New Zealand: Case study of a country with multiple hazards MULTIPLE HAZARDS: NZ is a geomorphologically, geologically and meteorologically unstable country where extreme events are relatively frequent. The three main hazards are: 1. Flooding - most frequent and widespread but rarely fatal 2. Earthquakes - most dangerous (similar level of seismic activity to California) 3. Volcanic events - least frequent and most underrated. note: New Zealand is part of the pacific Ring of Fire and is located on the boundary between the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates. North Island lies over an active subduction zone and so future volcanic eruptions are likely to occur. The most seismically active zone is along the South Island Alpine Fault running from Fjordland to East Cape. MOST VULNERABLE AREAS: All New Zealand people can be affected by natural hazards. A key factor which influences the impact of the natural hazards in NZ is population density. The three most vulnerable areas are: 1. Auckland and the central North Island - over 2 million people live here on an island with 66 volcanoes. 2. Wellington (capital) - population of ½ million located in an active earthquake zone and in the Hutt Valley which has serious flood risks. 3. The Christchurch region where 300,000 people are at risk of flooding from the Waimakrri River. MANAGEMENT OF THE HAZARD RISK - ‘An all-hazard approach’: Despite the great risks posed by natural hazards, in the 20 th century there was an average of only three deaths a year from natural hazards! Therefore, NZ is widely recognised as a world leader in effective hazard management. There are six key strands to hazard management in NZ: i) Hazard vulnerability assessment Detailed assessment of hazard risk in every part of the country. ii) Legislation Many laws passed specifically for natural hazard reduction e.g. ‘1991 buildings act’ - building height and design regulated to reduce vulnerability to earthquakes; ‘ hazard planning zones’ - no development is allowed in the highest risk areas and are left as public open space. Auckland has 8 such zones.
iii) Preparedness Highly organised response at individual, household, community, regional and national levels. All organisations (e.g. schools, businesses) must have individual hazard management plan to include how they would respond to an emergency. Highly co-ordinated emergency services - police, fire and ambulance. Civil Defence (trained community representatives) plays important role. iv) Public education and information Leaflets, posters, videos distributed to community groups, churches, schools etc. Natural hazards are a key part of the National Curriculum in schools. National campaigns e.g. 1993 day of ‘Stop disasters in schools’. v) Improved monitoring and alerting systems e.g. system for monitoring and alerting seismic hazards (SMASH); computerised register of people who need special help in an emergency. vi) Hazard research e.g. Lifelines project - based in Wellington this project aims to design new ways of reducing vulnerability of key services such as electricity, gas, water, telecommunications in high-risk zones. e.g. Volcanic studies - research focussing on monitoring and predicting volcanic activity on North Island.