Hundreds of natural disasters happen around the world each year. New Zealand’s geographic positioning and general isolation means that we are more vulnerable than most to potential events.
The 2010 and 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes cost New Zealand $30 billion, equaling 20% of our countries GDP. Cyclone Gita and Fehi caused over $81 million of destruction during their six-week siege of New Zealand’s west coast. And, the Pigeon Valley Wildfire lasted three weeks and burned through thousands of hectares of land.
In most instances, we cannot foresee natural disasters. However, we can prepare our infrastructure and built spaces to ensure that damage and civilian safety is controlled.
The design of infrastructure to withstand earthquake forces is one area in which we have research competence and specialist equipment.
Human resilience is another and our work within the Natural Hazards Research Platform investigates the behaviours and social economics of how New Zealand communities respond to and recover from the impacts of a natural disaster, including the use of social media in emergency management.
In this field we work with emergency managers, planners, policy makers, business and community organisations, and infrastructure owners.