Preparing for the worst

By Alexander Speirs

A Resilience Scorecard is key to coping with natural disasters, reports Alexander Speirs.

Auckland can learn lessons from the Christchurch and Wellington quakes.
Auckland can learn lessons from the Christchurch and Wellington quakes.

Auckland is not immune from the need to prepare for natural disasters, even if the recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Wellington make those cities the obvious targets for developing resilient infrastructure.

Aecom NZ managing director John Bridgman says the critical issue is learning from the experiences of Christchurch and Wellington.

"We have a fantastic opportunity in New Zealand to pick up that learning and see the issues that came up there and how resilient those cities were."

Bridgman explains resilience is the ability to cope with and bounce back from extreme events, adding that it is "also about how you deal with other critical events, they could be pandemics, cyber attacks, sovereignty issues, even major financial crises."

Given Auckland is the country's economic powerhouse, ensuring the resiliency of the Super City is essential.

Bridgman identifies the first step is for Auckland City to factor resilience into the mix when deciding which projects to proceed on.

The second step is to use resilience as a tool to improve the city's attractiveness to business and investors.

"We know that businesses globally are considering where to put their investment and one of the tools they're using to determine that investment is which cities are most resilient and most able to cope with issues that may befall them ."

As part of the National Infrastructure Plan, eight key resiliency attributes have been developed including preparedness at a national level for government, business and community.

This underpins why Aecom is developing a Resilience Scorecard - a set of tools and metrics to quantify the resilience of a city - in association with IBM and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

"We want this to be a tool cities can use to assess and develop their cities in a resilient manner, with the ability to withstand extreme events," says Michael Nolan, Aecom's Global Leader for Climate Adaptation and Resilience.

"The tool helps develop the processes and infrastructure required to handle these situations."

At present there is an agency-centric approach with a number of different organisations acting individually to determine which projects are given the go-ahead and when.

Nolan says determining how these projects come together is a struggle. He notes the National Infrastructure Unit is trying to help and they have incorporated resilience as part of their quotient for prioritising the projects.

"We're starting to get more resilience with projects like the Western Ring Route, which enables cross-city connection," says Bridgman.

"We've got increasing duplication of public transport systems, but at the moment it's still quite fragile."

"I think if you applied the resilience mantle to those projects you might find the Harbour Bridge duplication - second crossing of Auckland - is a higher priority than it would otherwise have been considered purely on an economic basis."

Resilience goes beyond infrastructure however. Says Nolan: "It's the overall ability of a city to still operate and maintain jobs and activity during and after extreme events. It's not just the government perspective of resilience, private sector resilience needs to be considered."

In a world of increased volatility, coupled with complex infrastructural systems and increasing demands for just-in-time delivery, resilience has become a critical ingredient for economic stability and an important factor for businesses to consider when assessing major investments.

Nolan recently returned from a UN initiative which developed a strategy for San Francisco to prepare for a broad range of scenarios including natural disasters, earthquakes and climate change. Much of the work was centred on business partnerships with the public sector.

San Francisco determined that once it defined what resilience meant in terms of its frameworks, the city could pursue private-public sector partnerships.

In the case of water, it was decided that resilience meant instead of businesses not being connected to water services for up to six months (following an extreme event like an earthquake) the time taken to restore services should be no more than one week.

"It was identified that business continuity issues would be massive, but with sufficient investment, they could have business continuity where they could be reconnected to those services within a week," said Nolan.

The business community responded strongly to make up the funding difference by using infrastructure bonds to raise $14 billion to improve the resilience of the city's water infrastructure.

- NZ Herald

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