Our people



Governance Group

Ms Jenn Bestwick


Jenn is an independent Director with a background in business and management consulting. She currently works as a Lead Reviewer with the States Services Commission Performance Improvement Framework and provides strategic consultancy to a number of private and public sector organisations.
Jenn spent many years working with KPMG leading their Auckland strategic management consulting practice before moving to Christchurch where she managed a day surgical hospital before working for a number of years with Ngai Tahu including in a role as General Manager, Strategy and Planning for Ngāi Tahu Holdings Group, the commercial arm of the iwi’s operations.
Ms Bestwick has worked with a number of organisations in the science and research sector having led MBIE’s Review of CRI Core Funding, been on a number of panels reviewing performance of MBIE science investments, been involved in the establishment of Callaghan Innovation and worked with a number of Crown Research Institutes.

Prof. Steve Weaver



Steve is the immediate past Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) of the University of Canterbury, and is a member of the Board of GNS Science Ltd. Prof. Weaver has decades of experience in senior academic and research management roles at a national level in New Zealand, close experience of the Christchurch and Canterbury community, and a background in the geosciences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of NZ.














Mr Bruce Wills


Bruce has a background in commercial banking and finance for the agricultural sector and is the immediate Past President of Federated Farmers. He is currently a board director of Ravensdown Ltd., representative of NZ and international Farming and Trade forums, and an active farmer in the Hawkes Bay.  In addition to this role, Bruce sits on the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge board.















Mr Greg Orchard

Greg is by background an accountant, and over the past two decades has provided governance and high-level strategic leadership in organisations such as Wellington City, BRANZ, and the Housing Corporation, in particular for areas related to healthy, safe and socially accessible housing. In his previous role as the Wellington City Council Chief Operating Officer he was responsible for improving the resilience of Wellington’s building stock. His experience places him in an excellent position to provide strategic local government-centred advice to the Challenge.

Mr David Middleton


David was appointed CEO of the Earthquake Commission (EQC) after a twenty year career in the insurance industry.  Since leaving EQC David has worked as an independent consultant at Kestrel Group. David is currently the Chair of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Natural Hazards Research Platform and Chair of the Strategic and Scientific User Advisory Panel that reports to the GNS Board.  In 2010 David was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and an Honorary Fellow of Engineering New Zealand.


Challenge Office

Prof. Shane Cronin

Phase 1 Director

Shane has a background in volcanology, and has published over 150 international works and supervised over 20 PhD students to completion. He is a three-time successful Marsden Fund Principal Investigator, was awarded a ~$1 million international research exchange with South Korea and led the >$8 million Living with Volcanic Risk Programme, from its inception in 2003 until 2015. With research leadership and experience in Germany, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the South West Pacific, Shane has worked on a wide spectrum of resilience areas, spanning: community engagement, emergency management, hazard, health-impacts and risk assessment as well as the fundamental underpinning processes of volcanic eruptions.


Dr Richard Smith


Richard has a hybrid background in research facilitation, disaster risk reduction policy and practice, and natural hazards research. Most recently he was Research Strategy and Investment Manager with the New Zealand Earthquake Commission (EQC), with responsibilities for EQC’s national Research Capability and Science-to-Practice programmes. Before joining EQC, Richard held various roles in the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), supporting policy and capability development and provision of science advice. Richard has a PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of Canterbury, and prior to taking up a position with MCDEM was a Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of Waikato.






Science Leadership

The science leadership team is made up of the programme leaders for each of the ten science programmes of the Resilience Challenge.

Assoc Prof Tom Wilson

Rural Laboratory

Tom is an Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury with a high-profile research track record in understanding the impacts of volcanism, earthquake and snowfall hazards on infrastructure, lifelines, agriculture and community resilience. In recent years he has contributed underpinning societal and agricultural impact measures to the major New Zealand Riskscape initiative, investigated GIS tools for evacuation planning and disaster management, and worked extensively on collaborative projects in and around the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. Producing over 50-refereed publications and several PhD graduands, Dr Wilson’s research has spanned diverse settings from Indonesia to South America.


Dr Nick Cradock-Henry

Rural Laboratory

Nick is a Senior Scientist with Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research’s Landscape Policy & Governance team. His research focuses on social-ecological system dynamics, with a particular emphasis on rural landscapes at multiple scales and across several research themes. This includes work on risk and resilience, and the impacts of earthquakes and other hazards on rural communities and agribusinesses and rural value chains (wine, kiwifruit, and dairying); climate change vulnerability and adaptation, and governance for sustainability outcomes. He is Regional Coordinator for the Earth System Governance project, and holds funding from the RSNZ Marsden Fund, MPI, NHRP, and other National Science Challenges.


Prof Suzanne Wilkinson

Urban Laboratory

Suzanne is a Professor in Construction Management at the University of Auckland and the Director of the Centre for Disaster Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction. Her research focuses on disaster recovery and reconstruction, construction contract administration and relationship management for construction projects. Suzanne has published over 150 papers in international journals and is an editorial board member of the International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment. Prof Wilkinson is a regular Keynote speaker around the world on issues concerning Recovery and Reconstruction, Building Resilience: achieving effective post-disaster reconstruction, and has worked extensively on the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence recovery process.

Assoc Prof Jon Procter

Mātauranga Māori Laboratory

Jon (Muaupoko, Ngati Apa, Ngai Tahu) has a background in Geographical Information Systems, mapping, geology and numerical mass flow modelling. He currently leads the multi-agency $2.5 million Living with Volcanic risk programme (2016-2019) and has also led a diverse range of other Māori-specific projects via MBIE, NZ Natural Hazards Research Platform, Landcare Research and variety of Iwi Authorities and Regional councils. His experience includes Māori-resource and landscape mapping and iwi-based initiatives into volcanic hazard mapping and environmental/pollution monitoring and management. Dr Procter is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University and has published over 35 papers in refereed international journals.

Prof Paul Kench

Edge Laboratory

Paul is the Head of the School of Environment at the University of Auckland. He is an international expert in coastal processes and coastal engineering including evaluating and managing the effects of climate change, anthropogenic activities, environmental variations and storm/tsunami on coastal settings. He has published over 70 papers in international journals, spanning coastal science to coastal management issues. Paul has researched in many countries around the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Awarded a Marsden grant in 2015, Prof Kench has also a long history of consulting and large-scale research programmes with a range of NZ regional authorities.

Assoc Prof Mark Dickson

Edge Laboratory

Mark is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland. He is an international expert in coastal processes and coastal management, having focussed much of his research career on understanding drivers of coastal erosion and exploring possible future shoreline changes under climatic change and coastal management activities. He has published over 50 refereed journal papers across various aspects of coastal geomorphology, engineering and management. Mark collaborates on a number of international projects, but is focussed on coastal erosion research in NZ, in which capacity he engages with a range of NZ regional authorities and consultants.

Dr Vivienne Ivory

Governance Toolbox

Vivienne is a social scientist specialising in urban environments and urban health based at Opus International Consultants. Vivienne’s expertise lies in examining the relationships between where people live, their demography and their health, including links between built and natural environments, transport, and health and wellbeing. With over 30 publications in these areas, Dr Ivory has worked following the canterbury earthquake sequence on the on-going effects of natural disasters on businesses and communities.

Dr Liam Wotherspoon

Infrastructure Toolbox

Liam is a Senior Lecturer in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Auckland. He has published over 50 articles in international journals on structural and geotechnical aspects of earthquake engineering; including soil-foundation-structure interaction and integrated response of structures and foundations (buildings and bridges), seismic response of bridges, resilience of ports, site characterisation (liquefaction studies, strong motion station characterisation) and foundation response. Dr Wotherspoon has been heavily involved in post-earthquake investigations during the Canterbury, Earthquake Sequence and is a principal researcher in QuakeCore.

Prof Brendon Bradley

Infrastructure Toolbox

Brendon is a Professor of Earthquake Engineering in the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and the Director of QuakeCoRE: The New Zealand Centre for Earthquake Resilience, which is a network of over 180 active researchers.  His areas of interest include engineering seismology, strong ground motion prediction, seismic response analysis of structural and geotechnical systems, and seismic performance and loss estimation methods.  Brendon is an editorial board member for EERI’s Earthquake Spectra and the Bulletin of the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering.  Brendon has also acted as director of Bradley Seismic Limited since 2010, providing consulting services in several areas of earthquake engineering.

Dr Garry McDonald

Economics Toolbox

Garry is a director of Market Economics Ltd, an economics consulting and research company. His research focuses on the integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability, particularly in the urban context. This includes development of dynamic and spatially explicit decision/policy support systems; ecological economics and urban/regional economics; critical infrastructure investment and interdependencies; and indicator development (e.g., full cost accounting, resilience). Garry co-developed the Measuring Economic Resilient Infrastructure Tool (MERIT). A suite of web-based and desktop decision support tools designed to assess the economic impacts, allowing modelling of critical infrastructure outages and mitigation solutions. These tools are used by Vector, Watercare Services and Lyttelton Port Company and for major ex ante natural hazard events associated with the Auckland volcanic field and Alpine fault.

Dr Julia Becker

Culture Toolbox

Julia is a senior lecturer at the Joint Centre for Disaster Research in the School of Psychology at Massey University. She specialises in research on community resilience, land-use planning for natural hazards, and hazard-event warnings. Julia works on the interface between individual and community preparedness and resilience for a range of hazards. She has worked extensively in Canterbury before and during the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. As well as working closely with the Ministry for Civil Defence and Emergency Management and regional Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups, she has also worked in Australia, USA and Indonesia on social issues of hazard and disaster.


Prof David Johnston

Culture Toolbox

David is director of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research in the School of Psychology at Massey University and Deputy Director of QuakeCoRE, NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience. His research has developed as part of multi-disciplinary theoretical and applied research programme, involving the collaboration of physical and social scientists from several organisations and countries.  His research focuses on human responses to volcano, tsunami, earthquake and weather warnings, crisis decision-making and the role of public education and participation in building community resilience and recovery. In 2016 he became co-chair of World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) High Impact Weather Project (HIWeather) steering group. This follows his role as the chair of the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk Scientific Committee (IRDR) (2013-2015), a programme co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISCC), and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). He is the editor of The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies; and was the founding editor of the Journal of Applied Volcanology.

Prof Mark Bebbington

Hazard Toolbox

Mark is a Professor of Geostatistics in the Statistics Group of the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey University. His research interests include stochastic modelling, especially in geophysics, inference and computational methods for stochastic processes, and reliability and statistical quality control. Mark has published over 100 international journal papers and received over 20 contestable research grants; with a focus on developing methods for assessing and forecasting natural hazard risks, especially volcanic and earthquake hazards. He is also an associate editor for the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics.

Dr Joanne Stevenson

Trajectories Toolbox

Over the past decade Joanne has accumulated post-disaster research and consulting experience in several countries, examining recovery and resilience of communities, economies, and organisations. She was awarded her MSc (distinction) in 2007 from the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina and her PhD in Geography and Commerce from the University of Canterbury in 2014. Joanne has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on recovery, resilience, and network analysis. She enjoys grappling with complex systems and developing practical solutions to work with these. Joanne also farms in partnership with her family on a commercial sheep and beef property where the risks and opportunities of running a business in a dynamic environment are lived every day.

Dr John Vargo

Trajectories Toolbox

John is a co-director of ResOrgs Ltd. His research interests lie in building organisational resilience in the face of systemic insecurity. John was a practicing Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the US and was involved in industry for over 30 years. In addition to his academic role, John has filled a range of senior management roles at the University of Canterbury including Pro Vice-Chancellor (Business and Economics), Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer. As a researcher Dr Vargo has led several major MBIE and NZ Natural Hazards Research Platform programmes working on private sector and business resilience during the canterbury earthquake sequence.