Student profile: Anna-Kay Spaulding Agbenyegah
Post-disaster recovery from a high-impact weather event in Auckland
I am currently a PhD candidate in Disaster Management at Massey University’s School of Construction and the Built Environment.
I am an outgoing nature lover, who loves to read religious books and have a great interest in travelling. I was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, and was raised within a humble inner-city community in Kencot, Kingston, Jamaica.
I studied a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica and further did post-graduate studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where I successfully completed a Masters of Disaster Management with first-class honours. I believe that women have a pivotal role to play in this sector and so in addition to creating tangible technical outputs for national and regional development, I also mentored young female interns in the field of disaster management, geospatial technologies, and development planning.
My interest in cartography and spatial analysis led me to play a key role in the development of the Negril Risk Atlas in Jamaica under an Enhancing Coastal Resilience Project, currently being used to assist planners when making development decisions in the region. In October 2017, I led a team to successfully execute a national GIS conference which hosted over 500 people.
My favorite phrase is “Never Say I Can’t” because all things are possible with proper planning, great team-work, communication, and great determination. I love people! And I would like to think that my passion for people and seeing the vulnerable bounce back from increased hardships faced as a result of disasters has led me to this project.
Receiving a PhD scholarship from the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Urban programme has allowed me to start the journey to becoming a useful expert with skills in resilience and disaster management that will be beneficial to humanity.
My PhD is about post-disaster recovery from high-impact weather events in Auckland. Let’s face it, disasters have no boundaries; they can affect us all at any time in any spatial location. Auckland’s geographic location and unique physical characteristics make the region susceptible to multi-hazards and high weather-related disaster events induced by climate change. This, coupled with the projected population increase in Auckland will proliferate the risk of disasters which may potentially lead to loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and communities.
Additionally, with the likely threat of climate change projections for New Zealand, by the end of the century, the country is likely to experience higher temperatures, rising seas levels, more frequent extreme weather events, and a change in rainfall patterns.
My research aims to study three or more of the most exposed communities in Auckland to high-impact weather events using existing vulnerability models to ascertain people’s exposure and their vulnerability to high weather events. Secondly, to assess each community’s recovery timeframes, and key factors that make them resilient and recover quickly from disasters. I will also be doing a comparative analysis scenario study of a ‘high impact’ versus ‘low impact’ recovery of coastal communities, with a focus on what makes them resilient, and what needs to be done to make them even more resilient.
Undertaking this PhD project will include developing a strategic futuristic recovery and resilience plan. It is important to understand that to strategically plan for a resilient nation, as one of the key goals of the Resilience Challenge, it is critical to incorporate resilience as a priority in community planning. This would facilitate the creation of ground-rules for agencies to implement in their strategic recovery planning process.
My interest is enhancing Auckland’s capability to quickly recover from disasters, by collaboration among sectors; managing risks, effective response to and recovery from emergencies, and fostering community resilience. With this project underway, I believe it will add value to the resilience and development planning sector.