Q & A with Dr Sally Potter



Q. Have you always been interested in science? When did you realise you wanted to be a scientist?

I’ve always liked understanding ‘why’ things happen, and enjoy the process of investigation. My favourite movies as a kid were disaster movies, and now being able to spend my days looking into more effectively warning people about hazards is pretty much a dream come true!

Q. What did you study at university, and what was your PhD on?

I completed a Bachelor of Science in Geology at Victoria University, and an Honours degree at Massey University in Volcanology.

My PhD was in Emergency Management (Social Science and Volcanology) through Massey University. My PhD topic looked at the communication of volcano information, particularly for caldera unrest. I reviewed New Zealand’s Volcanic Alert Level system with volcanologists and various stakeholders using social science methodologies, and then implemented the new system with MCDEM in 2014; I investigated how often, and how severely, Taupō volcano has had historical unrest; and I developed a Volcanic Unrest Index to combine the various volcanic monitoring parameters for easier communication and decision-making. I then did a post-doc with MetService looking at the challenges and benefits of impact-based severe weather warnings.


Q. Your recent work has focused on warnings for natural hazards, what drew you to that subject?

I find it exciting looking at warnings – they are the final step in reducing risk to natural hazards. Once you’ve done all the planning and policy changes you can, improved building codes and infrastructure resilience, and people are prepared and are aware of the hazards, and have strong community networks, then all that’s standing between you and a hazard is this little piece of information that alerts you to take action. It might be a natural warning (like earthquake shaking alerting you to a possible tsunami), or come from a colleague, family, TV, or an official agency. By making sure that warning is as effective as possible, it enables people to take the most appropriate action for themselves and their family to stay safe.

Q. What makes a warning effective?

People respond to warnings in different ways, depending on things like:

  • if they can sense the event (e.g. see severe weather, hear a roar, feel earthquake shaking, smell smoke);
  • what other people are doing in response (if anything);
  • whether they receive, pay attention to, and understand a warning;
  • their own mindset;
  • how threatened they feel from the hazard;
  • whether they think they can respond to the event and if that response will be effective in keeping them safe; and
  • whether they trust the agency/person and warning.

By providing an effective warning, we can slightly influence some of these factors. So, we can make sure as many people as possible receive the warning and pay attention to it (e.g. NZ recently implemented Emergency Mobile Alerts to quickly reach more people), make sure the warning is easy to understand (language and terminology), help people to understand the threat and impacts that might happen to them personally and to their family, and suggest protective actions that are achievable and effective. The warnings also need to be accurate and consistent between sources.

Q. You were part of a team that recently won the 2019 Excellence in Emergency Communication Research Award. Congratulations, and can you tell us a bit more about that?

The award-winning team: L-R Emma Hudson-Doyle (Massey), Sally Potter (GNS Science), Julia Becker (Massey)

Thanks! The award was from EMPA (Emergency Media and Public Affairs), and the result of an epic 5-year research project that looked at aftershock information needs for agencies and the public following the Canterbury Earthquakes, and how people interpreted and responded to it. Our main findings were that it’s important to include information and training about aftershocks prior to an earthquake; people wanted information in a variety of formats (e.g. maps, tables, graphs, text, analogies) and their needs changed over time; showing empathy in information is important; and that geoscientists need to strategise how to best provide the information before an event happens.

The project was led by Julia Becker (Massey University), and involved researchers from GNS Science (me), Massey University (Emma Hudson-Doyle), US Geological Survey (Sara McBride and Anne Wein), and Charles Darwin University (Douglas Paton).

Q. You’re co-leading the Weather theme for Phase 2 of the Resilience Challenge. What drew you to working on the Challenge?

I am excited to be working with such a multidisciplinary team to conduct underpinning research on hazard and impact models for severe weather, landslides and wildfire; investigate engineering solutions; as well as utilise social science to improve mitigation measures with stakeholders and communities. It also gives me an opportunity to work with stakeholders and the wider weather community, as well as the researchers in the other themes, to help link research to practice. It works in well with my role of co-leading the Communication Task Team for the World Meteorological Organization’s High Impact Weather research programme, so that I can align our NZ research with global research directions.

Q. What are your future aspirations? 

A bit of stretch goal for me is to eventually look into warnings across all of the natural hazards – the trickiest one would probably be warning systems for meteor impacts! I’d also like to investigate more effective warnings to all parts of our communities, and their diverse needs.

And my overarching goal is to maintain a careful work-life balance as I have two young sons.


Student Profile: Nhi Le



Using social network analysis in the study of supply chain resilience




A bit about me 


I grew up in a lovely little town of an agricultural province in Vietnam. My love of warm-hearted and hard-working farmers in my hometown has nurtured my passion to contribute to the agriculture sector.

When I was 18, I moved to the big Ho Chi Minh city to pursue a Bachelor of International Business Economics. After 2 years working for a Vietnamese Logistics Research and Development Institute and a local logistics company, I gained a meaningful scholarship from the New Zealand Aid Programme to study in this beautiful Kiwi land which is world-famous for its agriculture.

I am now pursuing a Master’s in Supply Chain Management in Massey University. Here, thanks to my supervisor, I have received the awesome opportunity to work a Scion project titled “Evaluating the Resilience of NZ Rural Value Chains against Natural Hazards”. Within this Resilience Challenge project I have been working on my thesis, aiming to apply social network analysis to evaluating resilience, especially for agricultural supply chains.

In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips and playing the guitar.


My project


The purpose of my thesis project is to assess and select suitable tools for social network analysis of supply chain resilience. The main question of my research is: “How can Social Network Analysis (SNA) be applied to evaluate the resilience of supply chains?”

Specifically, below are some questions I hope to answer with this research:

Q1: Which tools of SNA are applicable in the study of resilience?

Q2: Which properties of supply chains networks can SNA tools investigate?

Q3: Which aspects of supply chain resilience can SNA tools evaluate?

Q4: What values could SNA add to the research area?

Q5: What are the limitations of applying SNA to the research area?

My research uses a network of agricultural supply chains in the North Canterbury region of New Zealand’s south island as a case study. The data is gathered by a data collection team in Scion’s resilience project. The research analysis ranges from micro to macro level, including bottom-up and top-down approaches. It involves selecting potential useful tools of SNA, conducting each analysis tool and combining results from those tools to evaluate the network resilience, then, critiquing the applications. In each analysis I aim to explore the network structure and configuration and how complex it is with organizational interdependency, connectedness, and positions or roles in the network. The network resilience is investigated through its attributes of robust sub-structures, vulnerability, knowledge and information management, and disruption response.


Next steps


I have finished data collection and cleaning, and chosen specific analysis tools already. Now I am concentrating on results interpretation and analysis critiques. Once the findings and core contents are finalized, I will complete writing up the remaining parts. My thesis is due to be completed in July 2019. Afterwards, I will submit it to some academic conferences to prepare for writing up a paper from the research.

Even though the project is challenging for me as SNA is quite new in the research area, I enjoy discovering the NZ agricultural network in a rural area, especially working in an awesome team with support from my supervisor Prof. Paul Childerhouse (Massey University), my project leader Dr Robert Radics (Scion), and my teammate Ngoc Le (Massey University).

Student Profile: Ngoc Le



Diagnostics of Supply Chain Agility in rural New Zealand using Social Network Analysis




A bit about me

Xin chào! I am from Vietnam. My teachers, lecturers, and friends usually call me Ms. “1000 questions” as I tend to ask until I understand almost every piece of a phenomenon. My recipe for battling stress is volunteering, wandering around, talking with the locals, and trying local/ signature food.

My undergraduate background is finance. I worked in Operations and Business Analysis for 6 years before pursuing a Master of Supply Chain Management at Massey University, New Zealand in 2018. This programme fits me well as I am really keen on understanding the linkage between and among entities which form and govern economic systems.  Thanks to Professor Paul Childerhouse, I had a priceless opportunity to work on the Rural Value Chains project led by Scion and funded by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges.


My project


The Scion’s project has two key parts; economic input-output analysis and network analysis. These parts mutually complement each other and allow us to evaluate rural value chain resilience in the context of natural hazards.

My thesis project stems from and builds on the second part by examining supply chain agility in rural settings. Agility is a critical component for survival and competitiveness and is usually regarded as the other side of supply chain resilience, along with robustness. My research focuses on three key aspects of agility; visibility, responsiveness, and network reshaping after disruptions. From the social network perspective and social network analysis methods (SNA), this study factors in both dynamics and interconnectedness of relationships among supply chain members.

The direction of my research is determined by the following set of questions:

Question 1: Which network characteristics may impact supply chain agility?

Question 2: How is agility distributed across the network? In other words, is it equally distributed or skewed towards some subgroups?

Question 3: Which entities are important in terms of both potentially positive and negative impact on supply chain agility?

Question 4: In which industry does the supply chain tend to be more agile?

I’m using data collected from the larger Scion project as a case study to perform analysis using SNA tools that are currently available. We hope to determine the overall state of network agility in Hurunui District through this work. We may also be able to discern the facilitators and barriers for network agility in the area. Our relative comparison of agility between agriculture and tourism and hospitality networks may also result in the discovery of practices that are worth learning and sharing among economic sectors.

Despite challenges of paucity in references, I enjoy every piece of this journey. There is always something new to learn every day. Many “wows” appear when some initial findings beat my ingrained assumptions. For instance, as illustrated in the following figure, without B017, information cannot flow across the network. This entity is important to network vulnerability though it is of medium size and just has a few supply chain connections.

Next steps


I am going to finish up my thesis in the next two months. By then, I hope my findings may shed light on how organisations can manage their portfolio of relations to leverage critical relationships in SC disruptive events. This may also help to identify the opportunities and constraints each of them faces when developing resilience capabilities because of specific positions in the network. My project may provide a starting point for more empirical research and levelling up the agility to multidimensional resilience for rural value chains.


Student profile: Nwadike Amarachukwu Nnadozie



Disaster risk reduction and building code amendment in post-disaster reconstruction in New Zealand




A bit about me 


I was born in Owerri, the capital of Imo state which is located in the eastern part of a multi-cultural country in Africa called Nigeria. I gained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (B.Eng) and my first master’s degree in structural engineering (first class honours), both from the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. My desire to know more about disasters in the built environment and how I can contribute to reducing their impact propelled me to obtain my second master’s degree in Natural Hazards and Risks in Structural Engineering (NHRE) from Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany. I also have several years of working experience as a structural engineer, site engineer and research assistant.



I moved to New Zealand in 2018 to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Auckland and to learn more about disasters. I enjoy playing football, cooking and practising my German language. My interest lies in finding solutions to hazards in the human-built environment.


My project


My PhD research focuses on the impact of rebuilding New Zealand cities with amended building code compliance documents, with emphasis on Christchurch and Kaikōura. To do this, I will identify the impacts of building code amendments on post-disaster reconstruction, and examine the process of building code amendment and its relationship to disaster risk reduction.

I am using the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquake and 2016 Kaikōura earthquake as my case studies. The knowledge gained from these case studies will be used to check the preparedness of Auckland and Wellington, particularly in the context of the anticipated ground shaking in Wellington. The aim of this research is to provide recommendations on how to reduce the impact of earthquakes in post-disaster reconstruction and inform building code regulators on how to improve the code adaptation process through a developed framework. My supervisors are Professor Suzanne Wilkinson and Associate Professor Charles Clifton.


Next steps


My first phase of data collection started in April 2019. This involves administering questionnaires to building code regulators, building and construction industry, building consent authorities, government officials and other stakeholders. The data I obtain will then be validated with existing literature. The aim of this phase is to develop an understanding of the impact of building code compliance document amendments on post-disaster reconstruction.

The second phase of my research will involve conducting semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders. This will focus on using the gained knowledge to check the preparedness and mitigation strategies in place for Wellington.

Although the entire project is challenging, I enjoy exploring New Zealand performance building code and relating it to post-disaster reconstruction processes. I am planning to continue the research work by using knowledge, results, and developed frameworks in other cities globally.

Student profile: Hauiti Hakopa



He reo kōrero te pūrākau ki a Ngāti Tuwharetoa


Ko te tuhinga kairangi a Hauiti Hākopa he waihanga i te hohonu, i te ātaahua, i te māramatanga o te hono tātai o te pūrākau hāngai pū ki te whakapūmautanga o Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ka tātaritia, wetewetehia ngā hekenga mātauranga hohonu, uarā, tātai whakawhiti kōrero kai roto ake anō i ēnei kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa.  Ko aua hekenga kōrero whakaarorangi nei i ahu mai i te karamata, manawapū o ngā papa tipu whenua reo kōrero. Kai konei ka ora mai te mauri, te tuakiri, te tiketike tūahu whakapiringa, whakahāngai kōrero ki roto i tēnei tuhinga kairangi. Ko ngā pātaka, kete kōrero o tēnei tuhinga kairangi ka tūhono e puaki mai ai te tiketike o te reo kōrero ā-waha, ā-hinengaro, ā-ngākau whakawhiti whakaaro.  I konei ka whakaaria anō ētahi atu kōrero mai i ngā pukapuka kua tāia, ā, i ngā pukapuka kāre anō kia tāia kia au ai te rongo o te hohonu o te mātauranga haere ake nei ngā tau, hāngai ki te reo kōrero o te whenua matatū tonu.

Kai roto i ngā kōrero pūrākau a Ngāti Tūwharetoa te hohonu, taketake o ngā kōrero tīpuna hai āwhina i a tātau ki te whakatipu i ngā hohonu mātauranga kaiārahi, tūhonotanga mo nga tau kai mua i a tātau e puare ai te tatau hou ki ngā hangarau kawe i te reo ipurangi hononga ki ngā hangarau whakaora, whakatinana kōrero, whāingai i aua kōrero whakaheke ki ngā whakatipuranga hou o ngā tau tuangahuru haere ake nei ngā tau.   



Pūrākau and the sacred geographies of belonging



A bit about me 


Tēnā tatou. Ko taku taumata ko runga ko Tongariro. Mārama te titiro ki te ao o tōku tipuna a Tūwharetoa. Ko au tēnei e mihi ake rā ki te nui, me te rahi o Aotearoa me te Waipounamu.

I derive my whakapapa connections to the Taupō region from my eponymous ancestor Tūwharetoa and his sons. I was born and bred in the southern region of Taupō, in Tokaanu. My family were domiciled in Taupō throughout my school years until I left for University.


Taupō-nui-a-Tia, Lake Taupo. Photo © GNS Science


I graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Surveying, a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, a Master’s in Science and finally a Doctorate in Spatial Information Technology and its’ application to mōteatea. My abiding interest is in land and whakapapa thereof, cartography and the mapping of Māori connection and relationship to their ancestral landscapes.


My project


My 2019 doctorate from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi was supported by Resilience to Nature’s Challenges. It is primarily focused on pūrākau and how Māori connect to their ancestral landscapes, what I termed as the sacred geographies of belonging. Moreover, it argues that identity, located in the ethos of tangata whenua, is the basis for resilience for Māori. Resilience for Māori had been described in terms of the relentless motion of the tide. The metaphor of the tōrea pango (black oyster-catcher) was used to describe the patience necessary to hold a steady course. It was necessary to converge three threads: one, identity located in sacred places; two, the tangata whenua ethos; and three, resilience located in identity.

The primary aim of this research was to define/find/illustrate the explicit link between identity and ancestral landscapes and vice-versa; but more than that, it was to discover how each of these concepts interact and influence the other.


There were three primary objectives:

  1. To examine the esoteric knowledge and wisdom of Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau and its’ impact and influence on shaping how we think about cultural identity embedded in ancestral landscapes.
  2. To critically examine the tangata whenua ethos and the connection between identity, resilience and its’ relevance for Māori in the digital era.
  3. To critically examine converging modern technology with pūrākau as a platform for disseminating cultural content

The research questions were focused on the following:

  1. What are the critical elements of cultural identity layered within Ngāti Tūwharetoa pūrākau that provide guidance for connecting with the tangata whenua ethos?
  2. What is the value of the tangata whenua ethos today in the digital era?
  3. How can modern technology provide a gateway for Māori to develop a relationship with ancestral landscapes?


The research revealed the following insights:

One, it provides evidence that Mātauranga Māori is of the highest form of academic scholarship;

Two, it unpacks the vitality, essence and meaning of pūrākau and positions it as a knowledge system within the traditional sense of Mātauranga;

Three, it positions pūrākau as an appropriate traditional framework for examining tribal cultural identity located in sacred sites steeped in whakapapa;

Four, it unravels the key messages contained in Tūwharetoa pūrākau, the intimate link to ancestors found therein and provides a way for tangata whenua to develop resilience;

Five, it advances the concept that sacred geographies (significant sites that contain the vitality of ancestral footprints) are a reservoir of accumulated ancestral strength essential for maintaining the vitality and ethos of tangata whenua;

Six, it outlines a process for Māori who live remotely from their homelands around the world to develop a relationship with their sacred ancestral geographies using pūrākau.


Finally, I used the whakatauākī from one ancestor Tamamutu to frame the approach to the research. The compelling parts of the whakatauākī refers to: kia ata whakatere I te waka nei – to take care when making decisions, and “ka whakahoki atu ki te kapua whakapipi”, the clouds the travel the southern parts of Lake Taupō and for Tūwharetoa to always remember that our reservoir of strength resides in the Taupō ancestral landscapes.


Next steps


I am currently exploring a number of avenues to extend the doctoral research, one is to pursue post-doctoral research within the Resilience Challenge theme.

Towards a stronger Kaikōura: a community event





Kaikōura community members gathered on the 10th of April to hear from researchers who have been working in the area since the 2016 quake.

The event, hosted by two government-funded National Science Challenges – Sustainable Seas and Resilience to Nature’s Challenges, saw seven multi-disciplinary researchers speak about their work.

Topics ranged from the physical recovery of marine ecosystems whose habitats were altered in the quake, to the recovery of Kaikōura’s hard-hit tourism industry and the quake’s impact on the Māori marine economy and ‘Blue economy’ in the area.

At the midway point the group gathered for refreshments, over which many lively conversations were had about the preceding talks.

After the break speakers resumed, with the first outlining her work understanding how community initiatives facilitated social recovery. This was followed by a talk on how we can ensure our visitors are prepared for future events, and finally preliminary findings from a study looking at tsunami evacuation after the quake.

At the end of each session the floor was opened for comments and questions, which resulted in interesting discussions between locals and researchers. In many cases those who attended provided valuable insight and information that will go on to inform this research in the future. 

The event was widely appreciated by attendees, and demonstrated the value and importance of researchers sharing the work they are doing with the affected community and participants. 

Kd Scattergood, Kaikōura District Council Emergency Management Officer said, “Over the last two years, we have been talking to a lot of researchers and sharing our experiences with them. It was great to see the fruit of all that work and I look forward to working with them to help the community better prepare in the future.”


If you would like to view one or all of the presentations, they are available in the video below.



Student Profile: Ameila Lin



Seismic exposure and impacts across New Zealand infrastructure networks




A bit about me 


I was born in Germany, and I lived most of my life in Berlin. I received a bachelor and master’s degree in civil engineering from the Berlin Institute of Technology (TU Berlin). However, I spent a semester abroad at the National Taiwan University, where I first heard about disaster management. Growing up in a country where flooding is the main natural hazard, I became fascinated by earthquakes, tsunamis and tropical storms. That is why I decided to move to New Zealand and to start my PhD at The University of Auckland in 2017. Although I miss my home country a lot, I am very grateful for the amazing opportunity to learn new things every day and to do what I am most passionate about.


My project


In the first stage of my research, I am looking at different infrastructure networks across New Zealand such as State Highways and power transmission, and developing a geospatial framework to analyse the extent to which they are exposed to ground shaking, liquefaction, and landslides. This links simulation of ground shaking across a range of potential earthquakes with application of geospatial methods for liquefaction and landslides and the location of New Zealand’s national infrastructure networks. Geographic information systems (GIS) will help me to understand and analyse the data, to identify trends, and to present my results.

In the second stage of my research, I look at infrastructure criticality, which will allow me to classify the importance of a network (or a network section) to the economy and society. This includes identifying indicators to quantify criticality, considering dependencies and interdependencies across all networks, and understanding the role of infrastructure services before and after a disaster event. All these processes are GIS based in order to directly link exposure and impact.

Once complete the outcomes of this research can be used to support decision making processes regarding site specific assessment of key parts of the networks, infrastructure resilience investments, and rapid response and emergency planning.


Ground shaking maps of the State Highway, rail and power transmission network based on an Alpine Fault earthquake scenario (rupture propagating northwards)


Next steps


At the moment, I am in the first half of my second year. I am still working on the seismic exposure assessment, and have just started working on network criticality. Once the geospatial methods have been developed, they can continue to be updated and improved as our knowledge across these hazards improves. There is a lot of ongoing research in this area that can be incorporated in the future. I will soon begin looking into a range of criticality aspects, including existing frameworks and inputs into these frameworks such as the movement of goods and people within the transport network, and the location and access to important facilities such as hospitals.

Given the range of approaches that could be taken, I hope to identify the influence of these on how infrastructure is classified and highlight any potential improvements in these approaches.


Workshop takes a closer look at the role of digitally empowered communities during disaster events



Social media has become a powerful tool for supporting collective community responses after a disaster event. It provides a platform through which official and unofficial information can be shared, and volunteer groups can be co-ordinated.
By way of example, crisis-affected communities are now able to collaboratively organise their own crisis information, such as in community-run disaster Facebook pages and crisis maps. Digitally empowered local citizens can now also rapidly mobilise into a surge capacity of on-the-ground volunteers, as was the case with the Student Volunteer Army. However, the dynamic nature of social media, and changes to how it is used by digitally empowered online communities and volunteer groups, poses a number of challenges for emergency management professionals.

In order to address these challenges, a Social Media and Digital Communities workshop was held on Friday 22 March 2019 at the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO). The workshop was designed and led by Dr Abi Beatson, who heads the Emerging Technologies research project for Resilience to Nature’s Challenges. The workshop provided an opportunity for emergency management professionals to become acquainted with some of the latest research into the use of social media by crisis-affected communities, and to discuss their experiences and challenges with others in their field.



As Dr Beatson explains, “A central objective of the workshop was to provide emergency management professionals with a hazard-event scenario that facilitated discussion around the expected social media and digital volunteer responses during a disaster event. The scenario event decided upon was a Magnitude 7.5 earthquake near Milford Sound. This earthquake scenario facilitated discussion around the expected community responses on Twitter, and on community-led Facebook pages. It also supported discussion around the potential impact of the use of Facebook Live during this type of disaster event, and included rapidly emerging technologies such as Zello, and Facebook Disaster Maps. The earthquake scenario also included discussion around the potential responses from digitally empowered volunteer groups, such as the Student Volunteer Army, and from international crisis mapping communities. We also included the deployment of crowdsourcing platforms – it ended up that there was a lot to talk about.”


Those attending the workshop included representatives from the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), GNS Science, Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO), Wellington City Council (WCC), Massey University, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), University of Canterbury, Canterbury CDEM Group, and the Waimakariri District Council. A panel was also created to support the development of the hazard-event scenario, including panel members from the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Eagle Technology, and various CDEM Groups.


The workshop utilised Dr Beatson’s research concerning the use of social media to support resilient capabilities within a crisis-affected community.  As she explains, “The workshop was an important next step in my work – getting my research off the paper it was written on, and turned into a practical resource for emergency professionals.”


If you would like more information about this workshop, or are interested in attending one yourself, please contact Dr Abi Beatson at a.beatson@gns.cri.nz.

Q & A with Christina Hanna



We speak with Christina Hanna, a PhD student in our Governance programme who is concerned with sustainability and combatting climate change both in her research, and personal life.

Earth Hour is a global grassroots movement where millions of people around the world to turn off the lights and speak up about why nature matters. Why does sustainability matter to you?

Sustainability is an elusive concept, but it is a necessary, continual process of resolving conflicts between equity and social justice, environmental protection, and economic development. For me, a fundamental concern driving the sustainability imperative is that humans no longer live within the limits of Earth’s biocapacity, creating significant challenges for the future, which we must face up to and actively seek solutions for. Aldo Leopold once said: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Human production and consumption behaviours have greatly exploited natural resources, and we are beginning to recognise the significant impacts of transforming the social-ecological system we depend on.



When did sustainable living become a priority for you?

I was lucky to have grown up on a blueberry farm with a family very aware of and interested in environmental sustainability, with a love for New Zealand’s native species and great outdoors. Studying Environmental Planning at Waikato University cemented my interest in holistic sustainability, and I began to consider my own impact more consciously.

What are some of the things you do at home to reduce your impact?

Over the years I have become more aware of individual impacts, and the ability to make positive change through collective action. My husband and I do our best to live a ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, where we:

  • Avoid waste to landfill by shopping with re-usable containers at bulk stores,
  • Grow our own, and purchase additional ‘naked’ fruit and veg from our local farmers,
  • Say no to single-use cups, cutlery, straws, plastic household items etc
  • Use all natural, plastic free household cleaners and beauty items (solid soap, facewash and shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, biodegradable floss, etc)
  • Avoid food waste and compost any scraps

These actions take a little time and consciousness to become a habit, but they are a great start to reducing reliance on fossil fuels (plastic), reducing food miles, increasing food resilience, eating natural, wholefoods, and keeping the landfill less-full. In recognition of the need for ethical and sustainable action, we also ‘consciously consume’ by:

  • Avoiding fast fashion, purchasing clothing only when absolutely needed and following the ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’: Use what you have, borrow, swap, thrift, repair, make, and then buy. Any new clothing purchased is researched to ensure it has been ethically produced and made with organic materials, and preferably natural dyes.
  • Reducing emissions; I am lucky to work from home so I travel very little, and run/bike into town to do errands. When travelling by car I drive a hybrid, and offset air travel emissions, recognising that avoidance/reduction is the best option
  • Eating a predominantly plant-based diet
  • Practicing minimalism; living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions


Sustainable produce and products from Christina’s Instagram account @christina.hanna


Your PhD research is related to climate change too, can you tell us about that?

My PhD is focused on risk reduction and climate change adaptation via managed retreat; the strategic relocation of people, assets and activities away from harm. Due to extreme events, the projected impacts of climate change, and trends in urbanisation, more people are exposed to natural hazard and climate risks in the 21st century. We can protect communities against some perils in the short to medium term, for example, by building seawalls and improving early warnings. However, longer-term resilience and sustainability goals are more likely to be achieved if we design with nature. Managed retreat is part of the design with nature approach that can reduce natural hazard risk and build community resilience and sustainability. It’s contentious at present due to significant institutional barriers, but it will be required in some areas.

Managed retreat is a difficult thing for a community to commit to – is it worth it?

Managed retreat can be applied to a wide range of natural hazard and climate change risks. Where institutional enablers are in place, it can be an advantageous adaptation technique to avoid exposure to life and infrastructure, increase resilience of communities, protect environmental and amenity values, and provide a cost effective option for hazard management, with avoidance of future maintenance and emergency management expenses. However, in terms of the impact on people and communities, detachment from place is a significant undertaking, requiring immense care, support, sensitivity, robust engagement, empowerment, and time. My research has found that institutional capacity building is required to deliver effective and equitable managed retreat in New Zealand.

Do you think that New Zealanders are starting to consider sea-level rise as a factor when they’re deciding where to buy a house?

Absolutely, but there is a big difference between considering SLR and actively seeking data, testing out coastal inundation tools and making long-term decisions.

Celebrating Earth Hour and turning off your lights from 8:30-9:30pm on the 30th of March is a good way to start taking action, how else can people reduce their impact?

Earth Hour is a good reminder to be more conscious of your daily actions, and to start thinking about the wider reach of your impact, both environmentally and socially. Empathy and respect towards all beings, and the Earth that sustains us will go a long way. We have strength in numbers, and in unity. Kia Kaha NZ.

Student Profile: Sam Olufson



Managed Retreat Components and Costing




A bit about me 


I was born in Auckland but spent ten of my early years growing up in Australia (time shared between Sydney and Perth). During my time in Australia I developed a passion for cricket which has stayed with me ever since. My family moved back to Auckland in early 2007, and I completed high school there. Spending time in these different places grew my interest in geology and physical geography. These interests ultimately provided the motivation to complete my BSc at The University of Auckland in Earth Sciences. While completing my BSc, I developed a strong interest in coastal processes and the management of these dynamic environments.

My honours year (also at The University of Auckland) focussed on the coast, with my dissertation research investigating reflected wave energy following impacting with coastal cliffs. In May 2018, a friend got in touch with me about an MSc opportunity in Wellington, looking into managed retreat of coastal communities. This opportunity came about at the perfect time as I was already considering undertaking my MSc research in the following year. I applied, and began my research in July 2018 here in Wellington.


My project


The risk that coastal hazards pose to coastal communities will increase as sea levels continue to rise. As a result, we need to identify options that enable these communities to adapt to these increased risks. Managed retreat is one of these options. While managed retreat is the only strategy that completely eliminates coastal hazard risk (as it involves the relocation of communities inland from the coast), it is not currently well understood. My research aims to build understanding of managed retreat so it can be more readily considered as a coastal adaptation option.

My research identifies the components of managed retreat, and addresses how these components might be sequenced in time to respond to increasing coastal hazard risk. It also provides guidance for costing managed retreat as a strategy within an economic framework. The framework focusses on the valuation of the costs of the different components.

My work involves combining information on the use of managed retreat with the valuation of climate change adaptation options. I then use this insight to form typologies for developing a managed retreat strategy. These typologies are being tested in semi-structured discussions with practitioners working in the climate change adaptation space. My research is part of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges ‘Living at the Edge’ programme which is developing tools to support communities living in highly vulnerable coastal settings.


Next steps


Currently, I am finalising the component valuation methodology ahead of having discussions to test the findings. Once these findings have been discussed with relevant informants, I will begin to write up the remainder of my findings. My thesis is due to be handed in during July. The plan following this is to head back to Auckland to spend some time with my family while participating in preseason training ahead of the cricket season with the Hibiscus Coast Cricket Club. I also hope to find employment working in the coastal space.