NHRP / Hazard themes / Societal Resilience / Societal Resilience 2012-13

Societal Resilience 2012-13

This theme contributes to the creation of well-prepared and resilient communities, identifying success factors so that individuals and organisations are motivated and able to prepare, respond, and recover from natural hazard events. Research in 2012 continued along a number of interconnected projects undertaken by New Zealand and international research organisations, their stakeholder partners, and individual researchers.

The Canterbury earthquakes and their aftermath continued to provide a focus for much of the activity, but projects also addressed other thematic risk issues and hazard-specific problems. A key principle of successful outcomes for the research is the participation of communities in the scoping and design of the research, and application of research findings to evidence-based policy and practice. The international literature on recovery is very thin and the work that the Platform researchers are doing is significantly advancing knowledge in this space. This can be seen in the range of international collaborations and publications that have developed from the work.

The GNS Science-led consortium (in partnership with Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu, CERA, Massey, Canterbury, Victoria, Otago and a range of other local and international partners) has continued its research programme around three themes.

1. Policy and planning research has explored how to improve the preparation and implementation of plans and policies addressing natural hazards within district, regional and central government (e.g. District, Regional and CDEM plans, etc.). Two key outputs for the year are recommendations to the Resource Management Act 1991 review and implications for natural hazard planning and planning guidelines for liquefaction.

2. Community resilience research focused on understanding Canterbury communities and the complex recovery process. Several new projects were initiated to extend our understanding of the dynamic processes in the recovery. Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu has partnered with the Platform to explore the iwi response to the earthquake. The Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, led by CERA and in partnership with the Platform, Christchurch City Council, Waimakariri District Council, Selwyn District Council, Canterbury District Health Board and Te Runanga o Ngāi Tahu, investigates a range of ways in which people have been affected by the earthquakes. This includes looking at the prevalence and causes of stress, quality of life, social connectedness, satisfaction with the recovery, and any positive impacts people may be experiencing. While CERA receives a large amount of anecdotal feedback on residents’ wellbeing, this survey will enable it to gather qualitative research for its planning. [Update June 2013: The  Canterbury Wellbeing Index is out now. The Wellbeing Index tracks the progress of social recovery across greater Christchurch, with additional data provided by the Survey. The Wellbeing Index includes datasets from twenty-eight Government departments and is a resource for all social scientists examining resilience and recovery. There is no other example of a recovery dataset in existence.]

3. Effective warnings and emergency management consider societal perceptions of hazards and warning messages (including researching events as they occur), and develop strategies that motivate and maintain appropriate social responses. These studies focus on emergency management training, and the role of exercising in EoCs for building effective capacity and capability. Research has also evaluated the effectiveness of emergency management response to recent events, such as the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake and the 2011 Te Maari eruption, with respect to community response needs, organisational effectiveness, and the monitoring and evaluation process. A focus of current and future research is developing an effective community response to the next "Great East Coast Subduction Zone Earthquake and Tsunami".

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Resilient Organisations (ResOrgs) provides collaboration between top New Zealand research universities, particularly the University of Canterbury and the University of Auckland. It is a multi-disciplinary team of over 20 researchers, representing a synthesis of engineering, science and business leadership aimed at transforming organisations to both survive major events and thrive in the aftermath. Over the past year the team has focused its efforts largely on four areas of research. The first three are in response to the Canterbury Earthquakes and recovery from this devastating series of events:

1. A series of studies looking at the impact of the events on Canterbury businesses and organisations, the factors affecting their recovery, and the relationship of these factors to their organisational resilience;

2. An extended study of critical construction resources and potential resource shortages, and the impact that construction business delivery systems have on recovery and reconstruction;

3. The development of two new business-related projects focused on learning from the Canterbury Earthquakes and the application New Zealand wide: (a) The Economics of Resilient Infrastructure, and (b) Resilient Infrastructure Through Effective Organisations (both of these projects have received funding through the 2012 MBIE funding round);

4. The increasing level of engagement with the Australian REAG (Resilient Expert Advisory Group) and related critical infrastructure sectors, in particular the Australian Water Industry. These projects will directly benefit New Zealand with increased understanding of resilience and recovery from major natural hazards, together with improved practice to implement the improved understanding. Evidence of end user uptake can be seen in the collaboration partners on these projects which include Sydney Water, CERA, BRANZ, Fletcher EQR, Telecom, Westpac and other major businesses. In addition, the ResOrgs Steering Committee consists of senior staff from across the insurance, engineering and public sector.

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The third research grouping is led by Opus Research and includes partners from Victoria University, Otago University and BRANZ. Their programme is grouped into two tasks:

1. Dynamics of Urban Recovery, and

2. Behavioural Response and Social Recovery Indicators.

The effects of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes on the greater Christchurch area and the Canterbury region have provided an excellent and unique opportunity to understand the impact of disasters on the urban dynamics of our larger centres. This includes understanding how business agglomerations and their associated workforces and population markets are at first disrupted and displaced, then re-form temporarily, and then, as the rebuild progresses, either entrench in their new locations or return. The Behavioural Response and Social Recovery Indicators strand addresses the social response to a hazard event, examining the transition from immediate behaviour (e.g. evacuation), progressing into our adaptation to a resource-scarce environment (i.e. food, water, shelter), through to recovery then back to normal functioning (return to work, normal home life and leisure). The research has examined public adaptation, including the natural level of informal leadership, willingness to pool resources (e.g. sharing accommodation) and latent resourcefulness (i.e. our ability to recognise resources around us as available for recovery, given that in most cases our pre-event preparations will be insufficient). The work aims to identify characteristics and processes that enhance and facilitate a faster recovery back to the level of day-to-day household and community stability that is required before economic recovery can fully proceed.

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