Phase 1 Urban

Prof Suzanne Wilkinson

Programme Leader

Massey University




Over 80% of New Zealand’s population live in our urban areas, and growth in these cities continues to rise. Auckland will have more than 60% of New Zealand’s population growth over the next 30 years, and the city is prone to a wide range of natural hazards. With a focus on Auckland, the Resilient Cities programme is working to create new knowledge and to integrate, implement and build on tools that enable cities in New Zealand to adapt and transform with urban change whilst building their resilience to natural hazards.

This is being done through the development of a framework for evaluating city resilience to natural hazards in the New Zealand context, and by building an inter-city expertise collaborative network to advance implementation of resilience tools and measures. Case studies based in Auckland are also being used to develop an operating Resilient Cities model.



Feature: Student Profile

Niransha Rodrigo

Niransha is an Urban programme PhD student studying ‘Anchor Projects’ which are intended to boost local recovery after a natural disaster.

Read more >




Resilient Cities Network Development

Developing a consensus of solutions (resilience tools, measures and indicators) that will create a New Zealand city resilient to natural hazards.

Project lead: Prof Suzanne Wilkinson

Host: The University of Auckland


Resilient Auckland Planning

Placing the Auckland Council’s Strategic Plan under a resilience “lens” to trace future land use under planned scenarios of population and economic growth. The project is testing longer-term simulated environments in Auckland, and reporting key resilience measures for the different options.

Project lead: Dr Garry McDonald

Host: Market Economics and University of Auckland


Resilient Auckland Communities

Developing resilient Auckland communities, with a focus on African, Pacific Island, Refugee and Asian communities.

Project lead: Assoc Prof Jay Marlowe and Prof Andreas Neef

Host: The University of Auckland


Resilient Auckland Businesses

Identifying vulnerabilities in the business sector, and assisting with the development and testing of mechanisms to make Auckland businesses resilient.

Project lead: Dr Alice Chang-Richards

Host: The University of Auckland


Resilient Auckland Infrastructure

Developing and testing resilience indicators for infrastructure networks with an initial focus on transport for the Auckland region, then moving onto other infrastructure types (water, electricity, telecommunications).

Project lead: Assoc Prof Seosamh Costello

Host: The University of Auckland


Resilience in Auckland’s South East Asian Communities

This project, funded through the Challenge’s contestable funding process in 2017, is working to understand how particular South East Asian communities (Cambodian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippine, Thai and Vietnamese) identify, conceptualise and prepare for natural hazards in Auckland.

Project lead: Dr Jesse Grayman

Host: The University of Auckland


Feature: The role of Buddhist pagodas in Auckland’s natural disaster preparedness, response and recovery

Around 8% of Auckland’s population doesn’t speak English, and these people are particularly vulnerable during a natural disaster. 

Places of worship such as Buddhist pagodas might have a role to play before, during and after a natural disaster for the resilience of South East Asian communities. 

Read more >


Key Achievements


Resilience of migrant groups

In a current project looking at resilience in Auckland communities, we are interviewing members of key migrant groups (African, Pacific Island, South East Asian). The work of this project was heavily featured in this article in NZ Geographic.


PhD students

The PhD team aligned with this programme has grown to 6 with a new PhD student starting on 1 March 2018, looking at ‘Business Resilience and Best Practice’.



Significant, regular stakeholder engagement nationally and regionally, in particular with Auckland Council. Already Auckland Council is changing the way it integrates resilience into its planning.




City-to-city network development project

We completed the first phase of a city-to-city network development project, which was an evaluation of the current state of resilience of the seven biggest cities in NZ: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier and Dunedin.  The findings from this study were published in the report: “Building Urban Resilience in New Zealand: Lessons from our Major Cities”, available here


Auckland Resilience

The first phase of an Auckland resilience assessments project based on the UNISDR Local Urban Indicators (LUI) tool was completed, and a report was generated for Auckland Council to consider in developing their future resilience plans.


Feature: Resilience in civil infrastructure firms

Civil infrastructure firms fix our roads, power lines and sewers after natural hazard events like earthquakes. Their services are vital to our recovery after an event, but how resilient are the businesses themselves?

Read more >

Thesis Research Students

Ede Odiase (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Urbanisation and Disaster Risk: Assessing the Resilience of Urban Communities in Auckland to the Risk of Natural Hazards.

Heiman Dianat (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Assessing Auckland City Resilience: Lessons from Using the Local Urban Indicators (LUI) Assessment Tool.

April Ayral (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Community Resilience to improve postdisaster recovery through build back better: A case from Nepal earthquake.

Mostafa Baghersad (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Developing a tool for assessing and improving the resilience of water supply system.

Elrasheid Elkhidir (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Development of an urban collaboration mode to improve resilience in New Zealand.

Gerald Kwazu (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Business resilience and the best practice.

Marina Drazba (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Managing the risk, not the disaster. Building community resilience in the face of Landslide Risk.

Affiliated with other Resilience Challenge programmes

Robert Cardwell (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Application of Integrated Land Use – Economic Models to Hazard Management Strategy and Planning (Economics programme)

Mujaddad Afzal (PhD at The University of Auckland) – Mass evacuation of cities under impending natural hazards (Infrastructure programme)


Feature: Student Profile

Heiman Dianat

Originally from Iran, Heiman holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and has experience in the construction industry. 

Heiman’s PhD project aims to assess Auckland’s disaster resilience based on the United Nations​ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Read more >

Selected publications

Marlowe, J., Neef, A.,  Tevaga, C. A., Tevaga, C. (2018). A New Guiding Framework for Engaging Diverse Populations in Disaster Risk Reduction: Reach, Relevance, Receptiveness, and Relationships. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science.

Mannakkara, S. & Wilkinson, S. (eds) (2017). Building Urban Resilience in New Zealand: Lessons from our major cities. Centre for Disaster Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction, University of Auckland.

Aliakbarlou, S., Wilkinson, S., Costello, SB  & Jang, H. (2017). Client values within post-disaster reconstruction contracting services, Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal 26 (3), 348-360

Chang-Richards, Y., Wilkinson, S., Seville, E. & Brunsdon, D. (2017). An organizational capability framework for earthquake recovery, Earthquake Spectra.

Egbelakin, T., Wilkinson, S., Ingham, J., Potangaroa, R. & Sajoudi, M. (2017). Incentives and Motivators for Improving Building Resilience to Earthquake Disaster, Natural Hazards Review 18 (4), 04017008




  Urban programme details