Rural Theme


Prof Tom Wilson

Programme Co-Leader

University of Canterbury


Dr Caroline Orchiston

Programme Co-Leader

University of Otago



New Zealand’s rural landscapes and communities are an iconic part of our national identity and a key economic driver, through our productive primary industries, and our tourism industry attracting hundreds of thousands of international visitors annually.

Following the success of Phase 1, the Rural programme will work with agricultural producers, the tourism sector and key rural groups that underpin New Zealand’s rural communities and economies. A resilient New Zealand requires our rural sector to thrive, so a core priority is developing evidence-based solutions for rural resilience using a co-creation approach for key industries (dairy, high-value horticulture, sheep/beef, and forestry) to ensure value-chain resilience and policies to support rural well-being.

In the case of rural communities, particularly those with high hazard pressures and high disaster vulnerability, our research will focus on rural-specific resilience solutions – extending from experiences gained in phase 1, such as in Kaikōura, North Canterbury and the West Coast, to new partnerships in new case study locations to create widely applicable knowledge and tools for other at-risk rural communities around New Zealand.

Tourism-specific research objectives will address a significant gap in understanding of tourism disaster resilience in rural New Zealand.  This will be the most comprehensive tourism and disasters programme to date. Key themes focused on tourists/transients, tourism organisations and tourism governance will inform the development of targeted resilience solutions using scenario-based approaches that meet the needs of the tourism industry.




Disaster Resilient Outcomes for Rural New Zealand

Rural communities and value chains are vulnerable to a range of slow and rapid onset hazards, including climatic and geophysical hazards, and social, economic, cultural and political drivers which create a complex yet dynamic setting to build disaster resilience.

This project will co-produce and broker innovative solutions for enhancing the resilience of rural New Zealand. It will tailor tools, strategies and resources specifically for rural communities, businesses, and support systems.

Project lead: Dr Caroline Orchiston (University of Otago)


Rural Disaster Risk Decision-Making

A foundation of disaster risk management is understanding the hazards, the exposure and vulnerability of people and assets to those hazards. By quantifying the risks and anticipating the potential impacts of hazards, governments, industries, communities, and individuals can make informed decisions on resilience.  

This work stream will produce an integrated national framework for valuing, promoting, incentivising and assessing resilience across rural value chains, from households to regions and small to global-scale agribusinesses. 

Project lead: Prof Thomas Wilson (University of Canterbury)


Understanding our 21st century rural communities & industries for a disaster resilient NZ

This project aims to better understand the disaster risk and resilience of specific rural communities and industries, including rural Māori communities, Māori agribusiness and tourism interests in Nelson/Tasman, and other under-researched communities including temporary migrant communities in rural Aotearoa, and rural lifestyle block owners.

Project leads: Prof Tom Wilson (University of Canterbury), Dr Nick Cradock-Henry (Manaaki Whenua)


Disaster Resilient Rural New Zealand Co-creation

The Rural programme is dedicated to finding innovative solutions for enhancing the resilience of rural New Zealand, to better protect these integral and potentially vulnerable communities and enable them to thrive in the face of natural hazard risks.  Central to this approach will be using and extending the co-creation approaches successfully tried and tested during Phase 1.

Project leads: Rural – Dr Sarah Beaven (University of Canterbury); Taranaki – Prof Tom Wilson (University of Canterbury); AF8 – Dr Caroline Orchiston (Otago University);


Rural team develops provisional guidelines for research collaboration

The Rural research team has developed provisional guidelines to support their collaborations with research partners and stakeholders. The guidelines follow and build upon those developed for Phase 1 of the Challenge (2016-2020). To accompany this document, you can also view their Guiding Principles for Human Interactions after Disasters (Beavan, 2016), developed after the Kaikōura earthquake and widely used since then.

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Using data sensors to understand tourist disaster risk

Mat Darling is a PhD student at the University of Canterbury, and his research seeks to better understand the disaster risk exposure of tourists in New Zealand. Mat is using new data sources to track real time movements of tourists, in order to help emergency managers plan more accurately for natural hazard event response in tourist hotspots.

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Impact case studies 

Our impact case studies for 2019-20 showcase the impact of Challenge research, and many of these feature the work of the Rural team. 


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Tourism & COVID-19: Webinar recording

If you missed our webinar on ‘Tourism & COVID-19: Opportunities & challenges for rural communities’ you can catch a recording on our YouTube channel.

 View webinar >



Student profile: Finn Scheele

In a natural hazard event, what are the factors that lead to loss of habitability and population displacement? What preparation, response and recovery actions could help keep communities together?

These are questions Finn Scheele is exploring in his PhD through the University of Canterbury, supported by a scholarship from our Rural programme. 



Student profile: Lucia Danzi

Lucia has been unable to travel to New Zealand from Italy to begin her PhD with the Rural team, so with the support of her supervisors Lucia is getting started in Verona. Lucia’s PhD focuses on tourism, emergency management and rural disaster resilience, a timely topic for 2020!



Student profile: Lydia Michela Maireriki

Lydia comes from Maryland, USA and has a Master’s degree in Disaster Risk and Resilience from the University of Canterbury. Now Lydia has started her PhD under our Rural theme, looking at what it means to be a resilient tourist in a resilient tourism system in Aotearoa New Zealand.



Q&A with Dr Caroline Orchiston

For the 2019 International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we interviewed our Rural programme co-leader Dr Caroline Orchiston, about her background, her research, and her aspirations for the future. 

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