Balancing Urgency and Long Term Resilience in Disaster Recovery and Rebuild Efforts

As communities and sectors affected by the devastating forces of Cyclone Gabrielle and Auckland Anniversary weekend floods come to terms with the scale of the impact, our thoughts quickly turn to how we can best recover, rebuild, and importantly prevent devastation from happening again. These immediate social, cultural, economic and environmental needs must be carefully considered alongside the longer-term challenges that future generations will face, with increased frequency and severity of storm events a certainty.

There is naturally a desire to act swiftly and with determination. This served us well with the likes of the Kaikoura Earthquake, where critical lifelines had been severed, and there was a linear nature to the impacts. There was a high sense of urgency and agencies responded accordingly to coordinate their efforts in the recovery.

We as a country find a very similar, yet different challenge ahead for Auckland and Hawkes Bay, where big questions will be asked including how and where we rebuild, and how do we address other communities who feared well this time, but may not fear so well for future events.

In recent times New Zealand has unfortunately become all too familiar with facing the challenge of recovering from natural disasters, and our infrastructure vulnerability has been tested time and again. What has been proven, is the effectiveness of a multi-agency approach to recovery planning and implementation, such as Canterbury and Kaikoura Earthquakes. The recent events of early 2023 have changed the game. The vast geographic spread of destruction and impact is unlike anything seen before in NZ, and the vulnerability of our regions and remote communities has been exposed.

In planning this recovery, agencies and their supply chain will need to accept that for the short and medium term, we are unfortunately likely to have more of these types of events. Establishing a recovery framework which futureproofs for a range of scenarios will enable rapid responses, giving a sense of security and support to communities affected, or at risk, and will also support the decision-making required for longer-term sustainable rebuilding as well as impact planning.

Early prevention is better than cure. Government and national and local agencies need to be bold and brave to continue investment and action to reduce emissions. Future communities are relying on the decision-makers of today to plan for a sustainable and equitable future.

In addition to our 3 waters, rail and transport engineering expertise, Vitruvius can also support agencies in the response through our project governance and strategic advisory services, including non-infrastructure interventions such as behaviour change. For more information. contact Scott Williamson, Vitruvius Director and Sector Lead – Water & Land.