Managed retreat – by whom and how?


By Gavin McCleave, science communications intern

Many communities around Aotearoa New Zealand are faced with increasing risks from storm surges, flooding, rising sea levels, and the prospect of being forced to leave behind their homes, land and community. In recognition of this, the Government recently announced a new Climate Change Adaptation Act will form part of the planned legislative framework replacing the Resource Management Act (RMA).

While managed retreat is possible under the RMA, there is limited national guidance on how and when to implement it, and who pays. It is all too easy for the necessary decisions to be delayed. At Matatā, where the Whakatane District Council went through a lengthy and contentious process to manage retreat from the Awatairariki fanhead following a devastating debris flow in 2005, the uncertain governance framework created cascading social, political, institutional and financial uncertainties, and contributed to protracted post-disaster trauma for the community. [1]

Timely new research from Dr Christina Hanna, Iain White and Bruce Glavovic describes the spectrum of governance approaches to managed retreat, and recommends an approach most likely to reduce risk and promote justice.

At one end of the spectrum is state-led and funded retreat from affected areas. This approach increases the risk of local communities being disempowered and embittered by regulated and enforced solutions. At the other end of the spectrum is an autonomous unmanaged retreat left to the private sector and local communities. This approach raises the risks of vulnerable communities being unfairly treated, and cultural heritage and connection being lost forever.


The aftermath of the 2005 debris flow at Matatā. Credit: Whakatane Beacon

The researchers found that although there will be instances in which state-led or autonomous retreats are appropriate, the most likely path to a satisfactory outcome for all involved, particularly the local communities, is somewhere in the middle. This is a network-based co-operative approach in which decision-making power is shared amongst central government, local government, the private sector and importantly, the local communities, to achieve a negotiated outcome. 

The researchers recommend co-operative managed retreat strategies in which “people and communities are embedded in the retreat strategy design, decision-making and delivery.”

A pioneering example of such an approach is the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120, which trialled the Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning (DAPP) approach and involved researchers from Phase 1 of the the Resilience Challenge. This plan to manage Hawke’s Bay’s coastal hazards and climate change risks over the next 100 years was developed by local authorities, local stakeholders and mana whenua representatives.

Possible ways of supporting the affected landowners and communities in a co-operative managed retreat include opt-in buy-outs, relocation subsidies and land-swaps. The researchers acknowledge that a significant challenge for a co-operative approach is the question of who will pay for it. From their article: “Ideally, any co-operative programme will have a nationally consistent framework of cost allocation principles, clarity of cost-sharing responsibilities, and funding support at the local level.”

The researchers conclude that a co-operative approach to managing retreats is the most likely way to “avoid or reduce risks in ways that seek to share power, and promote justice and equity.” 


The full paper, “Managed retreats by whom and how? Identifying and delineating governance modalities” was recently published in Climate Risk Management and can be found here.


[1] Hanna, C.; White, I.; Glavovic, B. The Uncertainty Contagion: Revealing the Interrelated, Cascading Uncertainties of Managed Retreat. Sustainability 2020, 12, 736. 





A legacy for Christchurch:

Ten years since February 22 earthquake


By Richard Smith, Resilience Challenge Director

The ten-year anniversary of the February 22nd Christchurch earthquake will be stirring memories for many in Canterbury, and those affected around the country. We acknowledge those who suffered loss on that day, and the communities of the Canterbury region still dealing with damage, disruption, and change. For Aotearoa New Zealand’s emergency managers, the anniversary marks the start ten years ago of a decade full of national emergencies, involving large earthquakes affecting two of our biggest cities, floods, windstorms, tsunami warnings, landslides, and a global pandemic. After 80 preceding years of relative quiet, millions of New Zealanders now understand what it’s like to experience severe earthquake shaking, have learned more than they wanted to know about aftershocks and building engineering, and the realities of the long hard slog of post-earthquake urban disaster recovery.

I recall the disbelief when the first images came through of the smouldering collapsed buildings in Christchurch. It didn’t tally with the logic of us having already had the ‘big one’ on 4 September 2010, which we’d come through relatively unscathed. In that regard the February 22nd earthquake changed perceptions and showed that location matters when it comes to types of damage, and that not all earthquakes are the same. The February 2011 earthquake and the series of big shakes in June and December that year were particularly unsettling because of how close to the city they were and the sudden violence unleashed by the punch from the ground directly below. This created a hypervigilance, the need to be constantly ready to brace or dive for cover at any sound or sense of impending movement. The result was a thoroughly exhausted population, with each aftershock setting back recovery for people and communities.


Messages of hope outside the Carlton Hotel, Christchurch. Credit: Margaret Low, GNS Science

The event also revealed many positive things. The responsiveness of our emergency systems, and the ability of critical infrastructure like electricity and mobile networks to remain in service or be restored quickly to support communities. It showed the important role of social connectedness for the emergence of successful community-led responses. Also, that science and engineering were essential for understanding and solving technical challenges, and the value of public institutions in providing certainty. While a less widely held view, it also showed the worth of our public disaster insurance scheme for enabling the finance needed for rebuilding.

What should the legacy be for the lives lost and changed by the February 22 earthquake? From a resilience perspective we would hope that it is not to rely so much on our responsive emergency services and recovery. The decade of disruption in Christchurch proves the value of reducing disaster risk before an event rather than managing and muddling through the myriad consequences afterwards. Earthquakes are inevitable in New Zealand, but earthquake disasters are not. We should be aiming to invest in measures that ensure buildings and infrastructure are stronger, not just to prevent loss of life, but to enable them to function as soon as possible after the ground has stopped shaking. 

We have much of the technical knowledge of how to build and where to build it to make our homes and communities more resilient. We also know that the cost of enhanced resilience is a fraction of the economic and social costs of a decade of demolition and rebuilding. The challenge is applying that knowledge and lifting our collective sights on the mission of disaster resilience. Let’s make that the legacy for Christchurch.













Student profile: Ngawaiata Turnbull


Maungapōhatu – A history of resilience, Rua Kēnana and Iharaira



Photo – Ngawaiata Turnbull, First Class Honours & Te Reo Maori Thesis Scholarship Award. Master of Indigenous Studies, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi Special Awards Ceremony, Mātaatua Marae, Te Mānuka Tūtahi. Whakatane, 2015.

Ka moe, ka moe a Te Maunga rāua ko Hinepūkohurangi ka puta ko Ngā Tamariki o te Kohu. Ko Ngawaiata Turnbull taku īngoa he uri whakaheke nō roto i ngā tātai, tāheke kōrero ō Iharaira-Tamakaimoana, ō Ngāti Tāwhaki ki Te Urewera, o Te Whānau Pani ki Ruātoki. Ko Maungapōhatu te maunga ko Tamakaimoana, ko Ngāi Tūhoe te iwi. I tipu ake ahau he mokopuna whāngai. He mea poipoi, murimuri aroha ma ōku kuia, koroua o Tamakaimoana i te take o Maungapōhatu. I roto i tēnei whakapakeketanga ōku ka tipu ake ahau ki roto te reo me ngā tikanga o Iharaira o te poropiti a Rua Kēnana. Ē mau ngākau, wairua, hinengaro tonu nei ki ngā hapū, marae kāinga, kuia, koroua o Ngā Toenga o ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu.


My project


My name is Ngawaiata Turnbull. I am a mother of 3. I have been teaching for over 20 years; across the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. I hold a double degree in Education and Māori Studies as well as a Masters with First Class Honours in Indigenous Studies from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.  In 2019 I was awarded a Teach NZ scholarship to allow foundational, concentrated research and writing on my doctoral studies focused on resilience. I am grateful to Te Wharekura o Huiarau Board of Trustees for their support of me and this kaupapa. I acknowledge Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and the valuable guidance of Professor Taiarahia Black. I’m very proud to be the recipient of the Ē au ai te reo, 3 year doctorate scholarship and acknowledge the Whanake Te Kura ki Tawhiti Nui programme of the Resilience National Science Challenge.

From the age of nine months I was raised in Ruatāhuna and Maungapōhatu by my kuia and koroua who ensured an environment infused in the philosophy, cosmology, language and practices of Iharaira-Tamakaimoana. Some years ago a quote attributed to my grandfather was brought to my attention. This is the quote:

“Kua kitea e te ao kāore he hara o Rua, o ngā tāngata o Maungapōhatu. I whiua ai te ringa kaha o te ture ki a rātau. Kotahi noa te hara, ko tērā o te kāwanatanga nāna nei i whakarere i te toto ki Maungapōhatu. Ahakoa rā, kāre anō te kāwanatanga i haramai ki te horoi i tōna hara ki a Maungapōhatu. Kai reira tonu te riko o te toto. Ka hoatu au i tēnei kawenga mā koutou, mā ngā tamariki e whakatutuki kia pai ai taku moe.”[1]


Ngawaiata overlooking the sacred mountain from near the location of one of Rua Kēnana’s earliest homes, Tukutoromiro. In the middle distance can be seen Hiruharama Hou, one of Rua’s later homes. Maungapōhatu 2019.

Essentially this statement awoke a sadness inside me for the seen and unseen impacts suffered by my Koro and successive generations of Iharaira-Maungapōhatu as a result of the unjust invasion of Maungapōhatu which took place in April 1916. My doctorate research aspires to contribute in a meaningful way, to the continued resilience of Iharaira for future generations. Written in te reo, my doctorate thesis will aim to strengthen, restore, and reinstate the essence, identity, cohesiveness, cadence of heritage reo narratives of Iharaira-Tamakaimoana of Maungapōhatu. The key kaikōrero and holders of this knowledge are generally aged in their 60s to 80s therefore there is a sense of urgency to compile these oral and written literatures.


Te kaupapa ake

A strong sense of connection and history is the source and inspiration of my research around the teachings of the 20th century Tūhoe visionary leader Rua Kēnana Hepetipa and the Iharaia faith established by him at Maungapōhatu. As part of the momentum of the Royal Assent of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Act achieved on 21st December 2019, my doctoral thesis seeks to recover and expand upon the knowledge, wisdom and examples of resilience located with the Iharaira experience over time. The lived and living narratives of Iharaira are essential to establish and grow the canons of reo academic knowledge; wealth-creation to build resilient and sustainable reo communities for Iharaira-Tamakaimoana present and future generations.  Inculcated in this thesis will be theological scriptural verse, sung and spoken chants and an anthology of poetic verse to support marae wānanga, whaikōrero (oratory) and karanga (ceremonial calls) of Maungapōhatu and Ruatāhuna.


Ki hea ake

“Kāore te whakamā i ahau” resource publication in honour of the exodus of Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me Nga Uri o Maungapōhatu, who travelled to Parliament over 3 days to witness the second and third readings of the Rua Kēnana Statutory Pardon Bill, 18th December 2019.

Alongside kuia, koroua of Iharaira I compiled a trilogy of waiata mōteatea in 2019 titled “Kāore te whakamā i ahau.” This research publication was initiated to commemorate the final reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill achieved 18th December 2019. This literature resource contributes to the resilience of today’s diverse Iharaira whānau, especially so over the course of 3 days, where Iharaira traversed to Parliament as witness to the final reading of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill. The title, “Kāore te whakamā i ahau” is taken from one of the two compositions by Rua Kēnana which are included in the publication. Significantly, this particular mōteatea has been written into the legislation of the Bill. Acknowledgements to Te Puni Kōkiri, Ngā Toenga o Nga Tamariki a Iharaira me Ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu Trust and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi for support to publish this resource.

On Saturday 27th of February Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki o Iharaira me Nga Uri o Maungapōhatu, together with Tamakaimoana hapū and Tuapou Marae Committee will host a foundational Rua Kēnana Symposium reflecting on the life and legacy of this tīpuna.  The symposium will celebrate three millennium epoch: (1) The signing of the Rua Kenana Pardon Act, 12 September, 18 December 2019. (2) The Royal Assent of the Rua Kēnana Pardon Act signed at Maungapōhatu by the Governor General, Dame Patsy Reddy, witnessed by Kīngi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, 21 December 2019 (3) Present a landmark retrospective exhibition of Rua Kēnana Taonga in Te Ao Hou whare tīpuna, Tuapou marae in collaboration with Whakatāne museum Mark Sykes, Tapara Reid-Hiakita and Dr Arapata Hakiwai of Te Papa Tongarewa.


Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand and the Whakatane District Museum meet with Tuapou Marae in preparations for the inaugural Rua Kēnana Symposium. January 2021, Matahī. (Ngawaiata and her daughter, Owhakaori, seated far right).

I wish to highlight the efforts of Toni Boynton, Secretary of Tuapou Marae Committee and direct descendant of Rua Kēnana Hepetipa and Pinepine Te Rika. Toni and her team presented a petition to Parliament in 2020 to abolish the discriminatory legislation around the establishment of Māori Wards. Currently in the Māori Select Committee phase of the legislature process, this Bill echoes strongly the legacy, vision and resilience of Rua Kēnana, Iharaira – “Kotahi te ture mo nga iwi e rua, Maungapōhatu”.   






[1] Whārangi tuarua o te pukapuka a NgāToenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira Charitable Trust, “A Statutory Pardon for the 1916 Invasion of Maungapohatu” contained in the Official Statutory Pardon Publication June 2017 Mataatua Marae, Rotorua


Don’t just think about earthquakes, prepare for them



Findings from Dr Lauren Vinnell’s PhD research will help fine-tune the kind of advice communities need to better prepare for earthquakes and other natural hazards


For her PhD in Psychology, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr Lauren Vinnell studied how the thoughts and beliefs people hold about preparing for natural hazards influences their behaviour.

She also identified potential new strategies to encourage improved household preparation.


Photo credit: Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington

Lauren, who graduated in December, has always been fascinated by natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

“But I didn’t see a way to include my interest in people’s behaviour until my third undergrad year during a lecture about how we can use our understanding of psychology to improve outcomes during and after earthquakes.

She undertook honours and a Master’s degree, focusing on public support for earthquake-strengthening legislation.  Then she was awarded a PhD scholarship by Kia manawaroa – Ngā Ākina o Te Ao Tūroa/Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge to explore social influences on people’s decisions to prepare for natural hazards.

Lauren says there were a few revelations on the way.

“It was a bit surprising how many people said they hadn’t done a certain action because they hadn’t thought about it.

“What was even more surprising was that we didn’t find that thinking about preparing related with actually preparing. This suggests there are specific actions which people don’t know they can or should do, but that generally thinking about preparing isn’t the problem.”

Lauren says preparedness among Wellingtonians for dealing with natural hazards is fairly low, despite high knowledge of the risk.

Participants in the first two studies were mainly recruited using social media, although samples using this method tended to favour younger people and over-represented women and Pākehā, she says.

The third study involved people at randomly selected addresses to get a sample that better reflected the Wellington population. The fourth study, to evaluate the ShakeOut earthquake drill run by the National Emergency Management Agency, involved participants from across the country.

Lauren found providing targeted information for communities to use in their preparedness is the key.

“Our findings offer ideas to improve the way we talk to communities to encourage them to prepare, really focusing on the types of thoughts and beliefs they have which hold them back.”

Lauren also experimented with people’s understanding of terminology.

“In study two, half of the participants were asked about ‘natural hazards’ and the other were asked about ‘natural disasters’. There is a strong argument in the field that the term ‘natural disaster’ is inappropriate, as disasters are the result of human decisions which lead to exposure to risk.

“Very little research has explored how the use of the term might influence behaviour. Our participants largely didn’t differ in terms of how they think about natural hazards versus natural disasters, but they did differ in terms of how their thinking related to their intentions to prepare.”

She says the findings suggest  that talking about disasters implies that something terrible has already happened and therefore can’t really be prepared for, whereas hazards refer to the potential for something bad to happen, which can therefore be prevented.

“But we need to do further work to back up this suggestion.This finding also emphasises the importance of considering the words we use when talking to communities.”

An evaluation of the ShakeOut earthquake drill showed those who participated have better knowledge of the correct protective actions to take during shaking and that these people are more likely to have used those actions during actual earthquakes, Lauren says.

“Given the high proportion of injuries during earthquakes in Aotearoa which could be prevented by people knowing and using ‘Drop, cover, and hold’, this support for the effectiveness of ShakeOut is encouraging.”

Lauren has now begun a postdoctoral fellowship at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University, investigating how people respond and behave when asked to consider multiple hazards at once.

This article was originally published on the Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington website and is reproduced here with permission. 


Using data sensors to understand tourist disaster risk


Mat Darling is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury funded by our Rural programme, and his research seeks to better understand the disaster risk exposure of tourists in New Zealand. Mat is using new data sources to track real time movements of tourists, in order to help emergency managers plan more accurately for natural hazard event response in tourist hotspots. Mat’s latest research uses data sensors to build a picture of peaks and lulls at key hotspots.


Mat picks up the story…

We have deployed a network of sensors which operate in a real time sense across key tourism hotspots of the South Island. We are moving towards a model that aims to characterise visitation throughout the course of the day under different scenarios (e.g. school holidays, public holidays, weekend vs weekday). This is fundamental to understanding how busy places may be during the course of a day, but where people may not traditionally stay overnight (e.g. Piopiotahi / Milford Sound), and using this information to inform disaster risk assessments in a dynamic sense.  

Through passively listening for anonymised wifi pings of a cellular device, we can begin to build a picture of how busy a place may be through the course of a day. Any device with wifi turned on will continuously send a ping looking for wifi network to connect to every minute or so. We can count the number of pings within a 100 – 200m range as a proxy for people in an area. With these signatures, we can begin to characterise and predict how different places may be occupied through the course of the day.

Below, is the ‘average’ day in Milford Sound since we began monitoring in May 2020. We can look at how this varies from ‘average’ across different days of the week, different COVID alert levels, or holiday periods.







Q & A with Prof Tim Sullivan


Q. Tēnā koe Tim. Can you tell us how you got into Civil Engineering? Were you always interested in building things?

Kia ora! As a kid I always thought I would become an architect. I loved playing with lego and art and thought that being an architect is sort of like combining the two. However, at a school careers expo day I came across a stand on engineering and saw that all the subjects I was taking at school were well suited to engineering. I had heard very little about engineering and so it was a hard choice between engineering and architecture but in the end, I am glad that engineering won out.    

Q.You completed your PhD at the University of Pavia in Italy. What was your PhD topic?

My PhD topic was “The Seismic Design of Frame-Wall Structures”. I loved this very broad PhD topic that was proposed because my main supervisors (Professors Nigel Priestley and Michele Calvi) had begun questioning the traditional approach engineers use to undertake seismic design. They had identified a number of significant shortcomings with traditional thinking and wanted me to help develop a new approach for structures possessing both frames and walls. Frame-wall structures are very common and yet the interaction between frames and walls (and the floors that connect them) is often not well understood.

Q. You lived in Italy for a long time, and became head of the Design Methods Section of the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering, as well as Assistant Professor at the University of Pavia. How did your time there shape your research interests?

My main research interests are in the fundamentals of seismic design, assessment and retrofit. These research interests were really sparked by the critical thinking of my PhD supervisors and the other academics I met at the ROSE School in Pavia. I was given tremendous opportunities to explore and advance my research ideas in the years that followed and these eventually saw me take an interest in loss-assessment and the seismic performance of non-structural elements (SPONSE). A colleague in Pavia, Prof. Andre Filiatrault, was also very influential in the world of SPONSE and working with him certainly helped spark my research into non-structural elements.

Q. Could you briefly summarise the objectives of the Vertical Infrastructure workstream you’re leading in the Built Environment programme?

Our workstream will seek to identify effective means of reducing the damage and disruption caused by future earthquakes. The research will focus on two main research areas; Quantifying and mitigating the risk (in terms of monetary losses, which can be linked to disruption and downtime) associated with different design solutions and building technologies; Supporting the development of design and assessment standards for NZ buildings to enable enhanced performance objectives to be achieved in practice.

Q. What do you hope will come out of your project that will have real world impact for communities? 

The research findings should help engineers and building owners/developers make better-informed choices during building design and assessment that will lead to a more effective use of our resources.

Q. I understand some of your research relates to cost-effective ways to reduce damage and safety risks in buildings. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Our seismic design and assessment procedures tend to focus on checking that life-safety criteria are met for earthquake shaking intensities that have a certain return period (e.g. 500 years). However, while two buildings may appear to perform equally well at a 500-year return period intensity level, they may perform very differently in other return periods. Differences in performance can arise due to the characteristics of the structural system used (e.g. base-isolated versus steel braced frame buildings) and the types of connections used for non-structural elements (such as ceilings, cladding elements and plasterboard partition walls). Our research in this area is helping to highlight how various design choices and improvements to certain building components can most effectively reduce a building’s seismic risk.

Q. What do you like to do outside work?

I like to spend time with my wife and two kids. I particularly enjoy taking them biking and  playgrounds (gives me an excuse to be a kid again!) I also really love trout fishing and golf with my dad (who can go round under his age!)

Q. What are your future research aspirations?

I would really like to help develop high-performance housing solutions, both low-rise and medium density that are adopted in practice so that we are much less affected by future earthquake events. I’m also keen to continue developing the seismic design and assessment guidelines that help engineers quantify seismic risk and communicate differences in seismic performance more effectively.  



Volcano mapping using hyperspectral remote sensing


By Dr Gabor Kereszturi, Massey University



New Zealand is not short of composite volcanoes that can produce volcanic hazards from a range of eruption styles, pyroclastic density currents, rockfall and ballistics, lahars, and flank collapses, among others. Based on the geological record, Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro have produced many of these impactful hazards in their pasts, including larger-scale flank instabilities leading to far-reaching debris avalanches.

Flank collapses and instability are linked with hydrothermal alteration. Hydrothermal alteration is due to the circulation of hot and acidic fluids making their ways to the surface within a volcano. On Mt Ruapehu, this is often manifested as a heat-up of the Crater Lake (Figure 1) however, the current and past extent of such hot fluid’s pathways are practically unknown. 


Figure 1: Thermal image of the Crater Lake in March 2020
Figure 2: Field photo of hydrothermally altered rocks

These fluids can change the primary physical and chemical characteristic (Figure 2), making it weaker and weaker over time. The mineralogical is spatially highly heterogenous, complicating our ability to quantify volcanic hazard around composite volcanoes.

Hydrothermal alteration forms new minerals that can absorb light at wavelength beyond visible light. Hyperspectral imaging is a versatile technology that measures upwelling radiation from the surface of the Earth at hundreds of narrow and overlapping spectral bands.

When a hyperspectral sensor is mounted on a low-flying aircraft, we can acquire a seamless image with detailed spectral information associated with every image pixel. This wealth of spectral information can help to constrain the extent and type of dominant alteration mineralogy at every pixel, allowing a fast way to quantify the spatial patterns and degree of hydrothermal alteration on the surface of volcanoes.

New alteration mineral maps have been produced for Mt Ruapehu with this exciting technology for the first time, highlighting areas of intense alteration in the geological past (e.g. in purple in Figure 3). Our understanding of the evolution of such highly altered areas can vastly improve our capability to implement numerical modelling to forecast initiation and run-out distance of resultant debris avalanches that can travel 20-40 km from the volcanoes.


Figure 3: Mineral map derived from hyperspectral imagery, showing the Upper Whangaehu valley

Hyperspectral scanning is, however, not limited to airborne, or satellite application. Still, it can be used in well-constrained laboratory condition, providing opportunities in the future to combine hyperspectral data with other datasets (e.g. engineering geology). This is a promising future research direction that can help better understanding hydrothermal alteration on volcanoes at a centimetre smaller scale, as opposed to the 1-10 meters resolutions of airborne and satellite hyperspectral images, respectively.

These new datasets can decipher how rock-mass behaves and change their mechanical properties with hydrothermal alteration, contributing to highlights areas of potential future failure zones on New Zealand’s most iconic volcanoes.


Dr Gabor Kereszturi was a recipient of a 2020 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for his research on hyperspectral remote sensing of volcanoes. 

Recipients of the Urban Resilience Innovation and Collaboration Hub


In the first half of 2020 the Urban programme established the Urban Resilience Innovation &  Collaboration Hub, a round of contestable funding with the purpose of supporting research and research-related activities that promote urban resilience in New Zealand. The fund provides up to NZD $10,000 for projects that add value to the existing work within the Urban programme of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge. Projects will run up for up to two years.


Applications closed in July with the final decisions made in August by the Urban Steering Committee and co-opted panel members Josh Te Kani (RNC Vision Mātauranga Knowledge Broker) and Jo Horrocks (EQC). We are pleased to announce that twelve projects have been selected. These projects represent a diverse range of topics and involve researchers representing universities, institutes, iwi, NGOs, schools, and community groups. We are very pleased to welcome them into the RNC Urban programme waka.

A list of the twelve funded projects, with primary investigators (PI), project titles, and associated organisations is below.


PI Name(s) Project title Organisation(s)
Siautu Alefaio Talanoa Podcast: Educating and strengthening resilient communities in Manurewa Massey University and Roscommon School
Carel Bezuidenhout Impacts of an urban shock to local food supply chains Massey University
Denise Blake Sex work for Māori: Covid-19 and beyond Massey University, The University of Auckland and New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective
Edward Challies; Frances Charters Assessing co-benefits of blue-green infrastructure for urban social-ecological resilience University of Canterbury
Kaye-Maree Dunn I-Hono ki te Hapori Making Everything Achievable Limited
Jenny Lee-Morgan Urban Marae Responses to COVID19: Creative Pikitia Series Nga Wai a Te Tui – Unitec Institute of Technology NZ
Jesse Grayman The Role of Faith-Based Institutions in Auckland’s Disaster
Resilience During and After Covid-19
University of Auckland, Faculty of Arts
Tom Logan Multi-criteria spatial optimisation for guiding long-term land use planning for resilience and sustainability University of Canterbury
Steve Ronoh; Loic Le De Good and Ready New Zealand New Zealand Red Cross and Auckland University of Technology
Finn Scheele Development of a population exposure model for New Zealand GNS Science
Marion Tan CRISiS Lab Education and Outreach Project Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University
Civil and Environmental Engineering, and The University of Auckland
Sophia Tsang Living with hazards and risks in Auckland: Which locations in Tāmaki Makaurau do we value the most? University of Auckland

Impact case studies for 2019-20


Responsive science for national emergencies

In 2019-20, through an eruption, flooding and a pandemic, we’ve been able to add significant value by linking and coordinating across the science system, supporting the direct input of science into decision-making during emergencies.



Partnership as the pathway to impact 

Interdisciplinary science is an approach well suited to natural hazards research. Multiple perspectives and diverse knowledge must be integrated to facilitate change and achieve impact. In 2019-20, we have been able to work across boundaries and organisations to improve resilience at a local and national level.  



Science for resilience policy and practice

In 2019-20 we saw examples of direct application of our research into policy and practice, including recommendations for reducing climate change risk to existing communities, a methodology for planning the retreat of coastal infrastructure, and better integration of iwi and hapū mātauranga into natural hazard planning 



Models and tools for decision-making

Central to the Challenge delivering on our mission to accelerate natural hazard resilience is the development of new models and methodologies to quantify hazards and impacts in more realistic way, providing better assessments of resilience options to decision makers.


Impact case study:

Model and tools for decision-making


How did Resilience Challenge research have an impact in 2019-2020?


Central to our mission to accelerate natural hazard resilience is the development of new models and tools to quantify hazards and impacts in more realistic ways, providing better assessments of resilience options to decision-makers.

Development of new models is iterative, requiring repeated testing and validation, and their application usually comes at the end of an extensive period of development. RNC is driving meaningful enhancements and innovations in this area, building on work in Phase 1, the Natural Hazards Research Platform, and leveraging existing New Zealand tools such as RiskScape and MERIT.

Updated hazard map for Whakapapa skifield. Credit: GNS Science

Earlier this year, Volcano programme research was integrated into updated hazard posters  for Turoa and Whakapapa skifields, as part of a collaboration with the Department of Conservation. Researchers were also commissioned by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts to produce a technical report on potential lahar hazard in the Whakapapa ski area. A new lahar simulation model, calibrated to previous lahars, was used to estimate the lahar footprint and impact for a range of scenarios. Results of the report have been used to develop safety measures for the new Sky Waka gondola.



Dr Nicky McDonald and colleagues from ME Research produced economic modelling utilising the MERIT (Measuring the Economics of Resilient Infrastructure Tool) capability developed in Phase 1, to assess the economic consequences of fuel outage scenarios following the Auckland-Marsden Point fuel pipeline failure. MERIT was applied to five disruption scenarios, which were then evaluated with and without mitigation options to better understand the impact of disruption and potential value of mitigation actions for New Zealand. The report was prepared for MBIE and findings also contributed to the Board of Inquiry into the 2017 Auckland Fuel Supply Disruption.

As part of our Coastal Flooding project led by Prof Karin Bryan (University of Waikato) and Dr Scott Stephens (NIWA), Dr Shari Gallop and Masters student Akuhata Bailey-Winiata (Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) carried out a summer project to determine the proximity of coastal marae (located within 2km of the coast) to coastal and river waterbodies. They found that 93% of coastal marae are located in the North Island; over 45% of coastal marae are within 200 meters of the coastline; and approximately 70% of coastal marae are located below 20 meters elevation relative to mean sea level. Data will be used as a baseline for determining risk and vulnerability of coastal marae to coastal hazards and sea-level rise. Akuhata’s research was recognised by the New Zealand Coastal Society who awarded him with a Māori and Pacific Island Research Scholarship in July 2020. 

Our Built Environment programme has completed new hazard maps for Bay of Plenty marae (showing fault lines, flooding, geothermal, liquefaction, and tsunami zones) using data from Rotorua City Council and Environment Bay of Plenty. The maps were provided to Te Arawa Lakes Trust collaborators, and are intended to be used to catalyse conversations with marae regarding adaptation and preparedness planning.

Part of our Weather and Wildfire programme involves the modelling of credible ‘what-if’ scenarios. What if the path of ex-Tropical Cyclone Cook (which did much damage in eastern Bay of Plenty in 2017) had been further west and hit our biggest population centre, Auckland? Weather scenario modelling at such fine-grid resolutions is a first for New Zealand, and allows detailed impact modelling to be carried out for a variety of coincident weather, flood, and landslide hazards, building a credible worse-case impact scenario for Auckland and surrounding districts. The early modelling is highlighting the potential for extreme impacts in Auckland, and in other areas well away from Auckland such as the higher elevations of the Kaimai ranges.


New modelling shows what could have happened if ex-TC Cook has tracked over Auckland. Credit: Ian Boutle, 2020

The primary goal of our Earthquake-Tsunami programme is to generate synthetic earthquakes using computer models. Big earthquakes and tsunamis (thankfully) don’t happen very often. A downside of this infrequency is that 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.

The team, led by Dr Bill Fry and Prof Andy Nicol, now has a first iteration of a synthetic seismicity model for New Zealand that incorporates all of the faults used for the National Seismic Hazard Model. This is a successful proof of concept. Further, through extended international collaboration, they have produced basic ground motion predictions from this model. This is an exciting and important stepping-stone in a programme of work that aims to improve future earthquake, tsunami and landslide hazard models in New Zealand.


This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2019-2020 annual reporting.