Rural organisational impacts, responses, and recoveries to natural disasters: Case studies from the Canterbury earthquake sequence and the 2010 Southland snowstorm

Zach Whitman

University of Canterbury, PhD thesis 2014


Natural disasters are increasingly disruptive events that affect livelihoods, organisations, and economies worldwide. Research has identified the impacts and responses of organisations to different types of natural disasters, and have outlined factors, such as industry sector, that are important to organisational vulnerability and resilience. One of the most costly types of natural disasters in recent years has been earthquakes, and yet to date, the majority of studies have focussed on the effects of earthquakes in urban areas, while rural organisational impact studies have primarily focused on the effects of meteorological and climatic driven hazards. As a result, the likely impacts of an earthquake on rural organisations in a developed context is unconstrained in the literature. In countries like New Zealand, which have major earthquakes and agricultural sectors that are significant contributors to the economy, it is important to know what impacts an earthquake event would have on the rural industries, and how these impacts compare to that of a more commonly analysed, high-frequency event. In September of 2010, rural organisations in Canterbury experienced the 4 September 2010 Mw 7.1 ‘Darfield’ earthquake and the associated aftershocks, which came to be known as the Canterbury earthquake sequence. The earthquake sequence caused intense ground shaking, creating widespread critical service outages, structural and non-structural damage to built infrastructure, as well as ground surface damage from flooding, liquefaction and surface rupture. Concurrently on September 18 2010, rural organisations in Southland experienced an unseasonably late snowstorm and cold weather snap that brought prolonged sub-zero temperatures, high winds and freezing rain, damaging structures in the City of Invercargill and causing widespread livestock losses and production decreases across the region. This thesis documents the effects of the Canterbury earthquake sequence and Southland snowstorm on farming and rural non-farming organisations, utilizing comparable methodologies to analyse rural organisational impacts, responses and recovery strategies to natural disasters. From the results, a shortterm impact assessment methodology is developed for multiple disasters. Additionally, a regional asset repair cost estimation model is proposed for farming organisations following a major earthquake event, and the use of social capital in rural organisational recovery strategies following natural disasters is analysed.

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