Karekare landslide (photo by Martin Brook)

Auckland Anniversary Floods: One year on – Expert Q&A

This weekend marks a year since the floods, landslides, and evacuations caused by a record-breaking and fatal deluge across the upper North Island.

Not long after, in early February, Cyclone Gabrielle tore through Hawke’s Bay, resulting in our third ever National State of Emergency and causing more than $2 billion in damages.

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on developments in their research field since last year’s floods:

  1. Climate change attribution
  2. Managed retreat
  3. “Sponge cities”
  4. Emergency management
  5. Flood warnings
  6. Climate adaptation
  7. Mental health
  8. Landslides
  9. Building back better
  10. Telecommunication

Climate Change Attribution

Dr Dáithí Stone, climate scientist, NIWA, comments:

“One thing that we have done in the year since the storm is to look at it through the Extreme Weather Event Real-time Attribution Machine, a collaboration between Bodeker Scientific, MetService, and NIWA.

“The machine re-runs MetService’s weather forecast but under ‘natural’ conditions that might have been if humans had not interfered with the climate, in particular a cooler sea, cooler air, and less moisture in the cooler air. The idea is to provide a rapid indication of how the forecast might have been different, but, clearly, we are still working on the ‘rapid’ bit.

“What we have found is that Gabrielle should have dumped about 10% less rain without human influence, and in particular its peak hourly rainfall should have been about 20% less.”

No conflict of interest.

Dr James Renwick, Professor of Physical Geography, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“One year on from the terrible Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods and, a couple of weeks later, the devastation from ex-Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle, and what have we learned?

“We now know that the Auckland floods were a 1-in-200 year event, according to NIWA. Gabrielle is the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere and was responsible for death and destruction on a scale seen only rarely in New Zealand. The World Weather Attribution group estimated that around 30% of the rain that fell out of Gabrielle onto the east coast of the North Island came as a result of the 1.2C of global warming that has occurred in the past century.

“Put another way, the World Weather Attribution study estimated that rainfalls of these magnitudes are now about four times more likely than they were in the previous cooler climate. Those numbers are quite uncertain as the heaviest rainfalls were very localised, but the sense of them tells us what the future holds.

“We will continue to see global warming until the global community stops emitting greenhouse gases. The year 2023 turned out to be the world’s warmest on record, after a rather cool start in the first few months, and almost cracked 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Getting to that 1.5 degree level permanently now looks certain, and reaching a 2°C warming would come not long after that. If our habits don’t change, we will see wetter and wetter extreme rainfalls around the country, and heavy rainfalls will happen more often, because there is just more moisture in warmer air.

“Whether or not there will be more storms in future is not so obvious. Indications are that the number of storms may decrease slightly as the climate warms, or at least numbers are not expected to increase. But when a storm comes, it will carry more punch, with heavier rainfalls and stronger winds. So, we need to be prepared for more Gabrielle-style events in future.

“The effects of the extreme rainfall events of a year ago did shift the conversation on climate change, for a while. I hope the lessons are not being forgotten and that we can all become more resilient and more prepared to deal with extreme rainfalls in future. Because they will come.”

Conflict of interest statement: I receive funding from MBIE and other agencies to study climate change. I was an author on the past three Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I am a Commissioner with the New Zealand Climate Change Commission.

Managed Retreat

Professor Merata Kawharu, Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago, comments:

“One year on from the disastrous floods and damage caused by the Auckland Anniversary weather event and cyclone Gabrielle, marae communities remain just as vulnerable.

“As climate hazards intensify, they are likely more vulnerable where law and policy of managed retreat is concerned. First there is a new government which has not indicated strongly what it will do in following up with the previous government’s legislative work programme on climate adaptation.

“Second, as current law and policy stands, there are significant gaps in clarifying rights, responsibilities and roles between Māori, local government and central government on managed retreat.

“Third, the term ‘managed retreat’ is problematic for some: it triggers memories of an historical legacy of forced retreat as a result of Crown policy that pushed marae communities to the margins. The descendants of those communities living in coastal enclaves are being reminded again in a perverse sort of way of the cross-generational trauma previously inflicted. Policy language matters. For marae communities, the issue is not to retreat but to reclaim, to restore and to re-establish mana in the land, wherever they need to be and move to.

“Clarifying the process, rights and roles is complex and requires much more thinking, good law and clear policy guidelines. The recent proposed treaty principles bill is not a sincere discussion but a distraction from what’s important to marae communities. There is a lot of work to be done. Still.”

No conflict of interest.

Professor Ilan Noy, Chair in the Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“One aspect that was highlighted by the storm and its aftermath is the need to develop coherent policies for what to do with properties that are deemed no longer recoverable and where there is a need to do a post-event relocation of the residents (what is sometimes referred to as ‘managed retreat’).

“In the aftermath of the events last year, the government developed, once more, an ad-hoc arrangement with councils that seems to incentivize more poorly planned developments and investments in high-risk areas, and a refusal to recognise that the risks are changing because of climate change.

“An external expert working group convened by the Ministry for the Environment [full disclosure – I was a member] issued a suggested framework on how to develop a coherent system of planned relocations that will reduce risk, rather than enhance it.

“Nothing has been done, however, and it seems that when another inevitable disaster will happen, we will again improvise a response that will again fail to deal with the underlying risk from climate change.”

Conflict of interest statement: Professor Noy was a member of the Expert Working Group on Managed Retreat.

Professor John Tookey, School of Future Environments, AUT, comments:

“The Auckland Anniversary storm and Cyclone Gabrielle caused chaos last year. Repairs and reinstatements took substantial time and resources across the country. Drive any distance to the west and north of Auckland, around the Coromandel or throughout Hawke’s Bay, and the scars on the landscape are still very much in evidence.

“The good news is that most repairs are complete. Yet the future direction is not as yet clear. The previous government and the incoming government have stated their concerns over future climate risks. Yet climate-based risk and infrastructure investment hardly raised a ripple in the various election debates of 2023. Serious long-term questions need to be asked. How frequently will we have to deal with the costs and chaos of another Gabrielle? How should we respond to the risks? How should we sequence the responses? How will we pay for these measures?

“The previous government produced the ‘Adapt and thrive’ comprehensive adaptation plan in August 2022 – yet few are aware of it. The report was little reported on at the time or since. The plan incorporated multiple strategies including ‘Avoid, Protect, Accommodate, Retreat’. Managed retreat from flood prone areas, and investment in infrastructure designed to protect at risk communities will be spectacularly expensive. The report indicates 300,000 dwellings will need rebuilding. $100bn at least has been flagged as the value of property directly at risk, along with 72,000 New Zealanders in the path of storm surges, etc. Long story short, if as a nation we are to address climate driven risks in New Zealand, literally hundreds of billions of dollars will need to be committed over an extended, multi-decade, integrated programme of planning, compulsory purchase and infrastructure construction.

“But is this policy going to be retained by the incoming government? Certainly, there are aspects of previous policies that make their continuation questionable under the new government. Similarly, the different treatment of socio-economic and stakeholder groups in terms of compensation during ‘managed retreat’ is likely to be problematic for the new coalition. Jobs and economic activity, as well as housing availability, are all likely at risk by reimbursing only 50% of commercial and rental relocation costs. If the policy is going to be reconsidered, then so be it. There is no doubt the policy had multiple flaws. But either way, policy needs to be confirmed as soon as possible. As a society we have pressing needs in terms of infrastructural investment to facilitate our continued growth and sustainability. Saying what we are not going to invest in is one thing, what we are going to do is quite another. Planning and procurement is time consuming and costly. Irrespective of political perspective there is an absolute need to prioritise infrastructural investments. Failure to do so will inhibit future growth and housing provision, impact cost effectiveness, as well as compromise the sustainability of our current communities.”

No conflicts of interest declared.

Professor Iain White, Dr Christina Hanna, and Dr Raven Cretney, Environmental Planning Programme, University of Waikato, comment:

“Nearly one year has passed since the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle. In the last twelve months we have seen communities, the private sector and government grapple with the complexity of responding to one of the largest climate disasters Aotearoa has faced. Tackling increasing risk from climate change in cities requires a strategic, coordinated response combining risk science, infrastructure investment, and land use change.

“Managed retreat has been in the spotlight throughout the ongoing recovery as the Government announced buy-outs for land zoned as ‘category 3’ following the cyclone. The difficulty in enacting managed retreat after disaster events has also been highlighted, and authorities have gained new lessons on how to undertake more careful and participatory community processes for relocation and retreat.

“The scale of this task, and one of the key lessons of the last year, emphasizes the integral role of central and local Government in contributing policy, funding and resourcing. Retreats involve not just the relocation of households but also infrastructure, recreation and public amenities. For Māori communities, retreats are complex and involve long standing connections to land and place, marae, taonga and wāhi tapu. Taking the lead from Māori leaders, communities and researchers will be essential to navigate this terrain in the future, as will be the importance of acting as good Tiriti partners. The importance of developing a Te Tiriti led approach for adaptation has also been highlighted.

“The report by the Expert Working Group on Managed Retreat released in August 2023 detailed the lack of national direction for planning relocation and highlighted the need for greater legal powers to enable coordinated relocation as well as clearer roles and responsibilities. During the election period the National Party indicated support for a managed retreat law, but coalition partner ACT did not. It is unclear how the new Government will continue the work developed in the last six years on the draft Climate Change Adaptation Act and the National Adaptation Plan. The experience of the last year serves to underscore the importance of this policy, we urgently need a nationally coordinated approach.”

Conflict of interest statements: Christina Hanna receives funding from the MBIE Endeavour Fund to research issues connected to flood risk mapping and better decision making. Iain White receives funding from the MBIE Endeavour Fund to research issues connected to flood risk mapping and better decision making. Iain also receives funding from Toka Tū Ake EQC to research better future land use planning.

“Sponge Cities”

Dr James Griffiths and Dr Annette Semadeni-Davies, NIWA, comment:

“As land use intensifies and the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events increase due to climate change, there needs to be a fundamental change in how we approach flood preparation, management, and response, particularly for larger floods.

“One of the changes gaining traction is the greater use of ‘Nature-based solutions’, such as restoring wetlands, or creating parks and forests in areas at risk of flooding. Other options include re-activating river flood plains (using levee set-backs and river bypasses), and river naturalisation (through bank and bed naturalisation, daylighting streams).

“These solutions involve working with natural processes to address societal challenges by managing, protecting, and restoring natural or semi-natural ecosystems to provide multiple benefits such as flood resilience, water quality improvements and habitat creation.

“The Ministry for the Environment is currently funding feasibility studies to assess the benefits of using Nature-based solutions for flood resilience. One of the challenges of the project will be to develop best practice approaches for measuring the combined social, economic, cultural, and environmental benefits of Nature-based solutions beyond flood management. To address this, we at NIWA are undertaking a literature review of the use and potential benefits associated with different Nature-based solutions. Our study will assist the development of new solutions and approaches to mitigate flood risk and associated environmental and social impacts.”

No conflict of interest.

Emergency Management

Professor David Johnston, Director of Disaster Management, and Jon Mitchell, Joint Centre for Disaster Research (JCDR), Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University, comment:

“As we approach the first anniversary of last year’s extreme weather events: the Auckland Floods (27 January) and Cyclone Gabrielle (5-11 February), it is useful to reflect on the lessons that can be taken from these challenging situations. These events and many others in the past, provide us insights for what is needed to enhance our response capability and attitudes to future extreme events.

“These are the key issues we identified, from direct observations, time in Emergency Coordination Centres (ECC) and community emergency centres, and affected communities, and discussions with staff involved in CDEM and iwi responses include:

  1. Lack of warnings from Emergency Management to communities as weather systems were predicted to arrive and during the first 12 hours or so of inundation. The required “precautionary approach” to uncertainty in risks not applied as proactively as necessary.

  2. Councils and their CDEM Groups were rebuilding/restructuring EM capability at the time of the emergency, with ongoing threats of budget reduction in Ten Year Plan processes, inhibiting response capabilities in some contexts.

  3. Some ECCs were located in inadequate facilities and enabling optimal multi-agency coordination.

  4. The one Auckland City coordination facility was inadequate to coordinate all responses into culturally, economically, and geographically distinct communities within a widely dispersed population of 1.6 million. No sub-regional coordination within Auckland EM, but three police, fire, and health districts.

  5. Lack of appreciation of roles and capabilities of iwi in emergency management in some contexts, with opportunities to enhance iwi emergency management capabilities and include more in regional responses.

  6. Intelligence and planning functions not adequately trained and experienced for events of this scale and intensity.

  7. Multiple Group controllers, up to four, on duty at once, causing confusion for all involved.

  8. Insufficient local/regional capability and capacity to deliver effective multi-agency and community coordination, supported by reliance on staff from other groups, agencies, and NEMA. Raising question of capability in more damaging and complex emergencies.

  9. Telecommunications in place in many areas not resilient to the effects of the severe weather.

  10. Inadequate planning for, staff resourcing, and management of logistics in some regions.

  11. Non-standard recovery management structures, roles, and governance introduced by central government for all affected areas. Slowing recovery and undermining prior planning and relationships.

  12. Inadequate understanding of the governance role of elected officials in emergency response, particularly in the complex Auckland context, inhibiting response initiative and leadership, and distracting from the needs of communities.

“Extreme events, like the severe weather impacts of 2023, will always challenge our communities and the response systems in place to support them. It remains essential that we learn from these events, as we continue to invest in enhancing our response capacity and capability. This must involve sharing of knowledge, strengthening all-of-community partnerships, and building a wider, deeper, and more consistent skill base for effective Emergency Management.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Flood Warnings

Dr Sally Potter, Senior hazard and risk management researcher – Social and Behaviour Science, Te Pū Ao GNS Science, comments:

“The severe floods experienced by many people in January and February last year highlighted how challenging our environment can be, whether we’re in the middle of our biggest city, or in a remote rural location. Successful warnings for an event such as these require strong partnerships between all of the agencies involved, including for weather forecasting, flood managers, emergency management, and infrastructure, with clear communication by all of them with the public. People receiving those warnings then need to make sound judgements as they decide what to do – whether that is cancelling a long-awaited for trip or event, being with family that may need help, or clearing gutters and drains to prevent flooding. Any improvements we can make to the communication of forecasts and warnings for our natural hazards could help people better get the information they need to decide how to protect themselves and others.

“Our research on weather warnings has shown that including information on what impacts people might experience can be more beneficial than just talking about what the weather is expected to be. What we don’t yet know is which impacts are people interested in knowing about? Just general life safety information, or more specifically about disruption to services, possible road closures, damage to houses, or something else? Perhaps even more useful than impact information is the inclusion of detailed guidance information by emergency management and other agencies before an event occurs, so people know what to do to minimise their risk.

“In future, there is the possibility that tech giants could give us quite personalised warnings, in much the same way that we get personalised ads. They could tell us individually what we can expect from the weather, when, and what we should do about it. Some of the questions we need to look into before this happens are whether people would like and trust this type of warning, how we would process several potentially different warnings coming at us from various sources, and the ethics and biases of receiving warnings at different times to each other. We are about to start researching answers to these questions here in Aotearoa.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Climate Adaptation

Adjunct Professor Judy Lawrence, Climate Change Research Institute, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

“It is now a year since the extreme weather events of 2023 that created much damage and destruction to people’s lives, livelihoods and properties. The impacts are ongoing and will be for some time. Again we saw bespoke arrangements developed in the midst of a crisis, albeit based in part on the responses to the Canterbury earthquakes and resilience science. The Resilience Science Challenge has contributed to anticipatory decision processes based on world best practice that can be used to foresee the known and the unknown effects of climate change that can help avoid the maladapted situation that Auckland Tairawhiti and Hawkes Bay found itself in.

“It is a year on and the proposed Adaptation Act is still to be progressed to provide a solid framework for decisions to be made around adaptation options, maladaptation avoidance, planned relocation, who pays and planning legislation, that can motivate local government practices that can actually stop new subdivision and building in areas at risk from climate change effects. The RMA contains some of this, but links with other legislation like the Building Act and Code and the Local Government Act are not well integrated. The Enabling Coastal Adaptation report, prepared in 2021 as part of the Resilience Science Challenge, contains several workarounds in the transition to new planning legislation. But the Adaptation Act is critical to integrate the statutes for subdivision, building and infrastructure planning, as well as how to address planned relocation and who pays for existing developments. Research on long term planning of wastewater and stormwater infrastructure has also made a contribution working with water agencies. Joining these up is going to be essential because we cannot rule out having more deluges like the 2023 ones and as sea level rise progresses, we will similarly reach social thresholds sooner than later as the new SLR projections with vertical land movement and Guidance show.

“We have the tools and the knowledge to anticipate the risks but fit for purpose institutional arrangements are missing in action.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Mental Health

Dr Amber Logan (Ngāti Kahungunu), Research Fellow & Registered Psychologist, Department of Public Health, University of Otago Wellington, comments:

“On the surface the scars are healing, grass is growing back, rubbish has been cleared, the trains are running again, and people go about their day-to-day lives. The wounds in the community are, however, still raw in many places. Cyclone Gabrielle has directly affected over one hundred thousand people in the Hawke’s Bay alone.

“There continues to be very high demand for mental health support; depression, anxiety, PTSD, grief, substance abuse, primary and secondary trauma and adjustment issues make up a large part of that. Disasters like Gabrielle widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. Many were uninsured, and the burden has fallen disproportionately on Maori. Those with fewer resources are less able to bounce back, and more dependent on the systems getting it right. In the case of Hawke’s Bay, we already had overstretched systems, exacerbated by covid. I don’t think I’m overstating the situation to say that areas of our health and social services system are in crisis.

“Nearly a year on, and we have whānau made homeless by the cyclone, who are still homeless. We have whānau still living in substandard homes, made worse by Gabrielle. Building costs have spiralled upwards and some have given up trying to engage a builder in an industry where even obtaining quotes can take many months. We have people who quietly visit what’s left of their old homes in the middle of the night, unable to cope with the loss of their own loved home. There are families still suffering the effects of forced relocation, the loss of employment, the alienation from the lives they once lived, their relationship with home and place forever changed. There are the disputes with insurance companies and disputes over valuations and disputes over disputes, which all serve to re-traumatise those who have lost everything. A trauma like this takes years to heal, and, sadly, we have people, too many people, for whom every day is the day after the cyclone.

“On a brighter note, the cyclone also showed us how our communities can pull together in the face of disaster. I, myself, was one of those who waded through the flood waters to pick up aid packages from the back of a truck and I will never forget the warmth, generosity and shear hard work that people engaged in to look after other; our marae and town halls were full of helpers and those being helped. Many of those being helped in turn were able to help others, in a social chain reaction that saw small armies of volunteers arriving in the worst hit areas, with shovels and a smile, ready to dig away the silt, pile debris for removal, sweep floors and wash dishes; anything that was needed. The social cohesion that this fostered remains, new friends were made, and the new, enduring and much-needed supports are evident to this day. Long may they remain, and they will need to.”

No conflict of interest declared.


Dr Tom Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Disaster Risk and Resilience, University of Canterbury, comments:

“Landslides are one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant hazards – in the last 150 years more people have been killed in NZ by landslides than earthquakes. Last year, the Auckland Anniversary Storm and Cyclone Gabrielle showed this tragically. As our population grows and the climate changes, we need to carefully consider where it is safe to build so we can avoid further damage from landslides.

“One of the key features of Gabrielle was the sheer scale of landsliding it triggered across the North Island. So far, we’ve been able to map over 140,000 individual landslides from the event in about 20% of the affected area. In total, we think Gabrielle could have caused over 800,000 landslides.

“Our dataset of landslides from Gabrielle is probably the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. Landslides are difficult to predict; the only way you can do it is by looking at where they’ve occurred in the past. So, this dataset is critical for helping us better understand these phenomena to reduce the risk they pose to our communities.

“With climate change, we should expect more events like the Anniversary Storm and Gabrielle more frequently, so it’s essential we learn as much as we can so we’re ready for the next one.”

Note: University of Canterbury have published a full media release on Dr Robinson’s work.

No conflict of interest.

Martin Brook, Associate Professor of Applied Geology, University of Auckland, and Chartered Geologist, comments:

“It has been reported that the early 2023 storm events caused over 140,000 landslides, and possibly as many as 800,000 landslides. Three important responses to these storms have occurred over the last 12 months.

“First, while immensely damaging to people, communities and the economy, this massive number of landslides has provided an unprecedented opportunity to analyse how (mechanisms of landsliding), where (location) and why (local rainfall amounts and rates, soil and/or rock properties) landslides occur. This research has been undertaken via the universities and crown research institutes like GNS. This is using new satellite data and laser scans (LiDAR) of the land surface, which can determine volumes of displaced material, from comparing “before” and “after” digital elevation models. From this and other research, improved hazard zoning and land use planning is scientifically possible in future.

“Second, central government passed into law the Severe Weather Emergency Legislation Act on 20 March 2023 and the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Act on 12 April 2023. These changes (1) modified the existing Resource Management Act and (2) provided more flexibility for councils to assist affected communities to recover.

“Third, local government, via subcontracting teams of experienced geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists, have been busy undertaking the land categorisation (1, 2A, 2P, 2C, 3).  Category 3 is a buyout, while 2P allows some funding of mitigation for individual properties, and 2C provided for community-based mitigation schemes (like a flood embankment, for example).

“Obviously, permeating all of the above are human factors and the many tales of misery and financial disasters that have emerged over the last 12 months.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Chris Massey and Kerry Leith, Engineering Geologists, GNS Science, comment:

“So far, our project team, funded by MBIE, have mapped more than 140,000 landslides, thanks to the staff and students at University of Canterbury, Auckland and Massey Universities and Manaaki Whenua. Mapping is focused only on areas where people and/or lifeline infrastructure is located. Using models built on these datasets and those created by Dragonfly Data Science, we estimate that the total number of landslides that might have been triggered across the entire region by this event is around 860,000.

“The Cyclone Gabrielle mapping is one of the largest international landslide inventories directly related to a single storm event. This work provides a rich dataset to investigate landslide mechanisms and impacts and for retraining landslide forecast models, which we’ll use to predict the potential impacts of future landslide-triggering events more accurately.

“The importance of this work has been recognised by an MBIE awarded $10.5 million Endeavour Fund grant. This new work will create a suite of national-scale landslide models that can forecast where rapid and dangerous landslides are likely to be triggered by future earthquake and rainfall events, like those triggered by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake and Cyclone Gabrielle. When complete, the models can be used by end-users at national and local levels to improve short-term response and long-term policy, planning and investment decisions, ultimately increasing New Zealand’s resilience to the impacts from landslides.

“To further support land-use planning that properly considers landslide hazard and risk, particularly in light of increasing landslide occurrence driven by our changing climate, GNS is preparing to release Landslide Planning Guidance which strongly encourages landslide hazards and risk to be considered early in the land-use planning decision-making process, to help avoid costly and potentially dangerous new developments that could pose a risk to people, property, and the environment.

“Cyclone Gabrielle landslide damage alone cost more than $1.5 billion and counting. This highlights the importance of considering not just the likelihood, but the consequence of landslide hazards. It is hoped the recent storm events and this Guidance will be a catalyst in changing land-use planning and practice, so that the future impacts of landslides will be significantly reduced.”

No conflict of interest.

Building Back Better

Sandeeka Mannakkara, Lecturer, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, comments:

“We need to move away from reactively responding to natural disasters, and adopt a proactive approach, to break away from the post-disaster ‘repair and rebuild’ cycle. This is the philosophy of ‘Building Back Better’, a strategy aimed at reducing the risk to communities in the wake of future disasters and shocks.

“The recovery efforts following the 2023 Auckland floods present a promising alignment with some Building Back Better principles, although there is room for further progress:

Effective Implementation: The establishment of the Tāmaki Makaurau Recovery Office to coordinate and overlook the recovery ensures a unified approach with all stakeholders, key to Building Back Better. Recovery efforts can be delayed by cumbersome legislation and regulatory challenges, as well as inadequate transition planning between distinct recovery phases. It is crucial to be aware of these factors to allow for a successful recovery process.

Disaster Risk Reduction: The good – a streamlined 3-level risk categorization for homeowners with clear actions, accessible information and guidance, and funding provisions for necessary improvements. However, concentrating only on the immediately experienced hazards (flooding and landslides) in this categorization was a missed opportunity for the long-term multi-hazard approach advocated by Building Back Better.

Community Recovery: Fantastic support services have been created to help communities recover following the disaster. These include ‘Storm Recovery Navigators’ and ‘Partner Navigators’ established to offer personalized advice and information to individuals and home-owners about insurance, financial assistance, emotional well-being support, and decision-making which leads to successful Building Back Better outcomes. Tailored advice services were also provided for businesses covering continuity planning, financial assistance, mental health support, and insurance guidance.

“A commendable first step has been taken in establishing provisions and guidance for Building Back Better in the recovery process.

“However, a significant concern that we are investigating is how fair and equitable the recovery has been among diverse ethnic groups in Tāmaki Makaurau. We will closely monitor the unfolding recovery efforts throughout the upcoming year to assess the execution of plans and their resulting outcomes.”

No conflict of interest.


Dr Ulrich Speidel, Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, University of Auckland, comments:

“Cyclone Gabrielle showed us that we can’t rely on consumer-grade communication networks in an emergency.

“Mobile and landline phone, Internet, EFTPOS and emergency services all used the same fragile infrastructure: The same fibre cables connecting the same mobile sites on the same power grid with batteries designed to cover power supply for a few hours only. Perfect for power lines downed in a car crash, nowhere near enough for a cyclone, quake or tsunami.

“A lot of work has since gone on behind the scenes to identify single points of failure and to identify what can be done. There is some pushback from telcos who don’t want to pay for resilience that doesn’t produce a return on investment during normal operation. Government budgets are always tight. And you mightn’t want to shell out another few bucks a month now to phone mum when the big one hits, which mightn’t hit you at all.

“But low resilience carries an opportunity cost: Businesses don’t like setting up in places with unreliable networks. And when the big one hits after all, there’s hell to pay if you can’t get your message out.”

Conflict of interest statement: Dr Ulrich Speidel does not receive funding from New Zealand telecommunication network operators. He has received research funding from Internet NZ and the APNIC Foundation.