forecasts will improve. This view is not held by all of my colleagues, and some will likely question my sanity for raising this subject. While better forecasts may be decades away, they have the potential to significantly improve our resilience to earthquake and tsunami hazards and, for me, is an important ambition.


Tsunami preparedness in Orewa



By Dr Caroline Orchiston


Orewa beach. Credit: Andrea Lai (Flickr)

A team of Resilience Challenge researchers have been working in the Auckland suburb of Orewa to support a citizen science initiative focused on tsunami risk. Orewa is a low-lying community with many people living within one kilometre of the coast, and is the most exposed community to tsunami in the Auckland region. Tsunami hazard modelling suggests Orewa is at risk from local, regional and distant source tsunami, and its residents would only have one hour to evacuate from a locally generated event. Active participation from schools, families and the wider community was the goal of this initiative, which was led by Rotary and supported by Auckland Council. Researchers were involved in co-developing a community survey, and a tsunami evacuation exercise for two Orewa schools.

The community survey was co-developed with Rotary, to help them understand the perception and understanding of tsunami risk by residents in Orewa. The results showed that 65% of respondents believed that a tsunami was likely to occur within their lifetimes. Almost one third thought it was unnecessary to prepare for a tsunami because assistance would be provided by the local council and Civil Defence. Very few people understood the natural signs of a strong or prolonged earthquake, with only 13% suggesting they would evacuate immediately after shaking stopped. Most concerning was that the majority of people would wait to be told what they should do from officials.

The second phase involved a tsunami evacuation exercise called ‘Orewa: ahead of the wave’.The exercise was designed to raise awareness amongst the general public, and to monitor two school evacuations to observe how long it took for the students to get to high ground. The exercise began with a spontaneous earthquake drill at 9.25am, and then the students were mustered and led up the tsunami evacuation routes to a designated place in high ground. In total more than 2000 students and members of the public took part. The results highlighted that for some schools, the evacuation is easily possible within one hour. However the high school is located further from high ground, and everyone needed to move quickly to get to high ground within one hour. Older adults and those with disabilities were amongst the slowest to arrive.

Citizen science is becoming recognised as a powerful tool to empower people to engage with disaster risk reduction. It is particularly exciting that this community-led initiative was successful at engaging and motivating the residents of Orewa to improve their knowledge and awareness, so that they will be ready to react when the ground stops shaking.

The full paper, ‘Citizen science as a catalyst for community resilience building:
A two-phase tsunami case study’ was published in the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies and can be found here


Student profile: Anna-Kay Spaulding Agbenyegah



Post-disaster recovery from a high-impact weather event in Auckland




A bit about me

Anna in the hills of St. Andrew, Jamaica 2019

I am currently a PhD candidate in Disaster Management at Massey University’s School of Construction and the Built Environment.

I am an outgoing nature lover, who loves to read religious books and have a great interest in travelling. I was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, and was raised within a humble inner-city community in Kencot, Kingston, Jamaica.

I studied a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica and further did post-graduate studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where I successfully completed a Masters of Disaster Management with first-class honours. I believe that women have a pivotal role to play in this sector and so in addition to creating tangible technical outputs for national and regional development, I also mentored young female interns in the field of disaster management, geospatial technologies, and development planning.

My interest in cartography and spatial analysis led me to play a key role in the development of the Negril Risk Atlas in Jamaica under an Enhancing Coastal Resilience Project, currently being used to assist planners when making development decisions in the region. In October 2017, I led a team to successfully execute a national GIS conference which hosted over 500 people.

My favorite phrase is “Never Say I Can’t” because all things are possible with proper planning, great team-work, communication, and great determination.

I love people! And I would like to think that my passion for people and seeing the vulnerable bounce back from increased hardships faced as a result of disasters has led me to this project.

Receiving a PhD scholarship from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Urban programme has allowed me to start the journey to becoming a useful expert with skills in resilience and disaster management that will be beneficial to humanity.

Anna in Queenstown, 2017

My project

My PhD is about post-disaster recovery from high-impact weather events in Auckland. Let’s face it, disasters have no boundaries; they can affect us all at any time in any spatial location. Auckland’s geographic location and unique physical characteristics make the region susceptible to multi-hazards and high weather-related disaster events induced by climate change. This, coupled with the projected population increase in Auckland will proliferate the risk of disasters which may potentially lead to loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and communities.

Additionally, with the likely threat of climate change projections for New Zealand, by the end of the century, the country is likely to experience higher temperatures, rising seas levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and a change in rainfall patterns.

My research aims to study three or more of the most exposed communities in Auckland to high-impact weather events using existing vulnerability models to ascertain people’s exposure and their vulnerability to high weather events. Secondly, to assess each community’s recovery timeframes, and key factors that make them resilient and recover quickly from disasters. I will also be doing a comparative analysis scenario study of a ‘high impact’ versus ‘low impact’ recovery of coastal communities, with a focus on what makes them resilient, and what needs to be done to make them even more resilient.


Next steps

Undertaking this PhD project will include developing a strategic futuristic recovery and resilience plan. It is important to understand that to strategically plan for a resilient nation, as one of the key goals of the Resilience Challenge, it is critical to incorporate resilience as a priority in community planning. This would facilitate the creation of ground-rules for agencies to implement in their strategic recovery planning process. My interest is enhancing Auckland’s capability to quickly recover from disasters, by collaboration among sectors; managing risks, effective response to and recovery from emergencies, and fostering community resilience. With this project underway, I believe it will add value to the resilience and development planning sector.

Opportunities for early warning systems:
A review


By Marion Tan and Sara Harrison





We are with the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, working as a postdoctoral researcher and PhD candidate respectively. We were invited by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges to complete a review of emerging technology and trends for early warning systems. The paper was accepted to the Information Systems and Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM) 2020 International Conference. Here we provide a brief summary of the resulting paper below and the promising research activities that follows from it.


The review

International policy for disaster risk reduction (i.e., the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030) prioritises the development and implementation of people-centred early warning systems for natural hazards. As such, we were interested in knowing the current and emerging trends and gaps in early warning systems technology research. We reviewed 60 recent papers from the ISCRAM literature to identify the research trends and gaps. 

In our review, we identified areas that need more attention in early warning systems technology research. These areas include (1) investigating ethical and privacy implications for using new technology and resulting information, (2) keeping up with the rapidly evolving technology, (3) developing inclusive tools to reach diverse audiences, and (4) ensuring the efficacy of warning systems for multiple hazards. In the paper, we emphasised that while technology has advanced early warning systems to new levels, we must also consider people’s perceptions of and response to early warning systems.


Next steps

The drive for a people-centric approach is important to ensure the success of early warnings in Aotearoa New Zealand (i.e., that the intended audiences adhere to the warning and take appropriate protective action). Researchers can build on the results of this paper towards research projects intended to improve early warning systems. Currently, Marion and Sara, along with research collaborators and partners, are working on the following research projects on early warnings for Aotearoa New Zealand:


  1. Marion and colleagues are working on an exploratory study that is investigating both the technical feasibility and social opportunities and challenges of developing and implementing an earthquake early warning system using low-cost sensors in Aotearoa New Zealand. The project aims to explore the viability of an earthquake early warning solution that is developed with people at the forefront.
  2. Sara’s PhD study is using an impact-oriented approach to improve severe weather warnings in Aotearoa New Zealand. The aims of the study are to better match warnings levels to the expected or experienced impacts caused by the event, and to improve the communication of the warning to be more meaningful to recipients so that they may respond appropriately.

Read Marion and Sara’s full paper, ‘Research Themes on Warnings in Information Systems Crisis Management Literature.’


Student profile: Lucy Kaiser



Investigating tangata whenua views
and responses to climate change




Lucy at Rangiauria (Pitt Island), Wharekauri (Chatham Islands)

Ko Tākitimu te māunga

Ko Aparima te awa

Ko Te Ara a Kiwa te moana

Ko Ngāi Tahu te iwi

Ko Takutai o te tītī te marae

No Ōtautahi ahau

Ko Lucy Kaiser ahau


I am currently in my first year of my PhD in Emergency Management at Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research. While I grew up in Ōtautahi (Christchurch), I whakapapa to the Ōraka-Aparima area of Murihiku (Southland). In the 1930s, my great-great-uncle Eruera Poko Cameron collected the local stories and correct kupu for important places in the rohe from kaumātua, and my great-grandmother’s whānaunga Ulva Belsham’s research on waiata and whakapapa is a precious resource on Kai Tahu Māori language in the south. I like to think that the same passion for the stories and history of our people and for the whenua and moana runs through my whakapapa to me.

My background is in sociology and indigenous disaster management. I conducted my BA in sociology at the University of Otago and with the support of a Fulbright Award I completed a Masters in Sociology of Disasters at Colorado State University researching tribal disaster mitigation plans in the United States. This was an amazing opportunity to see some of the fantastic work that was been done by indigenous tribes internationally in the disaster management space.

Receiving a PhD scholarship from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Mātauranga Māori programme and support from the EQC Mātauranga Māori Disaster Risk Reduction Research Centre has allowed me the opportunity to further explore my interest in indigenous disaster management, particularly regarding climate change, from a Te Ao Māori perspective.


Lucy at Teotihuacan, Mexico

My project

Climate change-related events such as sea level rise, ex-tropical cyclones, and severe storms (for example, the February 2020 Southland floods) have added to the complex environment in the Murihiku region, and adversely impacted tangata whenua, physically, culturally, economically and spiritually. Iwi, hapū and marae frameworks such as Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku’s Te Tangi a Tauira environmental management plan (2008) and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu’s ‘He Rautaki Mō Te Huringa o te Āhuarangi’ climate change strategy (2018) take into account these climate change-related impacts and provide mechanisms for preparing, mitigating and responding to them.

This research will draw from kaupapa Māori methodologies and western European science to explore climate change issues that are impacting tangata whenua as well as the effectiveness and relationships between mātauranga Māori, iwi/rūnanga management plans and national and regional planning strategies/practices for mitigating climate changes in Aotearoa.


Apirama in Murihiku (Southland)

Next steps

My next steps will be connecting kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with whānau down south to share information and collaboratively develop an appropriate research plan addressing the community’s aspirations and interests in relation to climate change and disaster management and planning.  There is a wealth of knowledge held by our kaumātua who have observed and responded to the impacts of climate change on our coastal marae and wāhi tapu sites and to taonga species such as tītī (mutton birds) that I would be privileged to learn from. I have been very grateful of the generosity and manaaki that I have received in the initial stages of this work and it is my hope to deliver research that will be meaningful for the Murihiku community’s climate change adaptation work in the future.


Q & A with Dr Richard Turner



Credit: Dave Allen (NIWA)

Q. Tēnā koe Richard. Can you tell us about how you got into meteorology? Have you always been fascinated with weather?

Kia ora. Yes, I have always been very interested in weather since being a kid growing up in South Otago – my first day of school was cut short due to a snow storm and we were off school for the next week. The area also experienced a number of floods in the 1970s and a massive windstorm in 1975. A background in mathematics and physics was a requirement for meteorology, so I studied those subjects as an undergraduate and then pursued graduate degrees in Meteorology (MSc) and Agricultural Meteorology (PhD) in the USA before returning home. My graduate degrees relied a lot on my mathematics background and concentrated on the numerical modelling of weather and the dispersion of pests by the wind.

Q. How long have you worked at NIWA and can you tell us a bit about your main research interests?

I’ve worked at NIWA since 1996 and my main areas of research interest have been around numerical modelling of wind and its impacts – wind damage to structures, the effects of complex terrain on wind speed, the wind-dispersal of volcanic ash and pathogens such as myrtle rust and foot-and-mouth virus, UV forecasting and how decision support tools can best utilise weather/hazard forecasts.

Q. You’re co-leading the Weather and Wildfire programme for Phase 2 of the Challenge, and previously led the Weather, Flood & Coastal Hazards Theme of the Natural Hazards Research Platform. What draws you to collaborative research programmes?

I’ve found over the years that what I really like about working at NIWA, and in the science sector in New Zealand, is the wide variety of interesting projects, science colleagues and subject experts and stakeholders that I’ve been able work with. I’ve found I’m always learning, and it’s great to be contributing in areas of obvious benefit to other areas of research and the country.

Q. What will the detailed modelling created under the Weather and Wildfire programme add to current knowledge about the impacts of extreme weather events in New Zealand?

The detailed weather modelling will be a resource for many other researchers. There will be consistent and realistic high-resolution model ‘datasets’ made available to the research community of intense rainfall, snow, and extreme winds, as part of extreme but credible events. Other researchers – such as landslide, fire spread, and flood modellers will be able to use these to create detailed impact assessments of areas affected by these hazards. This level of detail, over large domains, has not been possible to achieve previously.   

Q. The Weather and Wildfire programme centres around three extreme weather scenarios – an ex-tropical cyclone hitting Auckland, a severe winter storm in the South Island and a wildfire in a Central Otago subdivision. Why did the team choose these scenarios?

Richard at Randa, Switzerland, the site of a devastating landslide in 1991

When the second phase of the Resilience Challenge was being planned, researchers and stakeholders identified gaps in our knowledge of weather hazard events that could potentially have significant impacts on New Zealand or parts of New Zealand. Ex-tropical cyclones were chosen, as the impacts from these seem likely to increase under climate change and they are the one weather hazard that could impact Auckland very badly if the storm-path brought the severest effects over the city. One of the techniques we are using is to move New Zealand around so that historically strong and damaging storms such as ex-tropical cyclone Cook (2017) do end up moving over Auckland. Winter-storms were chosen as these could impact power networks severely and wildfire was chosen as that is clearly a growing threat, both nationally and globally.

Q. What are the logistical challenges involved in creating such fine-scaled modelling, across multiple hazard types?

You need lots of computer processing power. A supercomputer is required to do the weather and flood computations with plenty of storage, plus protocols and data standards to distribute the results. Researchers need good visualisation tools and experience to create realistic simulations.

Q. What do you like to do outside work?

I follow Liverpool Football Club as well as the Wellington Phoenix (my son is football mad and he has got me following the Premier League Champions). I like to go tramping (but not alone), cycling and do a bit of kayaking (nice windless days thank you very much). I used to play golf but don’t have any time for that these days.

Q. What are your future research aspirations?

That is a great question for a middle-aged scientist not particularly into empire building.

I think there are some hugely exciting and totally essential research areas these days, such as (i) climate change adaptation (sadly unavoidable now), (ii) the study of aerial spread of viruses is going to advance hugely in the next couple of years, (iii) the quiet and ongoing revolution in weather forecasting as we tackle the challenges of getting more gains from models as computational limits are reached, (iv) Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence could allow us to discover new signals in weather and climate and will be necessary as observed and modelled datasets become more and more massive and too large for humans to effectively process and interrogate, and then there is (v) the need to be able to communicate all of this great and wonderful science to the public (some of whom are hostile to science or befuddled by orchestrated dis-information campaigns), for their benefit and to increase our chances of survival (which is one definition of Resilience and also naturally a massive Challenge).

If I can contribute in some small way, I’d be happy.



Aotearoa New Zealand’s
changing coastline


By Emma Ryan, Mark Dickson and Murray Ford



Kings beach, Whananaki, credit: Mark Dickson

In partnership with Northland Regional Council, researchers within the Coastal programme have been busy mapping Northland’s shorelines using historical imagery to explore patterns of coastal erosion, accretion and stability. Starting in Northland, this is the first step in our national-scale project that aims to map and understand coastal change over the past 70 years throughout the entire country.


Limitations with existing data collection practices make it difficult for scientists and coastal managers to understand patterns and drivers of coastal change around New Zealand and implement relevant management options. Through the ‘New Zealand’s Changing Coastline’ project we aim to fundamentally transform New Zealand’s shoreline change detection from small-scale, sporadic and manual monitoring to national-scale, semi-automated analyses in near real time. This means that councils will have access to consistent, up-to-date shoreline change data that can be meaningfully used in decision making around management and adaptation options.


The new datasets will also facilitate new research into understanding the multiple drivers of shoreline change (e.g. distinguishing between the effects of human modification of the environment, natural changes in sediment supply, sea-level change, and changes in coastal vegetation). The historical imagery and shoreline change datasets also hold value in furthering our understanding of impacts of coastal change on Māori sites of signifiance at the coast, including pā, marae and urupa.


In 2019 we engaged with LINZ and began a programme to compile historical, mapping-quality, aerial photographs of New Zealand’s coast. Led by Mark Dickson and Murray Ford, a team of 4 coastal scientists, supported by 10 research assistants at the University of Auckland, have developed and implemented detailed and consistent protocols for image acquisition, georectification, and shoreline mapping, with the overall goal of producing a nation-wide database of historical shoreline data for open-coast soft sedimentary beaches (>50 m in length). We are approximately half-way to completing georectification and mapping of Northland’s shorelines, with the view to completing Northland by August. From there, we will tackle the rest of the country, making use of existing council shoreline datasets if mapping methodologies are comparable.


In addition to the historical imagery data, we are making use of recent advances in Earth Observation (EO) satellite imagery that provide new opportunities to transform the way coastal change is assessed. The proliferation of commercial and government EO satellites provides opportunities to examine coastal change at spatial and temporal scale previously inaccessible to researchers. Led by Murray Ford, together with PhD student Ben Collings, we are developing new geospatial methods within a cloud computing framework for detecting and analysing high-frequency coastal change over the past twenty years using imagery from Landsat and Sentinel 2 satellites, along with commercial satellites. Machine-learning and edge detection algorithms will be used to statistically determine the shoreline and map national-scale coastal change.


Acknowledgements: This research is supported in different ways by Northland Regional Council, LINZ, the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge and the University of Auckland. 

Student Profile: Hamed Khatibi


Smart and Resilient Cities




A bit about me 


I was born and raised in Damghan city, which was the capital of Iran during the Parthian Empire. Damghan has many ancient monuments and is a tourist attraction. The city is also famous for its trade in pistachios and ‘kaghazi’ almonds with very thin shells.

At high school I focused on the mathematics and physics stream. Growing up with my profound interest in engineering science, I pursued undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering, and as a fresh graduate, I joined a construction company as a site engineer in Iran. Since I was looking forward to broadening my knowledge and experiences, I decided to pursue my masters studies abroad.

I graduated in Master of Structural Engineering and Construction program from University Putra Malaysia.  Upon completion of my masters, I started working as a research assistant and a lecturer in Malaysia. I spent four years as a research assistant at the University of Malaya with eight patents and seven publications, and a further four years at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology as a Faculty coordinator and lecturer; teaching undergraduate students, leading the faculty team and providing the full range of student services.

I decided to push myself forward to new experiences and challenges by continuing my studies at PhD level. I started my research at the University of Auckland under the supervision of Professor Suzanne Wilkinson in the broad area of Smart and Resilient Cities, and how these two notions can be compiled. I believe that my interdisciplinary and international background, along with Suzanne’s supervision, will allow me to complete this large-scale project effectively.


My project


The research aims to propose novel frameworks that could establish and further the idea that resilience could support urban ‘smartness,’ a term that is widely argued as not being easily measured nor quantifiably assessed. While the smart city concept relies on the roll-out of technology to improve urban standards, the idea of resilience prepares the city against any catastrophic events allowing it to absorb, adapt and transform external pressures and improve public safety.

Smart city and urban resilience are both contemporary concepts that evolved to further sustain urban livelihoods, by offering strategic solutions to issues arising from population growth and human activities. Smart cities use technological means to improve city services and enhance the urban system, resulting in the city’s resiliency, which simultaneously determines urban sustainability.


At the International Invention & Innovation Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2015


Next steps


I am in the first year of my PhD studies. Based on discussions with my supervisor Suzanne, I plan to publish four journal papers in the first year of study by using the proposed frameworks and hypothetical cases. Later on, a comprehensive indicator bank for Smart and Resilient Cities will be proposed and the novel frameworks will be examined in real cities like Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto and Vancouver.


Urban theme





Urban Resilience Innovation & Collaboration Hub




It is our pleasure to announce the call for applications for the newly established Urban Resilience Innovation & Collaboration Hub. The purpose of the fund is to support research and research-related activities that seek to promote urban resilience in New Zealand. The fund will provide up to $10,000 (excluding GST) to successful applicants for projects that add value to the existing work within the Urban Theme of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge.

We welcome proposals for research projects, engagement activities enabling partnerships, activities that facilitate implementation and impact of urban resilience research, or projects that incorporate any combination of the above.

Any researcher or research stakeholder or partner with an interest in urban resilience can apply. We particularly encourage applications from the emergency management sector and from Māori and/or Pasifika researchers and research partners.

Applications close on Friday 17 July 2020. Successful applicants will be notified by 7 August 2020 and projects will commence from September 2020. Projects can run for up to two years.  

Read more >


Climate change and ‘two waters’ infrastructure in Petone


By Rick Kool


From the Netherlands to Petone…

I’m originally from the Netherlands where a large part of the country is under sea level, so water has always been an important part of my life. I studied my Civil Engineering degree in the southwest delta of the Netherlands, well known for their delta works. During this time I got involved in nature-based solutions and through projects in Southeast Asia learned about the continuously increasing challenges faced due to climate change.

I studied for my Masters in Civil Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark, and when researching a MSc thesis project I found the Resilience Challenge, and the extensive research on New Zealand’s coastal hazards. Realizing I was more interested in the application of coastal engineering principles as part of an integrated strategy, especially in the context of climate change, I read about the concept of Dynamic Adaptive Pathway Planning (DAPP). Thanks to the efforts of Dr Judy Lawrence and Dr Rob Bell we made arrangements for me to carry out my thesis project in New Zealand. This provided me with a unique opportunity to combine my technical knowledge relating to climate change adaptation of infrastructure, with a more long term, scenario-based planning perspective.


Two waters infrastructure in Petone, Lower Hutt

The research investigated the retreat of ‘two waters’ infrastructure (wastewater and stormwater) by using a DAPP approach to frame retreat over different sea level rise increments. The study area was Petone in Lower Hutt, where drainage infrastructure is increasingly facing climate change induced hazards due to sea level rise and increased frequency of heavy rainfall events. This raises the issue of how local government can maintain levels of service for the two waters as the impacts of climate change worsen over the coming decades and beyond.

Using a DAPP approach to frame the retreat of two waters we were able to conceptualize how this could be managed spatially across the study area. In order to investigate two water infrastructure exposure in the area and consider possible adaptation options to maintain levels of service, we organized a workshop with various experts.

Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) options were integrated into adaptation portfolios to extend retreat thresholds and create amenity for the community by repurposing the area after retreat is initiated. These WSUD options usually require more space and could therefore be implemented post retreat. This scenario-based, spatially phased out approach to two water infrastructure retreat resulted in a ‘framework’ where the methodology used in this study is outlined for future use to approach retreat of two water infrastructure in a coastal setting.


The study area of Petone, Lower Hutt



Further Steps:

After graduating the plan was to travel in my van around New Zealand. However upon finishing my thesis the COVID situation escalated. Luckily enough I was offered a place to stay in Castlepoint with a friendly local family for the isolation period, and I’m now looking forward to traveling, surfing and experiencing more of this beautiful country.



The research would not have turned out the same way without the support of the stakeholders. Therefore a big thanks to the people at Wellington Water and NIWA, and to my supervisors Judy Lawrence, Rob Bell and Martin Drews and to the Resilience National Science Challenge for supporting the research.