I was born and raised in Damghan city, which was the capital of Iran during the Parthian Empire. Damghan has many ancient monuments and is a tourist attraction. The city is also famous for its trade in pistachios and ‘kaghazi’ almonds with very thin shells.
At high school I focused on the mathematics and physics stream. Growing up with my profound interest in engineering science, I pursued undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering, and as a fresh graduate, I joined a construction company as a site engineer in Iran. Since I was looking forward to broadening my knowledge and experiences, I decided to pursue my masters studies abroad.
I graduated in Master of Structural Engineering and Construction program from University Putra Malaysia. Upon completion of my masters, I started working as a research assistant and a lecturer in Malaysia. I spent four years as a research assistant at the University of Malaya with eight patents and seven publications, and a further four years at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology as a Faculty coordinator and lecturer; teaching undergraduate students, leading the faculty team and providing the full range of student services.
I decided to push myself forward to new experiences and challenges by continuing my studies at PhD level. I started my research at the University of Auckland under the supervision of Professor Suzanne Wilkinson in the broad area of Smart and Resilient Cities, and how these two notions can be compiled. I believe that my interdisciplinary and international background, along with Suzanne’s supervision, will allow me to complete this large-scale project effectively.
The research aims to propose novel frameworks that could establish and further the idea that resilience could support urban ‘smartness,’ a term that is widely argued as not being easily measured nor quantifiably assessed. While the smart city concept relies on the roll-out of technology to improve urban standards, the idea of resilience prepares the city against any catastrophic events allowing it to absorb, adapt and transform external pressures and improve public safety.
Smart city and urban resilience are both contemporary concepts that evolved to further sustain urban livelihoods, by offering strategic solutions to issues arising from population growth and human activities. Smart cities use technological means to improve city services and enhance the urban system, resulting in the city’s resiliency, which simultaneously determines urban sustainability.
I am in the first year of my PhD studies. Based on discussions with my supervisor Suzanne, I plan to publish four journal papers in the first year of study by using the proposed frameworks and hypothetical cases. Later on, a comprehensive indicator bank for Smart and Resilient Cities will be proposed and the novel frameworks will be examined in real cities like Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto and Vancouver.
It is our pleasure to announce the call for applications for the newly established Urban Resilience Innovation & Collaboration Hub. The purpose of the fund is to support research and research-related activities that seek to promote urban resilience in New Zealand. The fund will provide up to $10,000 (excluding GST) to successful applicants for projects that add value to the existing work within the Urban Theme of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge.
We welcome proposals for research projects, engagement activities enabling partnerships, activities that facilitate implementation and impact of urban resilience research, or projects that incorporate any combination of the above.
Any researcher or research stakeholder or partner with an interest in urban resilience can apply. We particularly encourage applications from the emergency management sector and from Māori and/or Pasifika researchers and research partners.
Applications close on Friday 17 July 2020. Successful applicants will be notified by 7 August 2020 and projects will commence from September 2020. Projects can run for up to two years.
Q. Tēnā koe Jan. First of all, congratulations on your recent promotion to Professor!
Tēnā koe. Thank you. To be honest it still feels quite surreal! I think it is important to acknowledge that an academic career is built on collaborations – with mentors, students, fellow researchers and teachers, funders…and I wouldn’t have achieved promotion to Professor without the great mahi of all my collaborators. I hope they all realise how much I appreciate them!
Q. How did you get into volcanology? Have you always been fascinated with volcanoes?
Although I grew up in Rotorua surrounded by volcanoes it was only when I hit university that I developed an interest in Earth Science. Ironically, I didn’t do much science at high school and went to university to study languages and linguistics (English and German) with the aim of becoming a teacher! I took two Geology papers in my first year for fun, to fill a gap in my timetable because the description in the prospectus sounded interesting. It didn’t take long before I was hooked – and over the next 3 years converted from a BA to a BSc, and I guess the rest is history. I became specifically interested in volcanoes when I did my MSc on Hauturu – Little Barrier Island volcano in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.
Q. I understand you’re the first woman Professor of Volcanology in New Zealand. Do you have thoughts on how can we inspire more girls and women to take up earth sciences, and support them into leadership roles?
There are about 6 or 7 people in Aotearoa New Zealand that would probably identify as Professors of Volcanology, and yes I am the only woman. In Earth Science as a whole it is not much better – I believe I am just one of 2 or 3 active female Earth Science Professors. We actually have a good number of women studying Earth Science and going on to do postgraduate study, but there are so few positions available after students finish their PhD that they often hit a wall and change career path or head overseas. More support for postdoctoral fellowships would make a big difference.
Q. You’re co-leading the Urban theme for Phase 2 of the Challenge. What drew you to working on a National Science Challenge?
I was only peripherally involved in the first phase of the Challenge, and was really happy when the opportunity came up to join Phase 2 as theme leader for Urban. What drew me to it was the desire to be part of a great team with a great Kaupapa – the Theme leaders across the challenge are all exceptional researchers who are committed to a resilient future for Aotearoa, to nurturing the next generation of researchers, and to enhancing Mātauranga Māori, all things I fully support.
Q. What parts of the Urban research programme are you most excited about?
I am really excited about a new collaboration with law Professor John Hopkins at the University of Canterbury looking at governance around disaster response in the event of an Auckland Volcanic Field eruption. This particular project is co-funded by DEVORA (see below) and is an exciting addition to current research on Auckland’s volcanoes. The premise is if we can front-foot governance structures, laws and plans to be optimised for resilience and recovery we can reduce the shock and impact of a future event.
Q. You also co-lead the multi-agency, interdisiplinary research programme DEVORA (Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland). Can you tell us a bit about that?
DEVORA is a multi-agency research programme co-led by myself and Graham Leonard (GNS Science) and funded by EQC and Auckland Council. Our research ranges from fundamental geological, petrological and geophysical studies on the nature of the Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF) to assessment of impacts and risk of a future eruption. The programme has been active for over 10 years and we have made some really important advances in understanding the AVF and the enormous economic, social and physical impacts that an eruption would have. A really important outcome is our whakawhanaungatanga, especially the relationship building between our researchers and Auckland Emergency Management. We also have an active steering committee of representatives from EQC and Auckland Council who help define research priorities, and we put a lot of effort into outreach via community events such as the Auckland Heritage Festival and our Facebook page.
Q. You’ve spent a lot of time studying and working overseas – in Germany, Chile, and the Carribean. How have these experiences influenced your research interests here?
My MSc supervisor Ian Smith used to say that volcanology is the ‘adventure science’, and I have indeed been lucky in my career to have had many adventures around the world. My experience overseas in seeing how people (in general) and authorities (in particular) interact with volcanic hazard and risk information really sparked my interest in volcanic hazard and risk communication, which I now focus a lot on here. For example, I have done field work to assess volcanic hazard in several overseas volcanic regions where authorities have instructed me not to mention to anyone what I was there for. In other places I have seen school children totally embrace the idea that they live on an active volcano and soak up information about their hazard and risk. These sorts of encounters have definitely shaped my research interests back in New Zealand, where I am really interested not only in how volcanoes work but how we might communicate what they might do in the future, for example via hazard maps or eruption forecasting or decision-making tools.
Q. What are your future aspirations?
Other than to continue to work with an amazing group of students and researchers, I would love to see an increase in participation of Māori and Pasifika researchers in the Earth Sciences and aspire to support initiatives that aim to do just that.
Disaster risk reduction and building code amendment in post-disaster reconstruction in New Zealand
A bit about me
I was born in Owerri, the capital of Imo state which is located in the eastern part of a multi-cultural country in Africa called Nigeria. I gained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (B.Eng) and my first master’s degree in structural engineering (first class honours), both from the Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria. My desire to know more about disasters in the built environment and how I can contribute to reducing their impact propelled me to obtain my second master’s degree in Natural Hazards and Risks in Structural Engineering (NHRE) from Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany. I also have several years of working experience as a structural engineer, site engineer and research assistant.
I moved to New Zealand in 2018 to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Auckland and to learn more about disasters. I enjoy playing football, cooking and practising my German language. My interest lies in finding solutions to hazards in the human-built environment.
My PhD research focuses on the impact of rebuilding New Zealand cities with amended building code compliance documents, with emphasis on Christchurch and Kaikōura. To do this, I will identify the impacts of building code amendments on post-disaster reconstruction, and examine the process of building code amendment and its relationship to disaster risk reduction.
I am using the 2010/2011 Christchurch earthquake and 2016 Kaikōura earthquake as my case studies. The knowledge gained from these case studies will be used to check the preparedness of Auckland and Wellington, particularly in the context of the anticipated ground shaking in Wellington. The aim of this research is to provide recommendations on how to reduce the impact of earthquakes in post-disaster reconstruction and inform building code regulators on how to improve the code adaptation process through a developed framework. My supervisors are Professor Suzanne Wilkinson and Associate Professor Charles Clifton.
My first phase of data collection started in April 2019. This involves administering questionnaires to building code regulators, building and construction industry, building consent authorities, government officials and other stakeholders. The data I obtain will then be validated with existing literature. The aim of this phase is to develop an understanding of the impact of building code compliance document amendments on post-disaster reconstruction.
The second phase of my research will involve conducting semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders. This will focus on using the gained knowledge to check the preparedness and mitigation strategies in place for Wellington.
Although the entire project is challenging, I enjoy exploring New Zealand performance building code and relating it to post-disaster reconstruction processes. I am planning to continue the research work by using knowledge, results, and developed frameworks in other cities globally.
‘Anchor projects’ as cornerstones of city-rebuilding post-disaster
A bit about me
I’m from Sri Lanka, the island paradise of the Indian Ocean. I’m currently a second year Civil Engineering doctoral candidate at The University of Auckland. I initially completed my BA (Honours) in Economics at the University of Colombo whilst also reading for a Professional Post-Graduate qualification in Marketing. I then went to the UK where I did an MSc in Project Management and that led me to my current research in New Zealand in the area of disaster management. I’ve specialised in vastly different subject areas and I strongly believe that this sets me apart from the typical engineer. I believe knowledge in many areas is an added bonus when working in teams because knowing more gives one more control over the process.
Even though my research focuses on disaster management, there is a huge part of me that loves art, languages and creativity in any form. As a result, I learnt French and then at one point started giving lessons too! I’m also totally into nature these days. I have fallen for the natural beauty of New Zealand and it has brought out the photographer, voyager and nature lover in me.
A disaster marks a remarkable turn-around for a country, whether it is economic, social, political or a fusion of all three. Therefore, it is crucial that governments make the best decisions with regard to their post-disaster rebuilding. In the recent past, the world has witnessed cities being rebuilt through key public projects. These are also known as Anchor projects, Priority Projects, Catalyst Projects or Flagship projects. The main objective of these projects is to aid the rebuilding of cities post-disaster. Substantial investment, resources and time are dedicated to these. It is expected that these projects are pioneers in economic regeneration and are focal points in the urban plan following a disaster.
My work is mainly focused on understanding these key public projects that have been undertaken by governments in the developed world following large natural disasters. I’m using the case studies of the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes and Australia’s 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria. In Christchurch only a handful of projects out of the proposed 17 have been completed 9 years down the line (see the map of proposed Christchurch Anchor Projects below).
In Australia, although the projects were completed on time, whether they have delivered what was expected remains to be seen. Planning, decision-making, resource management and project portfolio management may have contributed to the negativity surrounding them.
I will start my first phase of data collection in March, 2019. This will involve conducting one on one semi-structured interviews with government officials in both Victoria and Canterbury. I hope to gain an understanding of the planning process and the project management issues. The data gathered will be validated against findings from focus group discussions involving all stakeholders, including government officials, architects, contractors and the end users of these establishments. This phase will shed light on how planning and project management affect the end results of these projects. It is expected that my research will deepen the understanding of the role of anchor projects in post-disaster rebuilding efforts of the government. I will also produce best practice decision-making guidelines for future reference of the respective governments.
I am excited about the potential of this research as one of the few studies focusing on the role of public projects following a natural disaster. I also hope that the decision-making guidelines I produce will help governments make better decisions around post-disaster planning and government spending.
Niransha’s PhD is being supervised by Professor Suzanne Wilkinson and Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara and is being partially funded by the Resilience Challenge.
Auckland Emergency Management: Working with Auckland’s Pacific Peoples
By Rohan Jaduram, Resilience and Welfare Advisor, Auckland Emergency Management
Auckland is home to the largest Pasifika population in the world. Pacific peoples make up 15% of Auckland’s population, but generally have very little awareness of hazards in the Auckland region (more detail on this is outlined in The University of Auckland’s ‘Pacific Island Leader Perspectives and Anticipated Responses to Natural Hazards in Auckland’ study which offers an in depth understanding of Auckland’s Pacific community). For many Pacific peoples in Auckland, English is also their second language. This means that developing language-specific emergency preparedness resources is vitally important to ensure that individuals and communities are prepared and able to take action, before, during and after an emergency.
As part of the Resilient Auckland Communities project, researchers have been working with Auckland Council on a Pacific Island Community focused project. This has involved Auckland Emergency Management identifying ways to improve communications and engagement with non-English speakers and migrants, including Pacific peoples.
The University of Auckland study mentioned above validated Auckland Emergency Management going beyond their normal communication and engagement work with Pacific peoples by, for example, translating information on hazards, risks and preparedness into Samoan, Tonga and Fijian, to help inform how we will do things in the future.
Auckland Council has developed best practice guidelines for translations. The guideline identifies Samoan and Tongan as one of the most commonly spoken languages other than English, and identifies Pacific peoples as a community with a higher percentage of people who don’t speak English. The guidelines have been useful in allowing Auckland Emergency Management to determine which Pacific community languages should be translated both regionally and across Auckland’s 21 local boards.
After the Christchurch earthquakes the Christchurch Migrant Inter-Agency Group developed a ‘lessons learned’ report that underscored the importance of having translated material. Translating hazard, risk and preparedness information into Pacific languages has been a first step to getting emergency preparedness understood by Pacific peoples. Language-specific resources allow us to more effectively engage with those Pacific communities already passionate and motivated to become more prepared.
The protection and promotion of community languages has assumed greater urgency in the last ten years with the increased ethnic diversity in Auckland and the decline of some community languages. Pacific peoples, for example, have witnessed significant language loss. Within this cultural context, Auckland Emergency Management has worked collaboratively with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples in supporting various Pacific language weeks.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples works closely with Pacific communities to maintain and promote community languages by running annual language weeks. They coordinate with key community groups such as Fa’alapotopotoga mo le A’oa’oina o le Gagana Samoa i Aotearoa, who have been organising Samoan Language Week for the last ten years. Auckland Emergency Management’s involvement with the language weeks has enabled connection to a much wider narrative around acknowledging and celebrating cultural diversity, while sharing and promoting messages about building a resilient Auckland with our diverse communities in their language.
Auckland Council, which Auckland Emergency Management is part of, works where there are net benefits for communities, not exclusively in emergency management. In this regard, they have increased their presence in recognised ‘cultural spaces’ such as community festivals and cultural programmes. A particular highlight was being invited to ‘go live’ with an audio-visual resource developed by their public education team at the launch of Tongan Language Week held at the Auckland Museum. The resource features an interview with a Tongan family displaced during the West Auckland floods in March 2017. The resource was widely shared on social media, resulting in a significant increase and presence on Pacific focused social media sites.
The above actions and initiatives represent phase one in Auckland Emergency Management’s communication and engagement with Pacific communities. However, this phase did not involve input from the community. Hazard and risk communication approaches have traditionally had limited opportunity for community engagement and influence. This is an area where considerable improvement can be achieved by integrating the learnings from the University of Auckland’s Pacific Island Leader study and co-designing disaster communication for Pacific communities in phase two.
The study promotes best practice models that are community driven and agency supported. Key recommendations, such as engaging with Pacific communities when disaster occurs in the Pacific, developing a polymedia communication strategy, working across Church-based communities where possible, and working with elders and leaders, including emerging young leaders, are the drivers Auckland Emergency Management will look at including in their work.
Phase two will have a strong collaborative component which will build on the relationship developed with The Ministry for Pacific Peoples, which is seen as a trusted source of information, and includes a good representation across a range of organisations. This will involve undertaking a series of community workshops in partnership with The University of Auckland and New Zealand Red Cross.
These workshops will facilitate co-development of information and resources with the community. It builds on Auckland Emergency Management’s participatory and inclusive approach and the approach is further endorsed by the Pacific Island Leader study. The workshops will use the Effective Hazards and Risk Communications programme to seek feedback on how best to communicate and engage with Pacific peoples on hazards, risks and emergency preparedness information. It is also an opportunity to further test resources that have been developed for language weeks and other information with an Auckland application in mind. For instance, pre-recorded emergency preparedness messages in Samoan that have been developed through a pilot led by Christchurch City Council.
In addition, Auckland Emergency Management are partnering with the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management on a new approach based on the study. The new approach will guide how emergency information is shared before, during and after an emergency to a wide range of ethnic audiences, including Pacific peoples, which will involve working with experts and ethnic media outlets.
Identifying Vulnerabilities and Enhancing the Resilience of Auckland’s hospitality Businesses
By Dr Alice Chang-Richards
Small businesses in the hospitality industry play a vital role in New Zealand’s economy. Researches have been analysing risks affecting small business in Auckland’s hospitality industry and investigating how to enhance their resilience.
New Zealand’s small businesses
Small businesses, also referred to as SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises), are defined as enterprises with less than 20 employees. They make up 97% of all businesses in New Zealand and make a significant contribution to our economy and society. However, they are subject to a wide variety of potential natural hazards and weather events, and, unlike larger companies, they often don’t have the resources or extent of knowledge to cope with these unexpected disruptions. However, their survival is vital for the long-term health of New Zealand’s economy, and it is essential that we identify and understand the vulnerabilities faced by small businesses. Once we understand what they are up against, we can develop and provide mitigation and management techniques that will help businesses to enhance their resilience.
Many of New Zealand’s small businesses, particularly in our cities and tourist areas, are in the hospitality industry. With this in mind, researchers in the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Urban Resilience programme approached 200 hospitality industry businesses from late June to early August 2017, of which 71 took part in a survey looking at their resilience and perception of risks.
First of all, researchers wanted to find out how aware hospitality businesses were of the potential threats they faced, and what they saw to be the biggest risks. Of the respondents surveyed, 80% considered themselves to be somewhat or fully aware of the potential threats facing their business. When asked what they saw to be their biggest barrier to resilience, staff levels and competencies was by far the most common response. Respondents also recognised the threat of natural hazards, which had been highlighted recently in New Lynn where severe weather earlier in the year affected both patronage and supplier prices. However, issues with staffing, downturns in economic conditions, and damages from fire or similar were most commonly thought to be the greatest risks overall. The table below shows the how the top five risks were ranked by different groups of businesses.
Top five risks (with highest risk at the top and lowest at the bottom) for:
“Fully Aware” Businesses
10+ Years Businesses
Best Performing Businesses
Fire or Similar
Poor Economic Conditions (1st=)
Natural Hazards (Incl Severe Weather, Earthquakes, Etc)
Poor Economic Conditions
Staffing Issues (1st=)
Poor Economic Conditions
Fire or Similar
Natural Hazards (Incl Severe Weather, Earthquakes, Etc)
Natural Hazards (Incl Severe Weather, Earthquakes, Etc)(3rd=)
Theft or Robbery (3rd=)
Poor Economic Conditions
Fire or Similar (3rd=)
Staffing Issues (3rd=)
Natural Hazards (Incl Severe Weather, Earthquakes, Etc)
Theft or Robbery
Theft or Robbery
Competition from Other Businesses
When asked about contingency planning, 71.7% of businesses reported having a structured insurance portfolio. However, under half of those surveyed had business continuity plans and only 63.3% had some form of emergency or crisis plan. In addition to this, most businesses did not regularly run through or practise their emergency plans with staff, and some managers could not provide details about their emergency plans other than to say they were aware of their existence. This is a major concern as it highlights how ineffectual many businesses’ emergency plans would likely be in the case of a real crisis.
What makes a business resilient?
Researchers also asked respondents about the factors that contributed to their resilience. Overall, respondents thought leadership and management was the most important factor. This suggests that the drive for resilience is seen to need to come from the top. Ensuring that staff are competent in their roles was ranked the second most important factor in business resilience. This reflects the importance of staff members’ specialty and soft skills in an industry that is heavily dependent on customer satisfaction. Preparedness was ranked third, showing that hospitality businesses in Auckland have an appreciation of the importance of being ready for the unexpected. The overall weighted order of rankings of the resilience factors is given below.
Overall Factor Ranking
Leadership and Management
How the business is run, and the ability to be responsive and make good decisions
Staff Core Competency
The capability, work ethics and skills of staff
Internal framework/schemes to mitigate against the unexpected
How in touch the business is with market changes and the effects of market changes on the business
How well the business adapts in the face of crises/disruptions
Aligned Business Practise
Compliance and Regulations
Risk awareness as it pertains to potential effects on the business
Access to and use of information for the benefit of the business
Innovation and Diversification
New ideas, business models and novel ways to increase revenue
Reflective Business Model
Regular reflection on business operations and performance to help improve in future
Robust supply chain and social capital
Access to External Resources
Access to funding, materials and external assistance
Business age and staff retention
Generally, the study found that newer hospitality businesses in Auckland were less resilient than older businesses. This was because they were untested to crises, and so had less experience in emergency management. Another factor in business resilience was retention of competent and skilled staff. Staff retention is difficult in the hospitality industry, due in part to foreigners on working holidays, among other things. High staff turnover results in lower skilled staff as newer staff members need time to develop skills, while longer-standing staff are experienced and have a higher capacity to cope with unexpected events.
Improving the resilience of our businesses
Overall, the study found that effective leadership and management are critical for organisational resilience, along with a number of other factors including staff retention and economic conditions. While many hospitality businesses in Auckland tended to be reasonably resilient, there is significant room for improvement, especially with regards to planning and risk mitigation. The results of this study give us a good indication of where to focus energy and resources to help build the resilience of businesses in the hospitality industry. For more information about the project, please contact:
A Birds Eye View of Disaster Preparedness in Metropolitan Settings
A bit about me
Having grown up in New Zealand, I developed a healthy infatuation with the unique natural environment which we as New Zealanders enjoy. After completing my undergraduate degree in applied physics, I pursued a career in the field of geophysics. I quickly found that this particular field was distinctly void of any consideration of the societal impacts of its endeavours, a contention which I struggled with greatly. Upon some research, it became clear that the field of disaster management is one situated neatly on the intersection of both the physical and social environments which we as humans all occupy. This space not only appealed to me intellectually and pragmatically, but is also a rapidly developing space which, I believe, requires contemporary societies’ undivided attention. Upon this realisation there was only ever one route for me to travel.
In my free time I do all I can to ensure that I am close to the beach and with any luck, I’ll stumble upon some surf in the process.
In recent weeks I have received confirmation of the successful completion of my Master’s Degree in Disaster Management. My research project aimed to begin developing a set of best practice guidelines for developing levels of disaster preparedness in metropolitan settings. Rather than examining specific initiatives, I focussed on the broader governance structures which facilitate the development and implementation of said initiatives. I did this by conducting a range of interviews with emergency management practitioners in Auckland and San Francisco, two densely populated metropolitan settings with very similar risk profiles and a set of relatively similar socio-cultural dynamics. My research concluded that the nature and structure of the governance frameworks concerned with developing levels of preparedness have significant implications on the effectiveness of preparedness development approaches adopted by relevant authorities.
My research also concluded that a ‘bottom up’ approach which leverages existing community networks is the most effective contemporary approach to developing levels of disaster preparedness in metropolitan settings. However, the starkest finding of this research was the clear lack of theoretical grounding present in the respective efforts of each city to increase preparedness among its residents. Upon the conclusion of the research, a set of recommendations which aim to address the aforementioned findings are made which, if considered, will hopefully steer each city towards best practice in developing levels of preparedness. Thanks to the diligence and support of my supervisor, Dr. Alice Chang-Richards, I was able to secure funding which allowed me to travel to San Francisco to undertake this research in person. This meant I could engage with the research on a level which would not have been possible had I conducted my research from a distance. For this I am highly grateful.
Upon the completion of my academic studies, I procured a three month consulting contract to the Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Group. I have been tasked with undertaking research which will allow me to provide a set of recommendations for how the group could address the gaps present in their current emergency alerting suite. Moving forward, I am looking to move into the space where international development and emergency management intersect. This is a complex yet fascinating space in which I feel that my recently procured skills could be utilised in a positive manner.
New Zealand Urban Resilience C2C Collaborative & Knowledge Sharing Network
By Mr Elrasheid Elkhidir, Prof Suzanne Wilkinson, Dr Sandeeka Mannakkara
Much of New Zealand’s population lives in our large cities and smaller urban centres (86% in 2006 according to Statistics New Zealand). Natural hazard resilience in these centres is therefore paramount. The Resilience to Nature’s Challenges Urban Resilience programme has been working to better understand the resilience of our main centres, and improve city resilience.
The first phase of the project looked at analysing the state of resilience of the seven biggest cities in New Zealand: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. The findings highlighted that our cities varied greatly with regards to urban resilience. The focus and intensity of resilience initiatives and activities differed across the cities, and the extent to which each city had mapped their local hazards varied. Resilience as a strategic direction was not realised in all cities, and generally, some cities could do with a resilience push. A primary reason for the lack of resilience was explained by the researchers as being due to lack of consensus on a unified definition of resilience, coupled with the different perspectives and lenses through which cities viewed resilience. Not having a universal definition of resilience and resilience measurement tools added to the disparity between cities, as did the gaps in awareness and knowledge on the ways to build resilience. The research found that overall some urban centres lacked capacity when it came to building resilience, while others were challenged by the absence of a clear direction. The full report can be found here.
The second phase of the project builds on this information and is focussed on developing a City-to-City (C2C) Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing Network. The network will help our cities collectively achieve urban resilience. Resilience benefits of city-to-city collaborative networks can already be seen in international networks such as the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Network, the UNISDR Making Cities Resilient Campaign, and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), which were established based on the benefits of sharing knowledge and resources through collaboration.
A collaborative network will enable cities to learn from each other, build capacity, undertake technical co-operation, and share experiences, lessons learned and best practices. Having access to tested resilience solutions from another urban centre can save effort, time and resources for a city that lacks capacity to develop their own resilience initiatives. A network also provides exposure to and prior awareness of other cities’ hazards, stresses and shocks. Knowing other cities’ threats and capacities means that each urban centre can pre-plan for negative spillovers that might occur. In addition, participation in such networks can close the resilience gap for smaller or under-resourced cities as they can acquire the help they need from their peers, and in doing so take pressure off the central government.
Getting started with the project proved challenging. There wasn’t much literature available on knowledge management and networks sciences related to national-level resilience building, which led the team to undertake a multi-disciplinary literature review. Examining how knowledge networks functioned in other disciplines provided insight and reference. Studying the practices and philosophies of successful international collaborative resilience networks such as the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities created a benchmark for looking at developing a local New Zealand network.
Since the network will be developed for key urban resilience practitioners such as city councils and civil defence groups, we decided to use a co-design approach. The research team is now testing the concept of collaboration amongst the cities. Current successes include having Auckland City Council willing to provide assistance to other local cities. Tauranga, Christchurch, Hamilton and Napier city councils and respective regional civil defence groups are also on-board and interested in the idea of a national network for building resilience. Christchurch City Council, a member of the 100 Resilient Cities network, is hosting our research team at their Resilience Expo in August to introduce the network and share their insights. Wellington, also part of the international Resilient 100 Cities Network, provided the research team with an analysis of the risks and shortfalls that we might face during the development stage and functioning of the collaborative network. Local Governments New Zealand, as one of the major stakeholders, has been approached for their knowledge and frameworks in adopting multi-city collaboration, and to see if the C2C collaboration could fit under their umbrella organisation.
With early stakeholder engagement established, the team is beginning to conduct workshops and interviews across councils and civil defence groups to find out the exact needs, risks, specifications and preferences of the end users.
Our literature and case studies highlighted a number of factors that are crucial to the development and operation of a collaborative and knowledge sharing network. As a nation that faces a wide variety of natural hazards, our unity will be our strength. Collaborating and sharing our knowledge, experiences and resources, will be key in enhancing the overall resilience of Aotearoa.