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How will natural hazard shocks impact New Zealand’s economy 20 years from now with an increasingly older population and fewer of us?

Kelvin Berryman 100

I had the good fortune of being at the Insurance Council of New Zealand conference in Auckland on the 5th November. I was particularly struck by the implications laid out by Shamubeel Eaqub and Natalie Jackson on New Zealand’s future demographics and some perspectives on macro-economics as a consequence of this (LINK ♦).

Shamubeel’s presentation included brief analysis of the intersection of demographics and the shock of the global financial crisis, at New Zealand scale. Further discussion during the conference included the affordability of infrastructure in its present form, especially once the demographic challenges really set in. This looms large as a developing national crisis.

Neither Shamubeel’s nor Natalie’s presentations considered the likelihood of natural hazard events as likely future shocks. Could future hazard events be the cliff-edge in terms of the viability of urban centres in New Zealand? Or could such events become the only realistic triggers for urban renewal as cash is injected for rebuilding? Seemingly, with current trends in urban viability, investment following crisis might be the only mechanism for the economic futures of many urban centres.

Now is the time to investigate the intersection between demographics; consider whether growth is realistic or whether we need to plan for ‘smart shrinkage’ (to coin a phrase from Natalie Jackson); develop new approaches for funding and maintaining urban and rural infrastructure; and incorporate natural hazard risk reduction actions to manage future impacts. Without substantive investigation of these matters, and proactive actions, it seems difficult to ensure future economic prosperity for all New Zealanders.

Kelvin Berryman - Director, Natural Hazards Research Platform / Principal Scientist, GNS Science