Media release

Resilience Challenge: Phase 2 invests in innovative natural hazard research

8 December 2019

The Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Phase 2 research programme involves nearly $40 million of investment into innovative natural hazards research.

Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Kia manawaroa – Ngā Ākina o Te Ao Tūroa is one of 11 National Science Challenges funded by government to tackle the big science issues facing Aotearoa New Zealand.

The mission of the Challenge is to deliver innovative research that New Zealanders can use to accelerate our resilience to ever-changing natural hazards.

“We have focused Phase 2 of the Challenge around two major themes that reflect the most pressing priorities for natural hazards research,” says Challenge Director Dr Richard Smith.

“In the Multihazard Risk Model, we’re investing in exciting new research to advance our understanding of natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, coastal hazards, weather and wildfires.”

“We are pairing this new knowledge with social, economic and cultural research in the Resilience in Practice Model – to develop tools to ensure resilience becomes part of daily decision making in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Dr Smith.

The Multihazard Risk Model will invest nearly $19.5 million over five years, while the Resilience in Practice Model involves an investment of $15 million over five years.

Dr Smith says a key principle of the Resilience Challenge research programme is the deep collaboration between partner organisations, and researchers.

“We’re a collaboration of 13 research organisations and our Phase 2 programme involves around 100 researchers. We’re bringing the best research teams together, across institutions and disciplines.”

Users of the Challenge’s research, such as councils, lifeline companies, and emergency management groups, will be closely involved in designing it, says Dr Smith.

“We know that research must be targeted and functional for users to translate into policy and practice. By partnering with users from the start, we can ensure we meet their needs.”

“As well as being the focus of a dedicated science theme, we seek to integrate mātaraunga Māori and kaupapa Māori throughout all our science themes.”

Dr Smith says the Challenge team is particularly excited about the investment in 68 PhD students, double the number of students funded in Phase 1. “This investment will boost capability in the natural hazards risk and resilience field.”




Note: All funding figures given over five years. 

The overarching Multihazard Risk Model comprises five science themes:

Earthquake and Tsunami

– hosted by the University of Canterbury, $4.12 million

Aim: Generate synthetic earthquakes using computer models, which will enable new avenues of research to assess and forecast ground shaking, liquefaction, landslides and tsunami.

Co-leaders: Prof Andy Nicol (University of Canterbury) and Dr Bill Fry (GNS Science)



  • hosted by Massey University, $4.03 million

Aim: Develop new models to forecast volcanic eruptions, their multiple hazards, and their complex impacts on our businesses, infrastructure and communities.

Co-leaders: Assoc Prof Jon Procter (Massey University) and Dr Arthur Jolly (GNS Science)



  • hosted by The University of Auckland, $3.9 million

Aim: Develop a national framework for assessing New Zealand’s changing coastline and vulnerability to flooding, and to develop consistent and implementable tools and guidance to assist decision-making agencies with the challenge of coastal adaptation in the face of rising seas.

Co-leaders: Dr Rob Bell (NIWA) and Assoc Prof Mark Dickson (The University of Auckland)


Weather and Wildfire

– hosted by NIWA, $2.9 million

Aim: To use three extreme scenarios (ex-tropical cyclone, wildfire, and extreme winter storm) to quantify impacts on infrastructure and communities, and develop mitigation solutions.

Co-leaders: Dr Richard Turner (NIWA) and Dr Sally Potter (GNS Science)


Multihazard Risk

– hosted by Massey University, $4.5 million

Aim: Merge hazard, risk and socio-economic impact modelling tools for multiple hazards, to support better decision-making and planning.

Co-leaders: Prof Mark Bebbington (Massey University) and Dr Garry McDonald (Market Economics)


The overarching Resilience in Practice Model comprises five science themes:


– hosted by the University of Canterbury, $2.5 million

Aim: Work with agricultural producers, the tourism sector and rural communities in key locations to create widely applicable knowledge and tools for at-risk rural communities around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Co-leaders: Prof Tom Wilson (University of Canterbury) and Dr Caroline Orchiston (University of Otago)



– hosted by The University of Auckland, $2 million

Aim: Investigate how innovative technologies can be harnessed to create resilient cities, how to enable demographically diverse urban communities to become advocates for resilience, and how to best integrate resilience knowledge into urban governance.

Co-leaders: Prof David Johnston (Massey University) and Assoc Prof Jan Lindsay (The University of Auckland)


Built Environment

– hosted by The University of Auckland, $4.25 million

Aim: Develop new tools and approaches to support the improved performance and repairability of our buildings and infrastructure. Case studies in urban and rural settings, including a major earthquake scenario in the North Island, will provide an assessment of the complex impacts and vulnerabilities across the built environment.

Co-leaders: Assoc Prof Liam Wotherspoon (The University of Auckland) and Prof Tim Sullivan (University of Canterbury)


Mātauranga Māori | Whanake te Kura i Tawhiti Nui

– hosted by Massey University, $2.83 million

Aim: To increase the visibility, understanding and transformational potential of mātauranga Māori in natural hazard research and resilience.

Co-leaders: Dr Acushla Dee Sciascia (Massey University) and Dr Wendy Saunders (GNS Science)


Resilience in Practice

– hosted by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, $3.5 million

Aim: To provide new tools and guidance to support the increased uptake of resilience policy, practice and investment.

Co-leaders: Dr Nick Cradock-Henry (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research) and Dr Julia Becker (Massey University)

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