Q & A with Dr Christina Magill




Q. Tēnā koe Christina. Congratulations on your recent appointment to co-leader of the Resilience Challenge Volcanoes programme. What does this new opportunity mean for you?

Kia ora! Thank you for the opportunity. I am excited to be working with an incredible group of volcano researchers within the RNC Volcanoes programme. It has been wonderful to engage with hazard and risk scientists across the Challenge and I look forward to the many future collaborative opportunities.

Q. How did you get into volcanic research? Have you always been fascinated with volcanoes and natural hazards?

I have always preferred to be outdoors and had my first volcanic eruption experience when skiing on Ruapehu during my last year of high school in 1995. After this, I did a science degree at Waikato and was drawn to both natural hazard science and computer modelling. Thanks to wonderful supervisors, I was able to combine these interests and completed MSc research (Waikato) modelling volcanic tsunami and then a PhD (Macquarie, Sydney) modelling volcanic risk.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your research journey to this point?

Three years in Australia turned into 20, where I was lucky to work on many natural hazard risk problems. My research at Macquarie University had much cross-over with industry and I worked closely with insurers in Australia, Japan and New Zealand to build a number of natural hazard loss models. Two highlights of this time were developing loss models for the impacts from Japanese volcanoes and Australian hailstorms (Australia’s most costly hazard). During this time, I also taught Natural Hazard and Environmental Health subjects and worked closely with graduate students. I loved seeing students also become fascinated with these areas of research.

In early 2020, I returned to New Zealand and began working in the Risk and Engineering Team at GNS Science. It’s been a big change working on many different projects that have included volcanic impacts to infrastructure, consequences of a large Hikurangi subduction event, disaster preparedness of supply chain managers, and advancement of the RiskScape 2.0 platform.

Q. Your work for GNS Science sees you involved in assessing and modelling impacts from a range of natural hazards. What does this multihazard approach offer you as a researcher?

Time in Australia gave me the opportunity to work on many different hazards including those not so important here in NZ – hail, bushfire and tropical cyclone. While each natural hazard event is different, there are also many similarities (susceptibility of critical infrastructure, wellbeing impacts to vulnerable communities). Each event allows us to learn a little more and to put plans in place to reduce future impacts. Above all we need to expect and account for uncertainties.



Q. You have done a lot of work overseas, including in Japan, the Philippines and Peru. How does Aotearoa New Zealand’s disaster risk reduction decision-making compare with other nations you have worked in?

Although the hazards and characteristics of exposed populations are unique, common to each of these countries is a group of passionate local scientists and emergency practitioners. I have made close friends as well as building strong research collaborations. Each of the countries above has amazing landscapes and volcanoes that I look forward to visiting again as soon as we are able.

For a small country, Aotearoa has many individuals and agencies involved in disaster research.  I have really noticed the tight community and close interdisciplinary collaborations. Universities, CRIs, consultants, government agencies and councils all work closely together to achieve shared goals of reducing risk from natural hazards.

Q. What are your future research aspirations?

I want to find solutions to address the ‘big’ problems – how can we use risk assessment methodologies to reduce the impacts from future large events, including those exacerbated by climate change? In recent times we have seen several large cascading events, including the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. If a large volcanic or earthquake event occurred here, what would our unique impacts be? How can we increase our resilience and reduce potential losses? Addressing these problems involves large amounts of data and computing resources.  How are we placed in this space and how can new technologies such as AI help?

Impacts from disasters don’t stop at casualties or financial impacts. Public health and wellbeing impacts extend for long periods following an event and potentially put the most strain on communities. My ultimate goal is to work to quantify and reduce these much more complex disaster impacts.

Q. What do you like to do outside work?

Covid has provided the unexpected opportunity to explore Aotearoa again after a long time overseas and to spend more time with family. Sport also plays a big part in my life and after work I’m often at the gym lifting a heavy barbell.

I’m slowly working through a Master of Public Health looking at the respiratory health impacts of disasters, and enjoying working on something a little outside my everyday research interests.



Impact case study:
Science for resilience policy and practice


September 2021

The 2020-21 year has seen significant developments in the policy frameworks covering climate adaptation and managed retreat.

In 2019-20 we reported on the publication of the GNS Science report Reducing risk through the management of existing uses: tensions under the RMA by Emily Grace, Ben France-Hudson and Margaret Kilvington, primarily funded under our Phase 1 ‘Living at the Edge’ programme. The report filled an important research gap by addressing how the RMA can be used to deal with people’s existing use ‘rights’ when planning and carrying out risk reduction activities. It also identified where the RMA falls short, and its recommendations included legislative change to enable at-risk communities to retreat from risk in a timely way.  

In June 2020, some of the report’s key recommendations were picked up in New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand, the report of the Resource Management Review Panel. In February 2021, the Government announced it would repeal the RMA and enact new legislation based on the recommendations of the Panel. The three proposed acts include a Climate Adaptation Act to address the complex issues associated with managed retreat.

Attention now turns to what the legislation should look like. In January 2021 Dr Christina Hanna and Prof Iain White of the University of Waikato and our ‘De-risking Resilience’ workstream published timely research on managed retreat governance, Managed retreats by whom and how? Identifying and delineating governance modalities. The authors describe the spectrum of governance approaches to managed retreat, from state-led and funded retreat at one end, through to autonomous, unmanaged retreat left to the private sector and local communities. The researchers recommend co-operative managed retreat strategies in which “people and communities are embedded in the retreat strategy design, decision-making and delivery.” The researchers conclude that a co-operative approach is most likely to “avoid or reduce risks in ways that seek to share power and promote justice and equity.” 

A pioneering example of collaborative community engagement is the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120 in Hawke’s Bay, which also trialled Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning (DAPP) to assess options and pathways with researchers from Phase 1 of the Resilience Challenge. DAPP underpins the research in our Phase 2 ‘Enabling Coastal Adaptation’ workstream, led by Dr Judy Lawrence of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. This mahi builds on learnings from the implementation of the Hawkes’s Bay DAPP trial.

Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay. Credit: Margaret Low, GNS Science.

Dr Lawrence and her team are investigating how DAPP can be implemented under current legislation, to avoid further lock-in of developments at risk of sea-level rise before new legislation is in place. This also includes targeted guidance on how to use economic assessment tools that support the long-term view required by the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, and a monitoring framework and tools to alert decision makers to impending risks using signals and triggers.

The RNC directorate has been instrumental in connecting researchers with government agencies progressing work on natural hazard adaptation. Researchers from our Resilience in Practice Programme have been part of this dialogue, which enables new knowledge and analysis on this complex topic to be available to officials scoping new legislation. Planning is underway for a series of co-developed ‘science to policy’ workshops.

Researchers are also engaging with other central government agencies on coastal adaptation. Dr Judy Lawrence and Dr Rob Bell of Bell Adapt have shared frameworks and concepts relating to adaptation planning under uncertainty, as external inputs to the Climate Change Adaptation Agenda project that is being integrated throughout all sections of Waka Kotahi NZTA. Adaptation of infrastructure including roading is a key part of our coastal adaptation mahi in Phase 2.

In our Phase 1 Mātauranga Maōri programme, Assoc Prof Christine Kenney of Massey University led our ‘Whakaoranga Marae’ project which developed a framework for developing natural hazard resilience for marae communities. Whakaoranga refers to the rescue, recovery and restoration of sustainable wellbeing, achieved through Māori values, knowledge and tikanga. The National Disaster Resilience Strategy incorporates the process of whakaoranga as part of its national objectives. Auckland Council has been adapting and extending the framework and rolling it out to all the marae in the greater Auckland area. The process includes:  

  • Raising awareness of the range of hazards that marae may be exposed to and helping identify possible impacts
  • Sharing Auckland Emergency Management kaupapa on what is required to build disaster resilience
  • Mapping out the strengths and assets of marae
  • Supporting marae to develop a plan for additional work required to build disaster resilience.

This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 


Impact case study:
Partnership as the pathway to impact


September 2021

We rely on collaborations with our partners and stakeholders in order to achieve our mission, including Challenge parties, other NSCs and aligned research organisations, iwi and hapū, government agencies, and councils.

Growing Kai Under Increasing Dry was a collaboration between RNC, Deep South and Our Land & Water NSCs to develop a ‘rolling symposium’ on drought and the primary sector. The series of three webinars and an in-person symposium focused on how the primary sector can build resilience to increasingly frequent and severe drought. We used the webinars to share NSC research, while the symposium allowed wide-ranging stakeholder discussions, particularly in relation to policy development by central government. A summary report is close to completion, which identifies responsibilities of the relevant sectors, and next steps.


Delegates at our Growing Kai under Increasing Dry symposium at Te Papa. Photo copyright Mark Coote.

We received really positive feedback from key stakeholders, particularly on way they were able to access expertise from the NSCs through a ‘single front door’.

RNC is part of a collaborative project supporting the deployment of seismometers in schools around the motu, alongside Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, University of Canterbury, GNS Science, ECLIPSE, QuakeCoRE, and East Coast LAB. The project aims to increase knowledge about earthquakes, tsunami and protective behaviours, encourage interest in the role of science in understanding the environment, and show pathways to future education and careers.

Under Phase 1, we co-funded a research project in partnership with QuakeCoRE to develop Māori-centred seismic hazard education activities for kura. Led by Lucy Kaiser (GNS Science, Massey University’s Joint Centre for Disaster Research) the activities are designed to encourage tuākana-tēina mentorship and increase the knowledge and preparedness of tamariki in the Hawke’s Bay and Wellington regions. Lucy was awarded the GNS Science Early Career Researcher Award at the 2020 Science NZ Awards in recognition of this mahi.

The Alpine Fault earthquake preparedness and response planning programme AF8 is a cross-boundary organisation funded by six South Island CDEM groups, QuakeCoRE and EQC, with science support from RNC’s Rural programme.

In autumn 2021 the team rolled out the AF8 Roadshow, sharing science with local communities from Invercargill to Golden Bay. Over 11 weeks, scientists including our research leaders Assoc Prof Caroline Orchiston, Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon, and Prof Tom Wilson visited 16 schools and held 16 public science talks. The events attracted a total audience of approximately 3,000 people. The events sparked new conversations about what can be done to boost local earthquake resilience, and the team received plenty of positive feedback from the public. 

The RNC Volcano programme is deepening existing partnerships and building new relationships in Taranaki and the Central North Island. Programme co-leader Prof Jon Procter is the new Chair of the Taranaki Seismic and Volcano Advisory Group (TSVAG) and is working closely with GeoNet to improve the volcanic monitoring network for Taranaki maunga. TSVAG is a critically important group for the provision of volcano science advice for Taranaki. RNC researchers are constantly transferring new methods and models into practice in partnership with Taranaki stakeholders as evidenced by two hazard assessments supplied to the Department of Conservation.[1] [2] The team is also working closely with Taranaki CDEM staff on volcano crisis contingency planning and risk communication. In particular, researchers have supplied the CDEM group with data and hazard GIS layers to develop a series of public hazard maps and infographics.

Jon Procter also leads a project in our Whanake Te Kura i Tawhiti Nui programme, working with Ngāti Rangi to identify wai (waters) associated with Matua te Mana (Maunga Ruapehu). Through wānanga, researchers and mana whenua aim to share knowledge about volcanic waters and the mauri, wairua and life-supporting capacity of these features.

In December 2020 researchers took part in a hīkoi with Ngāti Rangi to observe their environmental and volcano monitoring programme. At that time Matua te Mana was in a period of heightened unrest. Iwi-led environmental monitoring based on traditional sites picked up the changes in the Crater Lake that GNS Science had also detected, indicating an eruption. The project seeks to develop a joint mātauranga Māori / science-based water-monitoring framework of indicators that relate to volcanic processes and changing behaviours for Matua te Mana.


[1] Mead, S., Procter, J., Bebbington, M., 2020: Volcanic hazards to Taranaki Crossing from Taranaki and Fanthams Peak. Commissioned by the Department of Conservation. Volcanic Risk Solutions, Massey University, 46 p. 


[2] Procter, J.N., Bebbington, M., Mead, S., 2018: Pouakai Crossing volcanic hazard assessment. A report commissioned by the Department of Conservation. Volcanic Risk Solutions, Massey University, 32 p.

This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 

Update from the Director

Progress on our Te Tiriti and mātauranga and kaupapa Māori research commitments






September 2021

By Richard Smith, Kaiwhakahaere matua

The National Science Challenges were established in 2014, founded on a unique combination of key principles, including the advancement of mātauranga Māori and a focus on Māori involvement. The Resilience Challenge is relatively early in its journey towards being a Te Tiriti-led organisation. Phase 1 of the Challenge was characterised by a focus on supporting Māori natural hazard researchers, building partnerships with a small number of iwi and hapū, and extending the reach of ‘Vision Mātauranga’ in the context of disaster resilience.

In Phase 2 of the Challenge we are moving towards a deeper commitment supported by actions that are aligned to progress being made in the research and science system, and the wider public sector. We recognise that we are constrained in how far we can move towards true bi-lateral partnership, in part due to earlier decisions that have locked-up resources, limiting opportunities for Māori influence on future direction setting. We also acknowledge that there are practical limits on the extent to which we might re-organsise ourselves given the limited remaining life of the existing Challenge contract. However, with a clear intent to make progress we are focusing our efforts on several areas including representation, enabling ‘by Māori for Maori’ kaupapa Māori research and mātauranga Māori activities, resourcing our mātauranga leadership efforts, and ensuring our Māori research partners can participate in mana-enhancing ways.

This means supporting Māori research and mātauranga leadership, resourcing research participation by hapū, protecting Māori data sovereignty, and ensuring our research benefits those hapū we work with and wider Māori communities. We are increasing Māori representation on our Governance Group and our science leadership team, resourcing efforts to connect our Māori researchers with each other through the establishment of Te Rangapū Rangahau Māori, and establishing engagement agreements for each of our mātauranga Māori projects. We are also building the capability of the Challenge Tāngata Tiriti to engage and communicate in ways that build relationships, enable participation on hapū terms, and ensures the research delivers meaningful benefits for those involved.

We have created the ‘Ākina Te Tū – Kaupapa Māori Engagement Fund’ to support Māori researchers, and enable tangata whenua engagement within projects that are already underway in the Challenge.

The Resilience Challenge is also an active supporter of the Rauika Mangai, which is bringing together the collective efforts of NSC kaupapa Māori researchers, Māori scientists and mātauranga Māori experts (in collaboration with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga). This rōpū is extending best practice approaches to ‘Vision Mātauranga’ (the MBIE Science policy), innovating mātauranga Māori, and influencing Aotearoa science policy to extend the mātauranga continuum and deliver benefits for whanau, hapū and iwi.


Impact case study:
Models and tools for decision making


September 2021

A key part of our mission to accelerate natural hazard resilience is development of new models and tools to quantify natural hazards and their associated social and economic impacts in more detail, allowing for better assessments of resilience options. 

As highlighted in our 2019-20 reporting, our Earthquake & Tsunami team have successfully developed a prototype of their ground-breaking synthetic earthquake catalogue.

The team starts with a 3D model of Aotearoa New Zealand and its faults, then uses computer calculations to simulate forces that cause earthquakes. When the forces acting on a fault overcome its strength, this triggers a ‘synthetic’ earthquake. Researchers can then see how the synthetic earthquake redistributes stress onto nearby faults and leads to subsequent earthquakes.

As well as feeding into analysis and advice during the March 5 tsunami response (see Impact Case Study: Responsive Science for National Emergencies), the catalogue has been used in numerous other applications. For example, the team used an M8.5 Hikurangi subduction zone earthquake from the synthetic catalogue to test the ability of an instrumented submarine telecommunications cable running from Napier to Chatham Islands to deliver tsunami early warnings for large Hikurangi earthquakes. This work was done in collaboration with a working group of the Joint Task Force on Smart Cable Systems. Bill Fry has provided advice to MBIE and EQC on the impacts of the proposed cable.

Pillar One of our Coastal programme involves creating a national coastal-change database to record a sequence of detailed snapshots of Aotearoa New Zealand’s entire 15,000 km coastline. The objective is to identify how fast our coastline is changing, and which areas are most prone to erosion. The work is complete for Northland and the database is being used to inform coastal spatial planning in the region.

While analysing Southland’s coastline, the University of Auckland’s Dr Murray Ford and his team identified a rapid rate of change adjacent to the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter toxic waste storage facility. Dr Ford told RNZ: “Over the last decade or so the behaviour of that beach has changed. We’ve seen 30 to 40 metres of erosion since about the year 2010.” The sea is now just 75m from the concrete pad storing 180,000 tonnes of waste laced with cyanide and toxic fluoride.

In the course of this research, Murray and his team have been able to raise awareness of a previously unknown and urgent problem.

Credit: Graham Hancox, GNS Science

In December 2019, the Wellington Lifelines Group delivered their Regional Resilience Project report, identifying 25 key infrastructure projects needed to boost resilience in the region over the next two decades, at a cost of $5.3b. The report relied heavily on economic modelling using MERIT (Measuring the Economics of Resilient Infrastructure Tool), a tool developed under Phase 1 of the Resilience Challenge and a key part of our Phase 2 Multihazard Risk programme.

The Wellington Regional Resilience Project was Highly Commended in the Collaboration category of 2021 Emergency Management Awards. Judges recognised ‘a true collaboration of Central Government, Local Government and all of the Wellington Lifelines Group members with private enterprise to deliver what has been recognised as a world-leading approach to infrastructure resilience analysis.’

The MERIT team has also been recognised in the 2021 Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize. The team placed second in the Pandemics category for their work on ‘Accounting for business adaptations in economic disruption models’.

The capacity for businesses to adapt in the face of adversity has been demonstrated through the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inadequacy of economic modelling tools to account for this adaptation is shown in economic losses and business closures significantly lower than predicted. The team’s research is the first of its kind to build an empirically-derived model of business impact and recovery following disruption. The research has important implications for the insurance sector, because for insurers to maximise their capacity to support organisations through crises, risk models need to account better for the capacity of businesses to adapt. 

MERIT analysis was also central to a technical report prepared by our Multihazard Risk team for Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, assessing water demand under climate change. The work uses the Dynamic Economic Model (a component of MERIT), various greenhouse gas trajectory scenarios, and independently developed water accounts to project water demand for the region. The work represents the first attempt undertaken in Aotearoa to assess future water requirements under climate change.


This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 


Impact case study:
Responsive science for national emergencies


September 2021

Once again, 2020-21 provided numerous opportunities for our researchers to provide high quality analysis, advice and public commentary as natural hazard events unfolded, and in the aftermath.

On the morning of September 18th, winds picked up in Auckland and an extreme gust measured at over 120km/hr blew two trucks sideways on the Harbour Bridge, seriously damaging the bridge structure. Several lanes were closed for weeks while repairs took place, leading to lengthy traffic delays and flow-on economic impacts.

Research carried out by NIWA as part of our Weather & Wildfire programme combined a computer model of wind patterns in the harbour with a three-dimensional model of the bridge and found the bridge itself causes the wind to speed up.

“The effects here are very localised and it is really important to understand these better because of the risk high wind events have to a range of assets such as transport and distribution networks and the potential knock-on to economic impacts,” said our Weather & Wildfire programme co-leader Dr Richard Turner in a media story. The research has demonstrated a potential tool that could be a component of a warning system that could halt traffic on the aging bridge and prevent a repeat incident. 

March 5 sequence. Credit: GNS Science

On the morning of March 5th, a M7.2 earthquake struck off the East Coast of the North Island, and an M7.4 and M8.1 followed soon after in the Kermadecs. The quakes triggered a tsunami alert for large parts of Aotearoa New Zealand. Our Earthquake & Tsunami programme co-leader Dr Bill Fry (GNS Science) provided science advice to the National Crisis Management Centre and explained the situation at the press conference fronted by Minister Allan.

The Earthquake & Tsunami team’s synthetic seismicity catalogue had previously been used to test the Tsunami Early Warning (TEW) system being developed under the aligned ‘Rapid Characterisation of Earthquakes and Tsunami’ Endeavour programme, also led by Bill Fry. On March 5th, Bill and other team members used a prototype of the TEW system to inform decision making during the response. Testing using the RNC synthetic catalogue gave the team confidence that the prototype TEW system was appropriate to base scientific advice on. This led to a much quicker input of advice supporting tsunami warning cancellation.

The NEMA post-event report recognised Fry’s contribution, stating: “There was recognised value in having a GNS Science representative (Fry) contributing to the media stand-ups to provide scientific context and advice, and to support the preparation of the Minister for Emergency Management and Acting Director CDEM.” The timing of the March 5 events also created significant interest in our scheduled webinar on the synthetic earthquake catalogue the following week.

Autumn 2021 saw record-breaking drought in parts of the country after an exceptionally dry 2020. Dr Nick Cradock-Henry of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, co-leader of our Resilience in Practice programme, has worked extensively with rural communities, agri-business groups and local and central government on natural hazard responses and resilience solutions. Focusing on climate change and drought, Nick’s research in North Canterbury and Marlborough has highlighted the need for applied resilience solutions, including improved monitoring and evaluation, climate services and targeted support. Both in the media, and in a well-attended webinar as part of our rolling symposium on drought (see Impact Case Study: Partnership as the Pathway to Impact), Nick provided informed commentary on the ways that drought can exacerbate existing social and economic vulnerabilities, and evidence-led solutions for drought-affected communities. 

On 28 May MetService issued a red alert for the Canterbury region forecasting 200-300 millimeters which they warned could cause significant flooding. An extreme rainfall event followed, causing extensive, damaging flooding in the South Canterbury area, and resulting in the declaration of a region-wide state of emergency from 30 May to 10 June.

Our researchers provided expert commentary on the floods. In particular, Asaad Shamseldin of The University of Auckland and our Built Environment team provided useful expertise on ‘atmospheric rivers’, how this phenomenon contributed to the devastating impacts in South Canterbury, and the increased frequency of atmospheric river events in a changing climate.


Damage from May 2021 flooding. Credit: Timaru District Council

There has also been public discussion on the description of such events as ‘a 1 in 100 year flood’ or similar, given underlying climate conditions are changing so rapidly. Prof Ilan Noy of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington and our Multihazard Risk team, was on the ground in Westport during the devastating floods in July and critiqued this terminology and the false impression it creates regarding likely recurrence.


This case study was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as part of our 2020-21 annual reporting. 


AF8 Roadshow 2021: The Science Beneath Our Feet


August 2021


We can’t predict earthquakes, but we can prepare for them. The AF8 Roadshow: The Science Beneath Our Feet shares Alpine Fault hazard science and preparedness information with communities likely to be impacted by the next Alpine Fault earthquake. It is designed to enable conversations, activate local knowledge, and support informed decision-making to increase awareness of, and our preparedness for, a future event.

New Zealanders are excellent at coming together to support each other in an emergency. The AF8 Roadshow encourages people to have these conversations in advance, so we can be better prepared for a future Alpine Fault earthquake.

Building on the success of the 2019 AF8 Roadshow, the 2021 itinerary was expanded to 16 public science talks and 16 school visits around the South Island. This second tour was well-received with record turnouts and an increased demand for information, reaching a total of 2,974 people over the course of 8 weeks from March-July 2021. The full 2021 itinerary can be found here.


Full house in Kokatahi. Credit: AF8

The AF8 Roadshow leverages the close partnership between science and emergency management, demonstrating the value of working together to be better prepared for natural hazard events in New Zealand. The talks are hosted by the local Emergency Management Group, with 11 science presenters of diverse expertise supporting the delivery of the public science talks in 2021.

AF8 Programme Lead, Alice Lake-Hammond explains, “By making this science available in a community setting, sharing it in a local context where it is of most relevance to the community, this is where it comes alive and where we see actions beginning to be taken.”

Mt Hutt College, Methven

“An hour-long talk is typically followed by an hour-plus Q&A session where the audience can gain clarification of the hazard science and better understand how it applies to them.”

“Often the answers start to come from within the community itself and it this sharing of local knowledge and experience that is so crucial to moving from a general awareness of the hazard to an active preparedness for a future event.”

The South Island Emergency Management Groups also recognise the AF8 Roadshow as one of the most effective way to bring their communities together to connect:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our communities to be involved in learning more about an event that could impact on them. The Roadshow really makes science accessible.” – Emergency Management Officer, Marlborough.

And, the engagement and feedback from schools has been equally as positive:

“The 3D mapping demonstrated the content really well. Students were able to visualise content that had been previously discussed. The tutor was inclusive and made sure everyone could see and have input into the discussions.” – Teacher, Otago

“I’m really scared of earthquakes. But now I understand why we have they and what I can do about them, I feel much better. Thank you for coming.” – Student, Golden Bay

The more we talk about the Alpine Fault, the more people want to know and it’s important that we keep these conversations going. A third AF8 Roadshow is planned for 2022.


AF8 Roadshow partners include: the six South Island Emergency Management Groups, The Earthquake Commission, QuakeCoRE: NZ Centre for Earthquake, Resilience to Nature’s Challenges and GNS Science.


Student Profile: Thomas Wallace

Understanding the Physical and Systemic Vulnerabilities in Integrated Stopbank-Dam Catchments

June 2021

I grew up in sunny Nelson, New Zealand where I enjoyed many opportunities to connect with nature through tramping, mountain biking and family holidays in the Marlborough Sounds. In my final year of high school (after causing a lot of stress for Mum) I decided to pursue engineering. During my undergrad, I found a passion for water. Water is essential for life and connects us to the natural environment.

Following my undergrad, my friend connected me with my primary supervisor who took me on for a Masters project, ‘Determining the flood effects of undocumented stopbanks within the Waimea floodplain’. This project helped me to find myself, my passion for research, and a desire to improve the lives of individuals and communities. After my Masters, I sought to continue with research where I am now working toward my PhD at the University of Canterbury investigating vulnerabilities in flood management. My supervisors are Kaley Crawford-Flett, Tom Logan, and Matthew Wilson, and my PhD research is supported by the Resilience Challenge through the Built Environments programme.

During my free time, I enjoy trail running, rogaining (orienteering), alpine skate touring, and reading (in particular Terry Pratchett).

My project

My research is looking at the management of stopbank-dam catchments during floods.

The aim is to help move the management of these structures away from an individual element approach towards a broader system perspective. In particular, focus is being given to deepening the understanding of their operational and physical vulnerabilities. This will contribute to building New Zealand’s flood resilience to flood disasters.

The phases of research will be focused on:

  • Developing the understanding of maturity in operational elements in our flood defence systems so that risk-reducing activities may be more effectively prioritised
  • Using operational vulnerabilities to undertake probabilistic breach flood modelling to determine the exposure of communities and infrastructure to flooding
  • Developing alternative operational strategies and high-level recommendations that are able to reduce the exposure of communities and infrastructure

My research aims to raise the awareness of vulnerabilities in these systems and highlight their potential effects while providing recommendations to address these. This is hoped to shift the management of these catchments towards a more systematic view where the importance of each dam and stopbank, and the connections between them, is acknowledged. A more systematic approach to catchment management will improve resilience and reduce risk in our flood exposed communities. Because although some flooding is normal, we don’t want it to be a dam problem!



Next steps

The next steps for me are to complete my research proposal and begin developing the maturity matrices used to assess the maturity of the operational elements in our flood defence systems. After this, I’ll be undertaking a series of interviews with stakeholders for data collection.



Student Profile: Yi-Wun Mika Liao

Developing physics-based modelling of synthetic earthquakes to access and forecast fault rupture, ground shaking, tsunami and landslides

June 2021

I was born and raised with two siblings by my grandparents in Taiwan. I graduated from the Department of Earth Science of National Central University, Taiwan, and studied ground motion simulation of historical earthquakes during my master’s years. After I got my master’s degree, I worked as a research assistant for several years. I’ve been thinking whether to get a PhD or not for many years. Therefore I recommended myself when one of my current supervisors, Dr Bill Fry, visited Taiwan and said he was calling for PhD students. The topic of the PhD project and the beauty of New Zealand are both so attractive to me, so I decided to join the project after talking to my supervisor.

I am a fluffy animal lover, especially dogs and cats. I like to hike although I don’t have many chances to hike in Taiwan because there are too many frogs and snakes in the mountains. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I am still waiting for the border restriction to be lifted. I am keen to go to New Zealand and hike in the frog-and-snake free mountains!


My project

Determining the input parameters for hazard assessment, such as recurrence interval of earthquakes for a given magnitude, rupture initiation on the fault, and probability of multiple-segment rupture, is quite difficult, especially for large earthquakes due to the short time period of our earthquake records. Physics-based earthquake simulators are one solution to this problem. Since our goal is to increase resilience to earthquakes, it is important to understand the possible recurrence interval of these events from a simulated catalogue of earthquakes, spanning more than 50,000 years. The aim of my project is to develop the modelling of synthetic earthquakes and generate simulated earthquake catalogues with a physics-based earthquake simulator, RSQSim.

New Zealand and Taiwan are both located at subduction zones and have high seismicity. Seismic hazard assessment is mandatory for both countries. Since I am still in Taiwan and more familiar with Taiwanese data, I am first trying to simulate the synthetic earthquakes with the seismogenic structures of Taiwan. By trying different values of the input parameters of RSQSim, such as initial stress, and comparing the results with the observed earthquake catalogue, I have learned what types of input values lead to the most realistic results. However, the simulated earthquake catalogues still couldn’t fit the observed one perfectly. There are some ways to improve the simulated catalogues, like adding more seismogenic structures and constraining more of the input parameters of RSQSim. This part would be more challenging.


Next steps

One of the next steps is to apply what I have learned from the Taiwanese data to New Zealand. As mentioned above, the improvement of seismogenic structures and constraint on the input parameters could be also one of the next steps. I hope that some realistic earthquake catalogues could be generated, and that this will help to assess the likely frequency of earthquakes and their related hazards.


Modelling the social and economic impacts of a volcanic eruption in Auckland


By Robert Cardwell

June 2021

A research team led by University of Auckland PhD candidate and Market Economics researcher Robert Cardwell recently published new research on the simulation of economic and urban development recovery pathways following the eruption of a new volcano in the Auckland region.

The research, published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, demonstrates the capability to simulate not only the direct physical impacts associated with infrastructure and land use destruction and disruption, but also population and business evacuation and relocation. The team also modelled the socio-economic and land use planning implications associated with recovery and also the longer-term growth-related pressures on city development.

Figure 1 shows the impact on value added (the counterpart to Gross National Product at the regional level) of the volcanic eruption scenario over a 20 year period following the eruption compared to a baseline scenario where the eruption did not occur.


Figure 1: Eruption and Baseline integrated scenario total value added for industrial and commercial sectors

Figure 2 depicts the difference in development of residential and industrial land use that has occurred by September 2040 in the volcanic eruption scenario compared to the baseline scenario under a ‘Fast Recovery’ scenario.


Figure 2: Change in residential and industrial land use between 1st October 2019 and 30th September 2040 in the ‘Fast Recovery’ scenario

Figure 3 depicts the difference between two scenarios at September 2040 where in one scenario the land physically impacted has been remediated within a timeframe of 5 years, and another in which the remediation has taken 10 years.


Figure 3: Land use in ‘Fast Recovery’ scenario as at 30th September 2040 vs ‘Slow Recovery’ scenario as at 30th September 2040

The differences between the ‘Fast Recovery’ and ‘Slow Recovery’ scenarios demonstrate how taking longer to remediate the area directly impacted by the volcanic eruption can result in more urban development on the urban-rural boundaries than might have otherwise occurred.

As far as the authors are aware, this research is the first instance of simulation of land use and economic changes over time after a natural hazard event has occurred. The developments demonstrated in this research will enable planning authorities to assess trade-offs with competing objectives in mitigation and redevelopment strategies to respond to volcanic eruptions and other natural hazard events.

The research was co-authored by Robert’s supervisors Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon (University of Auckland) and Dr Garry McDonald (Market Economics), with support from Prof Jan Lindsay (also University of Auckland). Funding was provided by the Resilience Challenge Economics and Urban research programmes with support from DEVORA (Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland).