Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road eastbound lanes closed this Saturday

Source: New Zealand Transport Agency


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency advises the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road eastbound lanes between Pāpāmoa and Paengaroa will be closed between 6am and 1pm on Saturday 23 January 2021.

The eastbound lanes of the motorway will be used as part of the cycle route for the Mount Festival of Multisport. The alternative route for motorists during this time will be via the Te Puke Highway.

The westbound lanes will remain open and people can expect to see cyclists in the opposing lanes.

Minor delays may be experienced during this time and traffic management will be in place at the Domain Road interchange and Paengaroa roundabout.

For up to date information on road works, traffic, detours and delays, motorists are encouraged to visit the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner website journeys.nzta.govt.nz(external link).

Waka Kotahi thanks motorists for their patience.

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey this summer. Keep up to date with:

Resurfacing works on SH1 Whakauru Bridge, Tokoroa

Source: New Zealand Transport Agency


Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency advises road resurfacing work will commence on State Highway 1 at Whakauru Bridge in Tokoroa from Tuesday 26 January.

Work will take place between 6pm and 6am, with Stop/Go traffic management and a temporary speed limit of 30km/h in place. Work is expected to take three days, weather permitting, and minor delays can be expected during work hours.

Outside work hours the road will operate as normal.

Waka Kotahi thanks road users for their patience while we carry out this work.

Plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable journey this summer. Keep up to date with:

November to December 2020 titles of advice to the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission

Source: New Zealand Treasury:

Each list is published on or around 20 days after the end of each quarter.

Advice is in the form of Treasury reports, cabinet briefings, aide memoires or joint reports with other departments. Where other Ministers have received the same advice the relevant portfolios are listed. 

If advice has subsequently been released a link to the page or website where it is available will be provided. 

Some information has been withheld in line with the following grounds under the Official Information Act 1982:

  • Section 9(2)(b)(ii) to protect the commercial position of the supplier of the information
  • Section 9(2)(f)(iv) to protect the confidentiality of advice tendered by Ministers of the Crown and officials
  • Section 9(2)(g)(i) to maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinion
  • Section 9(2)(h) to maintain legal professional privilege
  • Section 9(2)(i) to enable the Crown to negotiate without disadvantage or prejudice
  • Section 9(2)(j) to avoid prejudice to negotiations.

This list includes papers received from the Minister’s reporting agency where he is the main recipient. Papers received from other agencies, or where a paper has been referred to the Minister by another Minister, are not included in this list. 

List of November to December 2020 titles of advice to the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
Document date Title Portfolios Document available
12 Nov 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3339: Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd: Fees for Independent Oversight Committee Earthquake Commission No
19 Nov 2020 Aide Memoire T2020/3525: Southern Response: Flow Chart to Support Recent and Forthcoming Advice Earthquake Commission No
20 Nov 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3533: Weekly Status Report for the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission – 19 November 2020 Earthquake Commission No
24 Nov 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3334: Earthquake Commission: Commencement Report Earthquake Commission No
26 Nov 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3492: Proactive Release of the Briefing to the Incoming Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Earthquake Commission No
26 Nov 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3572: Weekly Status Report for the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission – 26 November 2020 Earthquake Commission No
1 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3485: Insurance claims settlement – progress report quarter ending September 2020 Earthquake Commission No
2 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3560: Southern Response Call on Uncalled Capital Facility Q3 FY20/21 Earthquake Commission No
3 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3530: Deficiency Funding Update for the Earthquake Commission Earthquake Commission No
3 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3654: Weekly Status Report for the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission – 2 December 2020 Earthquake Commission No
3 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3267: Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd: Documentation to Confirm Appointments to the Independent Oversight Committee Earthquake Commission No
8 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3683: EQC – Letter of Expectations for 2021/22 Earthquake Commission No
10 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3598: 2021/22 Owner Expectations for Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited Earthquake Commission No
10 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3680: EQC Risk Financing and Reinsurance Programme 2021/22 Earthquake Commission No
10 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3748: Weekly Status Report for the Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Earthquake Commission No
10 Dec 2020 Aide Memoire T2020/3766: Appointments to Independent Oversight Committee Earthquake Commission No
10 Dec 2020 Aide Memoire T2020/3751: Meeting with InnerCity Wellington: Supplementary note on Earthquake Commission matters Earthquake Commission No
11 Dec 2020 Treasury Report T2020/3760: Southern Response: Updated Terms of Reference and Appointments Letters for Independent Oversight Committee Earthquake Commission No
15 Dec 2020 Aide Memoire T2020/3802: Delegations to the Secretary Earthquake Commission No

Enhancing safety innovation in New Zealand

Enhancing safety innovation in New Zealand

Source: Worksafe New Zealand

When Jason Johnstone was medically discharged from his job as an operator/trainer after being diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), he decided to explore ways to prevent it happening to other New Zealanders.

Jason is one of the very few people in New Zealand diagnosed with HAVS, a condition that can be permanently disabling, where nerves and blood vessels are damaged by exposure to repeated vibrations from hand and power tools.

Symptoms include tingling fingers, numbness, pain, weakness, loss of dexterity and impeded blood flow.

If caught early enough, HAVS can be reversible – but in Jason’s case, his symptoms persist, flaring up at the slightest change of temperature or during certain activities.

“All the crockery in our house has chips on it because when I do the dishes my fingers often go numb and I tend to drop the dishes. It’s much worse in winter and I’m pretty much stuffed when it comes to doing up buttons.”

But this hasn’t stopped Jason developing a new hand-arm vibration (HAV) monitoring device and launching a business to address what he calls a “massive grey area” in New Zealand around vibration exposure in the workplace.

Jason has worked with power tools for most of his life. His HAVS symptoms became more pronounced while he was working at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter as an operator/trainer – a job that involved use of jack hammers amongst other tools. The smelter did have time limits on use of certain tools, but intensity was also a factor.

“My wife is a U.K. trained general surgical registrar and diagnosed me with HAVS, I had no idea what HAVS was at that time. I told the smelter doctor my hands feel funny and was sent to see occupational health specialists Professor David MacBride were he formally diagnosed me; Professor David MacBride is New Zealand leading workplace disease expert.

“Basically, I was told l couldn’t use the tools anymore and was medically discharged from my job at Tiwai. But what I noticed was that no one had any idea how the injury had occurred. Sure, vibration emitted from tools and machinery had caused my injury but there was no data to explain this to the medical or health and safety professional. No one knew how much vibration I had been exposed to on a daily basis, nothing. It was all guesswork and seemed completely crazy, felt like I had wasted 20 years of my life”.

Jason’s experience has led him to research current figures on HAVS in New Zealand revealing what he sees as a major issue of underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis.

“According to ACC data on HAVS, there were only 40-50 cases of HAVS in New Zealand from 2000-2018,” says Jason. “This is unusual because 6230 cases were reported in the United Kingdom in half of that time. Even if we consider that the two workforces are similar, based on population statistics the incidence in New Zealand should have been 785 cases in 18 years or 44 cases per year.”

He also found that during 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2019, ACC data showed there were 5,342 cases of carpal tunnel syndrome compared to the United Kingdom’s 2,930. Furthermore, international research has shown vibration from hand tools does contribute to carpal tunnel injuries.

“In the UK, doctors are trained to recognise HAVS. In New Zealand they’re not. So, it’s very often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel and that certainly has been my experience after being told I have carpal tunnel each time we relocate. I believe it’s a problem in New Zealand given workers’ exposure in our construction, forestry, manufacture, transport and agriculture sectors.”

Jason identified the need for a user-based device to monitor vibration and capture much needed data. He worked with a software developer Digital Stock in Invercargill to develop a HAV monitoring app and dashboard – and sought a real workplace in which to trial it.

“I was sitting at the traffic lights and saw a Delta Utility Services ute draw up beside me and noticed it had a load of tools in the back. So, I followed it all the way back to Delta’s head office, went in and asked to speak to the health and safety rep.”

Delta is a Dunedin-based infrastructure maintenance company that services electricity distribution and communications networks as well as maintaining the local authority’s green spaces. Delta had recently identified HAV as a workplace hazard for its employees who often use vibrating machinery such as mowers and weed eaters for long periods.

So when Matt Sadgrove, Delta Health and Safety Manager, came out to meet Jason, he was immediately on board to help him trial the device.

“I could see this was a smart idea, an innovative New Zealand-made tool to gather information to help us to make smarter decisions to keep our people safe.”

Matt is also a member of the New Zealand Community of Safety Innovation (COSI), a group of around 60 safety professionals who work together to identify new ways to improve health and safety. The group is supported by WorkSafe New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management, the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum and the Health & Safety Association New Zealand (HASANZ).

“Our people are our biggest asset,” says Delta’s Matt. “Vibration is a major workplace health risk in New Zealand and Jason’s device is an opportunity to accurately identify, manage and prevent this risk across our workplaces.”

Over the next year, Delta’s health and safety team and crews trialled the device. The crew provided valuable feedback about the robustness of the device for use in the field. Delta also helped Jason refine the app he had developed to make the data easier to interpret once collected.

The trial resulted in Delta purchasing new robotic mowers for the business, eliminating the vibration hazard and removing the workers from other hazards such as wasps, working on slopes and sun exposure.

For Jason, the trial has resulted in working prototype vibration detection bands and launch of his business, Vibration Action. He is now seeking capital to support further development and commercialisation of the device.

“My ultimate goal is to incorporate the software into a Fitbit-like device that workers can wear all day, monitoring not just hand-arm vibrations, but sending and receiving real-time threshold alerts and capturing data. I have plans to develop other devices that measure whole-of-body vibration and workplace noise levels and incorporate them into one system that is fit for industry purpose”

Associate Professor in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Otago University, David McBride, says Jason’s device is just what New Zealand needs.

“As a workplace hazard, exposure to vibration is ubiquitous in New Zealand across construction, agriculture, horticulture and forestry. New Zealand needs to invest in more research in this area.

“With Jason’s device, we have for the first time a simple tool using available technology to scientifically assess risk in the workplace, helping raise awareness of the issue, support training and education and importantly ensure people take adequate breaks.”

Daniel Hummerdal, Head of Innovation at WorkSafe New Zealand which supports the COSI, says Jason’s device and Delta’s trial are a great example of the ingenuity and motivation in New Zealand to create better outcomes.

“This journey underscores the purpose of COSI to connect people and organisations that are developing and trialling their ideas in isolation and bring them together. We can all be inspired and learn from each other and not only spread good ideas quicker but help translate them into actions that create better outcomes.”

Media contact details

For more information you can contact our Media Team using our media request form. Alternatively, you can:

Phone: 021 823 007 or

Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz

6 cases of COVID-19 in 2 days in managed isolation

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health

There are 6 cases of COVID-19 in managed isolation to report in New Zealand since our last media statement on Monday. One of these cases is classified as historical and deemed not infectious. 

There are no new cases in the community. 

New border case details 

Arrival date 



Positive test day/reason 

Managed isolation/quarantine location 

26 Dec

South Africa

United Arab Emirates

Around day 24/contact of a case


Note: The above case is within a travel bubble of a previously confirmed case reported on 31 Dec. The above case has been in the Auckland quarantine facility since the contact case was detected.

29 Dec


United Arab Emirates

Around day 12/routine testing


9 Jan


United Arab Emirates

Around day 9/routine testing


9 Jan

To be determined

United Arab Emirates

Around day 9 /routine testing


14 Jan



Around day 3/routine testing


18 Dec



Around day 0/routine testing in transit


Note: This person was part of an international fishing crew which left New Zealand via ship on 18 December. Previous history of overseas COVID-19 like illness in family members and a weak positive test resulted in a clinical assessment it is a historical case. 

Fourteen previously reported cases have now recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 76. Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,911.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,472,326. 

On Tuesday, 4,451 tests were processed. The seven-day rolling average up to yesterday is 3,447 tests processed. 

As indicated on Monday, genome sequencing results from the latest sequencing run by ESR are due today. A separate website update will be provided once this is received.

All travellers arriving into New Zealand – excluding Australia, Antarctica, and some Pacific nations – are now required to have both pre-departure and 0/1 tests and stay in their rooms until the result is known.

NZ COVID Tracer 

NZ COVID Tracer now has 2,453,070 registered users.

Poster scans have reached 155,876,751 and users have created 6,299,397 manual diary entries.

The Ministry would like to remind all New Zealanders to keep each other safe and use the Covid Tracer app to scan QR codes and turn on Bluetooth functionality.

Using the Bluetooth functionality will allow you to receive an alert if you have been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19. Find out more here.

The Ministry’s next update is planned for 1pm on Friday 22 January.

Media contact 

Danya Levy
021 996 010 

Interim Evaluation Report 2020: Healthy Families NZ

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health


In 2015 the Ministry of Health contracted Massey University to undertake the evaluation of Healthy Families NZ. A previously published Summative Evaluation Report updated the findings of the national evaluation of Healthy Families NZ following the first three years of implementation of the initiative (from late 2014 to end of 2017).

This Interim Evaluation Report, prepared by Victoria Univeristy of Wellington, outlines the methods and tools that will be used for the second phase of implementation (2019-2022).

This report contains six sections:

  • Section 1: A description of the questions and approach for the current evaluation phase.
  • Section 2: A summary of the draft indicator sets.
  • Section 3: A Prevention Action Framework for understanding types of activities and potential change in the Aotearoa New Zealand prevention system.
  • Section 4: Qualitative indicators that we are currently developing, of factors that would show quality of implementation and indicate the prevention system had been strengthened.
  • Section 5: Quantitative indicators sourced from national surveys, to provide context for locations and to provide potential longer-term indication of change.
  • Section 6: A methodology for a value for money evaluation of the initiative using a cost-consequences approach.


Healthy Families NZ is a large-scale prevention initiative that focuses on creating healthy, more equitable communities – aiming to improve people’s health where they live, learn, work and play by taking a systems-change approach to preventing chronic disease. This systems-change approach aligns to international evidence that shows systems -based approaches are becoming increasingly common as the evidence of the need for explicit ‘whole system’ responses to these challenges is becoming clearer.

Healthy Families NZ is in nine locations in areas with higher-than-average rates of preventable chronic diseases, higher-than-average rates of risk factors for these diseases, and/or high levels of deprivation. The nine locations are spread throughout Aotearoa in a mix of urban and rural areas, with the potential to reach over one mission New Zealanders.  

Waitangi Day 2021 – top seven employment tips you need to know

Waitangi Day 2021 – top seven employment tips you need to know

Source: Employment New Zealand

This year, Waitangi Day falls on Saturday 6 February and is observed on that day or Monday 8 February. Here are seven things you need to know about rights for employees and obligations for employers.

1. Mondayisation for Waitangi Day

This year, Waitangi Day falls on a Saturday. This means the holiday is moved to the following Monday, which is Monday 8 February.

2. Requirement to work on Waitangi Day

If your employee normally works on Waitangi Monday 8 February you can only make the employee work or be available on the Monday 8 February, if:

  • the requirement to work on public holidays is written in their employment agreement (contract), or
  • there is an availability clause and the employee is paid fairly to be available.

Otherwise, an employee does not have to agree to work or being available during Waitangi Monday.

3. Payment for working a public holiday

Employees must be paid for Waitangi Day, if they normally work on Saturday 6 February or Monday 8 February. If they don’t normally work on these particular days, they don’t need to be paid for Waitangi Day.

Any employee (including a casual employee) who agrees to work on the Waitangi Saturday must be paid time and a half for all hours they work. Any employee (including a casual employee) who agrees to work on Monday 8 February and has not worked on Saturday 6 February, must be paid time and a half, if Monday is a day that they normally would work. If an employee works on both Waitangi Saturday 6 February and Monday 8 February, they only get paid time and a half for one of the days. (See item 4 below).

In addition, if the Waitangi Saturday or Monday falls on a day an employee would normally work on the Saturday or Monday, then the employee who works is also entitled to a paid day off at another time (called an alternative holiday or day in lieu).

Even if an employer closes their business on 6 February and/or 8 February, they still have to pay the employees their entitlements for the public holiday. If the employer closes their business on both days, they cannot make their employees take annual leave on one of the days, unless the employer has given the employee 14 days’ notice.

Public holidays

4. Giving an employee Waitangi Day entitlements

  • If an employee normally does not work on Waitangi Saturday, they get the public holiday on the Mondayised Waitangi Monday.
  • If an employee would normally work on the Waitangi Saturday if it was not a public holiday, then they will get their holiday entitlements on that Saturday.
  • If an employee does not normally work on the Waitangi Saturday, but works on the Mondayised Waitangi day, then their holiday entitlement is transferred to the Waitangi Monday.

Public holiday falls on Saturday

5. Sick or bereavement leave on Waitangi Day

When an employee would have worked on a public holiday but is sick or bereaved, the day is treated as a normal paid public holiday and:

  • the employee would be paid their relevant daily pay or average daily pay, but would not be entitled to time and a half or an alternative holiday.
  • no sick or bereavement leave is deducted.

Pay for public holidays, sick and bereavement leave and alternative holidays

6. Waitangi day and annual holidays

If the employee is in the middle of their annual holidays during Waitangi Day, and Waitangi Saturday or Monday is a day they normally work, they will get paid for one Waitangi holiday, and this is not deducted from their annual holidays. (See number 4 above – and note this is a must and cannot be contracted out of.)

7. Requests for annual holidays

Sometimes employees will request to extend Waitangi Day with annual holidays.

Employees are entitled to 4 weeks’ annual holidays each year when they have worked for their employer for 12 months. Prior to the 12 months, an employer may grant annual holidays in advance at their discretion.

If an employee wants to take entitled annual holidays, the employer can’t unreasonably refuse. An employer can say no if an employee wants to take annual holidays in advance.

Taking annual holidays 

New generation steps up for summer of conservation

New generation steps up for summer of conservation

Source: Department of Conservation

Date:  20 January 2021

The young quartet is Jaime White (Community Ranger), Fletcher Broughton (Kauri Dieback Ambassador), Shania Hills (Kauri Dieback Ambassador) and Grace Lockwood (Community Ranger), all in their 20s. DOC Hauraki District Community Supervisor Leanne Irvine, refers to them as “the new generation of conservation professionals”.

The quartet work alongside colleagues of all ages, and conservation professionals who’ve been with DOC for several decades.

Jaime White joined DOC on a fixed-term contract as maternity cover: “I came into DOC wanting to try something different but ended up really loving it!”

“You make friendships where you didn’t think you would, and that’s one of the things I value working for DOC, along with the experience older colleagues have,” Jaime says. “There are lots of opportunities to learn.”

Although her role is primarily office-based focussing on administration and relationship management, Jaime thrives on field work and was thrilled to participate in a recent restocking of the popular Pinnacles Hut, a job done using a helicopter.

Fletcher Broughton, a keen surfer, is in his first season with DOC.

“I’ve tried a bunch of different work, but I was always waiting for the end of the day so I could go and be in nature,” he says. “I’d heard about DOC, and it sounded like a dream job. I started by volunteering and landed this track ambassador gig.”

Shania Hills says her studies in environmental science make DOC a perfect fit.

“Coming to DOC was always my dream,” she says. “It does mean a lot to me.”

Shania and Fletcher’s roles will see them spending a lot of time dealing with the public. Many of the visitors they’ll encounter will be people on holiday, and Fletcher expects they’ll be in good spirits and open to guidance about preventing the spread of Kauri Dieback.

“It’ll be cool hearing people’s stories about why they’re up here – I’m excited,” Shania says.

Long-serving staff “quickly become like mentors”, Fletcher says, while Shania believes being younger also means the quartet can bring new ideas and approaches to the Hauraki team.

Grace is “born and bred Coromandel” and started with DOC as a Track Ambassador, joining the organisation through a hui on the restoration of Moehau, a mountain important to Coromandel iwi.

“I’ve found it really cool working with all ages. They have so much experience to share with you, and you can see when you’re talking to them, they’re inspired by you, too.”

Grace is passionate about marine work and enjoys outdoor pursuits like tramping, scuba diving and kayaking.  She has a strong connection to the land and it’s reflected in her commitment to her work: “You cut through all the distractions of the world, and you know your duty is to be kaitiaki (guardian), experiencing it and doing your job – I feel very strongly about this.”

Leanne says she’s immensely proud of the effort and energy of the four young rangers: “I’ve been really impressed by how these guys have thrown themselves into their work – it’s really inspiring to see the effort they go to and the spirit they show in their work. They show so much leadership.”

“I’m proud to work for the Department,” Jaime White says. “It’s a career I never thought I’d get into, and now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

Break the chain of violence with education | EIT Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti

Break the chain of violence with education | EIT Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti

Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

1 hour ago

Education is one key to break the chain of family violence, says an EIT Tairāwhiti student and mother of six who knows from experience.   

Pat Tamanui has had a rough ride in her adult life so far including two violent relationships.  

Her second ended in a traumatic event witnessed by some of her children. The police were involved and a long drawn-out court process followed.  

“It was the same cycle as my first relationship, if not worse.  

She thought she was at her lowest when she enrolled at EIT.  

“I did not know what I wanted to study, but I knew education was the key to my future. 

My social worker told me about this course and asked if I wanted to sign up for it. I was interested and I went to the interview and met the tutor Tania Hagen.  

I signed up and went back to study the New Zealand Certificate in Study and Career Preparation level 3 and then 4.  

Soon after starting level 3, the global pandemic Covid 19 hit.  

As we headed into level 2, Pat moved into emergency housing with her children but did not give up on her studies. Her tutor Tania Hagen says. 

 ” Despite everything, Pat has stayed focused and achieved some excellent grades.

She has applied to do the Bachelor of Social Work for 2021. 

” I thought about going back to Te Whatukura to finish off my studies there. I have also thought about Toihoukura ( Maori Arts ) and Computing.  

By the end of my first semester, I decided I wanted to be a social worker because of my life experiences.  

What I have gone through gives me empathy and understanding. I still have a journey myself, but eventually I aim to be an advocate and help people.”  

A huge inspiration to leave her relationship and get educated has been her children, especially her five daughters.  

“I have to be a role model for my daughters. I do not want them to go through what I went through. I am passionate and driven on this journey now “.  

Pat has high praise for the support she has received from EIT staff as well as Moni Ora budgeting services and emergency housing from Work and Income New Zealand.  

” It has been hard talking to all the different people. Every time I have to bring up the nitty gritty but I am doing well now.  

Anyone who wants more information about the courses offered at EIT Tairāwhiti can go on the EIT website  call into the main office on Palmerston Road. 

Volcanic missiles help Auckland prepare for threats from belowWednesday, January 20, 2021Scientists unleashing volcanic ballistics onto Kiwi roofs hope to help Aucklanders understand and manage their volcanic hazards.

Volcanic missiles help Auckland prepare for threats from belowWednesday, January 20, 2021Scientists unleashing volcanic ballistics onto Kiwi roofs hope to help Aucklanders understand and manage their volcanic hazards.

Source: Earthquake Commission – EQC

Scientists unleashing volcanic ballistics onto Kiwi roofs hope to help Aucklanders understand and manage their volcanic hazards.

“Auckland sits on an active volcanic field with 53 known volcanic centres and it is likely there will be an eruption in the future, we just aren’t sure when or where,” says lead researcher Professor Thomas Wilson from the University of Canterbury.

“Our role as researchers is to put that risk in context and understand what the likely impacts are to help our partners in the public sector refine planning and decision-making around any potential future event.”

Wilson and his team have been researching a variety of aspects of volcanic activity, simulating what may happen to buildings exposed to a future Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF) eruption. This includes PhD student Nicole Allen firing volcanic rocks at high velocity onto typical kiwi roof designs and loading them with tonnes of volcanic ash. 

“By testing the strength of the roofs, we can see what damage may be sustained by buildings, which in turn can help us understand how many homes could be damaged in eruptions and what we could do to protect them.” says Allen.

“This may also help inform how much protection New Zealand buildings provide to people caught in an erupting volcano, and if they can provide a useful place to shelter.”

The projects of Wilson’s team are part of the larger DEVORA research programme. DEVORA stands for Determining Volcanic Risk in Auckland and represents a multidisciplinary team of scientists from around the world studying Auckland volcanoes in partnership with the emergency management and insurance sectors. DEVORA is jointly led by The University of Auckland and GNS Science.

Wilson says that the funding and collaboration opportunities provided by the Earthquake Commission, Auckland Council, and Auckland Emergency Management to DEVORA over the past 12 years has been “precious”.

 “The coming together of scientists and the public sector to help inform volcano risk management is pretty unique internationally and provides New Zealand with an amazing long-term capability to make the best decisions,” says Wilson.

Many Aucklanders may not be aware that the cones scattered around the city landscape are part of the potentially active Auckland Volcanic Field (AVF). The last eruption in the area was Rangitoto around 600 years ago, which in volcanic terms is considered fairly recent.

Unlike the big volcanoes in the central North Island, the Auckland field triggers smaller eruptions in new locations, which has created the cones and some lakes we see around the city.

Wilson says that the chance of a volcanic eruption in Auckland is roughly between 5 and 15 percent within a person’s lifetime, “which is fairly unlikely in our lifetime. But if it did happen, the impacts would be so large that it is well worth the emphasis we are putting on the planning for potential evacuations, insurance exposure, and critical infrastructure resilience with our partners in the public sector”.

“A volcanic eruption could create multiple hazards, not just ashfall, but also lava flows, ballistic projectiles, hot ash and gas surges, shockwaves, landslides or even a tsunami, so it is important to build reliable impact assessment models for all possible events.”

The Canterbury volcano risk expert says that DEVORA’s research will continue to  help insurers like EQC to better forecast potential damage, help local authorities refine their plans to mitigate the impact of an eruption, and predict whether houses will be inhabitable and essential services intact.

Image 1 (video): Nicole Allen, left, and Amilea Sork attach the volcanic rock to “the cannon”, an air-pressure based launching mechanism at the University of Canterbury to replicate the effect of volcanic ballistics during an eruption.

Image 2: Professor of Disaster Risk and Resilience Thomas Wilson.