The Resilience Warrant of Fitness Research Programme: Towards a method for applying the New Zealand Resilience Index in a regional context

Ellie Kay, Joanne Stevenson, Chris Bowie, Vivienne Ivory, John Vargo

Resilience to Nature's Challenge report, June 2019


Resilience is “the ability to anticipate and resist the effects of a disruptive event, minimise adverse impacts, respond effectively post-event, maintain or recover functionality, and adapt in a way that allows for learning and thriving,” (National Disaster Resilience Strategy, 2019, p.9). Improving our resilience to disasters is a national priority. Improving resilience begins with understanding where a system is, the desired future state for that system, and through repeated trials and evaluation, building pathways to get there. To find the best pathways toward community resilience in New Zealand, we need to understand where a community’s resilience is now and track its progress over time.

Resilience is a complex and largely intangible concept; therefore, it can only be “measured” by observing the properties that might influence resilience (Martin-Breen & Andries, 2011). Characterising resilience by assessing observable assets and characteristics means gathering data points across the many systems that make up a community (Prior & Hagmann, 2014). In a systematic evaluation of 27 disaster resilience assessment tools, Cutter (2016, p.742) found that the most common elements in all of the approaches could be divided into “attributes and assets (economic, social, environmental, infrastructure) and capacities (social capital, community functions, connectivity, and planning).” As a result of this analysis, Cutter (2016) proposes a measurement core for community disaster resilience with a small number of quantitative variables assessing these fundamental elements and capacities. A measurement core provides a useful point to begin assessing baselines for resilience, benchmarking systems against relevant references, and monitoring the progress of resilience improvement.

Researchers and practitioners use a wide range of tools to assess hazards resilience. There are several comprehensive reviews of approaches to measuring resilience (e.g., Ostadtaghizadeh, 2015; Sharifi, 2016; Winderl, 2014). These reviews note that composite indicators have often been employed to assess a wide range of resilience concepts across a number of contexts in a way that is relatively easy to interpret, communicate, and repeat (e.g., Cutter et al., 2010; Hughes & Bushell, 2013; Saltelli, 2007).

New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) has developed a National Disaster Resilience Strategy (The Strategy) (National Disaster Resilience Strategy, 2019). The Strategy establishes the vision and long-term goals for civil defence and emergency management and proposes a holistic approach to strengthening resilience for New Zealanders. Measurement is a core theme of The Strategy. The Strategy highlights the need to develop robust methods for measuring and showing the impact of decision-making and actions on strengthening resilience. Part of this need was met by this research project: the Resilience Trajectories for a Future Proof New Zealand research programme, part of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges (RNC) National Science Challenge - Kia manawaroa – Ngā Ākina o Te Ao Tūroa funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

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