Recipients of the Urban Resilience Innovation and Collaboration Hub


In the first half of 2020 the Urban programme established the Urban Resilience Innovation &  Collaboration Hub, a round of contestable funding with the purpose of supporting research and research-related activities that promote urban resilience in New Zealand. The fund provides up to NZD $10,000 for projects that add value to the existing work within the Urban programme of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges National Science Challenge. Projects will run up for up to two years.


Applications closed in July with the final decisions made in August by the Urban Steering Committee and co-opted panel members Josh Te Kani (RNC Vision Mātauranga Knowledge Broker) and Jo Horrocks (EQC). We are pleased to announce that twelve projects have been selected. These projects represent a diverse range of topics and involve researchers representing universities, institutes, iwi, NGOs, schools, and community groups. We are very pleased to welcome them into the RNC Urban programme waka.

A list of the twelve funded projects, with primary investigators (PI), project titles, and associated organisations is below.


PI Name(s) Project title Organisation(s)
Siautu Alefaio Talanoa Podcast: Educating and strengthening resilient communities in Manurewa Massey University and Roscommon School
Carel Bezuidenhout Impacts of an urban shock to local food supply chains Massey University
Denise Blake Sex work for Māori: Covid-19 and beyond Massey University, The University of Auckland and New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective
Edward Challies; Frances Charters Assessing co-benefits of blue-green infrastructure for urban social-ecological resilience University of Canterbury
Kaye-Maree Dunn I-Hono ki te Hapori Making Everything Achievable Limited
Jenny Lee-Morgan Urban Marae Responses to COVID19: Creative Pikitia Series Nga Wai a Te Tui – Unitec Institute of Technology NZ
Jesse Grayman The Role of Faith-Based Institutions in Auckland’s Disaster
Resilience During and After Covid-19
University of Auckland, Faculty of Arts
Tom Logan Multi-criteria spatial optimisation for guiding long-term land use planning for resilience and sustainability University of Canterbury
Steve Ronoh; Loic Le De Good and Ready New Zealand New Zealand Red Cross and Auckland University of Technology
Finn Scheele Development of a population exposure model for New Zealand GNS Science
Marion Tan CRISiS Lab Education and Outreach Project Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University
Civil and Environmental Engineering, and The University of Auckland
Sophia Tsang Living with hazards and risks in Auckland: Which locations in Tāmaki Makaurau do we value the most? University of Auckland


Student profile: Anna-Kay Spaulding Agbenyegah



Post-disaster recovery from a high-impact weather event in Auckland




A bit about me

Anna in the hills of St. Andrew, Jamaica 2019

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.

Anna in Queenstown, 2017

My project

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.


Next steps

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.

Student Profile: Hamed Khatibi


Smart and Resilient Cities




A bit about me 


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.


My project


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.


At the International Invention & Innovation Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2015


Next steps


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.


Urban theme





Urban Resilience Innovation & Collaboration Hub




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.  

Read more >


Q & A with Prof Jan Lindsay



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.

Jan caving on Rangitoto island

  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.  

Jan in Argentina measuring tephra

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. 



Urban theme





PhD scholarships available 




We have two PhD scholarships available, under the Urban theme. The successful applicants will be contributing to the development of more resilient urban communities.

Applications close Friday 28 February.

Contact details for each position can be found in the position descriptions linked below:

Student profile: Nwadike Amarachukwu Nnadozie



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 project


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.


Next steps


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.

Student profile: Niransha Rodrigo



‘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.


My project


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).


Christchurch ‘Anchor’ Projects. Source: Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, 2012

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.


Next steps


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.


Translation of the national tsunami campaign for Samoan language week across Auckland Council’s digital channels.

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.


Ben Hankinson, Rohan Jaduram (Auckland Emergency Management) and Laulu Mac Leauanae, Chief Executive of the Ministry Pacific Peoples, attending the launch of Fijian Language Week at Auckland Museum.

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.


Stephanie Wilson, Rohan Jaduram and Su’a William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, at the Fiji Festival in Mangere.

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

Photo: Franklin Heijnen via Flikr

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.


Risky business


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.

Surveyed businesses’ awareness of potential risks
Top five risks (with highest risk at the top and lowest at the bottom) for:
All Businesses “Fully Aware” Businesses 10+ Years Businesses Best Performing Businesses
Staffing Issues Fire or Similar Poor Economic Conditions (1st=) Natural Hazards (Incl Severe Weather, Earthquakes, Etc)
Poor Economic Conditions Staffing Issues 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=)
Competition 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

Mitigation Plans


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
1 Leadership and Management How the business is run, and the ability to be responsive and make good decisions
2 Staff Core Competency The capability, work ethics and skills of staff
3 Preparedness Internal framework/schemes to mitigate against the unexpected
4 Market Sensitivity How in touch the business is with market changes and the effects of market changes on the business
5th= Adaptive Ability How well the business adapts in the face of crises/disruptions
5th= Aligned Business Practise Compliance and Regulations
7 Situational Awareness Risk awareness as it pertains to potential effects on the business
8 Leveraging Knowledge Access to and use of information for the benefit of the business
9 Innovation and Diversification New ideas, business models and novel ways to increase revenue
10 Reflective Business Model Regular reflection on business operations and performance to help improve in future
11 Network Robustness Robust supply chain and social capital
12 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.


Photo: Premshree Pillai via Flikr

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:

Project leader: Dr Alice Chang-Richards, Email:

Research students: James Alach, Email: and Boris Yiu, Email: