Building resilience for communities

Welcome to the Climate Adaptation & Resilience Team at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand

We are an interdisciplinary team of risk researchers building a foundation for understanding how to…

  • Understanding how impacts cascade through society’s well being domains
  • Communicate risk and engage with communities
  • Adaptively plan in the face of uncertainty
  • Manage risk, avoid maladaptation, and find win-wins when intervening
  • Improve the built environment to maximise environmental and community wellbeing

We work closely with communities around New Zealand to co-develop solutions to the problems they’re facing.


Understanding cascading risks

In complex systems of systems, like those that exist in our communities, risk can cascade and compound in unintuitive ways. For example, a road closure can result in impacts on communities, the local economy, and mental health. Alternatively, damage to a site could result in contamination, impacting nearby ecosystems, and disrupting access to mahinga kai. Understanding these cascading impacts is essential for prioritising and managing risk and interventions so that we avoid maladaptive actions. We have shown that indirect risks can be orders of magnitude higher, burden communities decades earlier, and majorly exacerbate inequalities. An effective and just adaptation requires understanding these complex risks.

Modelling and analysis of built-natural systems

Our communities are complex systems with multi-directional relationships and interdependencies between the built, natural, and socioeconomic systems. How do they work? What relationships exist? How do we intervene to improve quality of life, sustainability, and resilience? These questions then raise the major question of how to evaluate actions based on multiple criteria; e.g., what interventions contribute towards health-enabling environments, improve community cohesion, advance environmental justice, and increase biodiversity?

Adaptation Planning

Preparing our communities for a changing climate requires not only understanding how to intervene to reduce the risk in complex systems of systems and advance multiple criteria, but it also requires communicating risk and managing the uncertainty around future environmental conditions. With so many uncertain changes, it is important to find solutions that will be suitable for a range of future scenarios. We seek to evaluate actions against multi-criteria and effective approaches for dynamic and adaptive planning.

Risk Science

What is the conceptual definition of risk? How is risk related to resilience? What is the role of time in risk assessment? Our research is based on the fundamentals of risk assessment, but equally, by exploring these complex applications of risk, we are identifying areas in need of advancement. Our work contributes to this theory and provides a basis for our applied research.

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