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LGNZ seeks to develop a national approach around natural hazard risk management

23 Oct 2014, 8:00 AM

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has completed its review into managing risks from natural hazards and today releases a think piece on the findings.

The think piece ‘Managing natural hazard risk in New Zealand – Towards more resilient communities’ (attached) finds there is a need for a national approach to managing risk from natural hazards  including principles for hazard reduction.  

The think piece pinpoints two core ideas.  The first is the need for issue and place-specific responses to natural hazards, rather than a one size fits all approach.  The second is the need for integration and collaboration to develop and deliver effective responses across the many players. 

LGNZ President Lawrence Yule says communities would benefit from improving resilience locally and nationally across hazard threats.  This should be supported by a policy platform to better integrate and align risk reduction measures, and a portal for natural hazards information.

“This paper was commissioned because we want local and central government to think hard about how we might do better for our communities and how we might collectively take control of the responsibility of natural hazard risk management,” Mr Yule says.

New Zealand is more exposed to potential losses from natural hazards than ever before and that exposure continues to increase.  Our vulnerability and the degree of loss that can be expected from a given hazard event is high because we are a small economy.  The shock of an event that might be easily absorbed in a larger economy can have a severe impact here.

“New Zealand’s system compares well with other nations but we can do better by working smarter. Collectively, we must take opportunities to improve community resilience, locally and nationally, and across all threats,” says Taranaki Regional Council Chief Executive Basil Chamberlain, who chaired the LGNZ steering committee that developed the think piece.

“Having hazard resilient communities requires in the first instance that our hazard management systems are themselves more resilient. This will be aided by being more strategically organised and focused, and our operational activities being more integrated, cohesive and ultimately, effective.”

There are major knowledge gaps between what we need to know and what we actually know to enable sound planning and good decisions.  This is due to the lack of alignment between the multitude of parties involved from private and public sectors to multiple individuals, communities and organisations.

“Internationally, New Zealand is reasonably well regarded for being conceptually in a ‘good practice’ space in our overall approach to natural hazards management and perhaps rightly so,” Mr Yule says.

“We understand the need to apply effort across the continuum from hazard mitigation to adaptation, and across the four ‘Rs’ – from risk reduction, readiness, response and recovery aspects.”

Taranaki Regional Council Chief Executive Basil Chamberlain led the steering group for this think piece.  The LGNZ Natural Hazards Steering Group included representatives from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Security and Risk Group, Earthquake Commission, GNS, Environment Canterbury, IAG, Taranaki Regional Council, Christchurch City Council, Capacity Infrastructure Services (Wellington), Auckland Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council and Tasman District Council.