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A Single Focus For Natural Hazards

14 August

A Single Focus For Natural Hazards

What do earthquakes and landslides, storms and floods, volcanic eruptions and fires, damaging waves and tsunamis have in common?

The answer lies in the newly established Natural Hazards Centre, which will bring all the natural hazards New Zealand faces under a single banner.

The Centre is a joint initiative of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

“The aim is to provide planners and hazard managers with a “first port of call” for scientific information and services on any of the wide range of natural hazards New Zealand communities face”, said joint coordinator Dr Robin Falconer of GNS.

“That means that if you want to know the earthquake risks that a new bridge might be exposed to, or the risks to a proposed subdivision from a nearby river bursting its banks, the Centre will help identify them.”

GNS and NIWA are well placed to take a central role in providing such information because their research and consulting services cover the natural hazards threatening New Zealand, they have national monitoring networks and databases, have a national focus, complement each other’s activities, and are seen as leaders in their fields.

“The whole focus is to make New Zealand a more resilient society”, said Dr Rob Murdoch, NIWA’s Research Director. “As scientists, we want to improve the communication of our findings to the people making decisions, and we want to hear from them where they want us to focus our research efforts.”

“The Centre is not about GNS and NIWA alone. We aim to bring together expertise from a wide range of different bodies, including the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the Earthquake Commission, the Maritime Safety Authority, the Ministry for the Environment, the Insurance Council, Regional and District Councils, weather forecasters, emergency services, utilities, and tangata whenua as well as researchers from universities, other CRIs, and research associations”, said Dr Murdoch.

The Centre will develop a full communications strategy which will include a regular newsletter, public talks, media releases, and a webpage.

The Centre was launched today at the 5th National Hazards Management Conference at Te Papa. The 180 people attending the 3-day workshop and conference include planners, emergency managers, insurers, university and Crown Research Institute scientists, government departments, and weather forecasters.

Scientific sessions at the conference include:

- The National Rural Fire Authority and the art and science of wildland fire management,

- DOC and lessons learned from Ruapehu's crate lake lahar management,

- University of Canterbury and engineering for earthquake resistant design,

- EQC and disaster response planning,

- NIWA and flood forecasting and nowcasting (the short-term forecasting of rainfall using radar data),

- Metservice and the advances in forecasting extreme weather events,

- GNS and the impacts of ashfall on urban environments,

- NIWA and planning for coastal hazards and climate change,

- Victoria University and landslides from rainfall,

Risk management sessions include:

- WRC and linking hazard information and public education,

- Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the Civil Defence Emergency Act,

- National Lifelines Coordinator and the effectiveness of lifelines projects: keeping essential services on line!

- Victoria University and the human element of disasters.

For Further information contact:

Dr Robin Falconer, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)

Tel: 0-4-570 4686

Dr Murray Poulter, National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

Tel: 0-4-386 0560

Web site: http://www.gns.cri.nz/news/conferences/hazconf2002.htm


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