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Natural Hazards

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Natural Hazards

How do ‘Natural Hazards’ fit into the RPS?

The Waikato region is vulnerable to a range of natural hazards including river flooding, volcanic threats, earthquakes, tsunamis, coastal flooding, severe storms, landslides, droughts, debris flows and rural fire. The fact that the region covers a large geographic area, there are generally low levels of household awareness and the population is increasing, all present challenges to the effective management of natural hazards in the Waikato. Moreover, climate change has the potential to exacerbate the severity of a range of hazards. 

The RPS requires a change in approach to managing natural hazards in the region.  It takes an integrated, strategic and holistic line to managing hazard risk, recognising the range of organisations that need to be involved. It also seeks to manage activities to reduce the risks from natural hazards, such as controlling structures within hazard areas. Importantly, the RPS recognises that natural hazards are essentially natural events which only really pose a problem when people, or development, are put at risk. 

The management of natural hazard risks within the region should be consistent and aligned with civil defence approaches, and will particularly cover the aspect of ‘risk reduction’. Respective roles of regional and territorial authorities are clear within the RPS, to avoid duplication of effort and uncertainty. Waikato Regional Council will take a central role through supporting territorial authorities and storing all relevant information. 

A number of the methods outlined in the RPS are already being implemented and are considered business as usual.  However, a number of new areas include identifying the various hazard zones outlined in the RPS and pulling together an organisational strategy to gather data and provide the basis for collaboration on natural hazard management. 

Key messages

Integrated and holistic approach: There are a number of Acts that are relevant to the management of natural hazard risk, and a number of organisations involved, which leads to uncertainty about the roles and responsibilities of each organisation. The RPS advocates for collaboration between organisations, sharing of information and a strategic approach to natural hazard management. 

For example, a Regional Natural Hazards Forum has been established by Waikato Regional Council to promote organisational integration and information sharing across jurisdictional and plan boundaries. The Regional Council will also collaborate with relevant organisations to undertake assessments of communities at risk, and develop long term strategies for these communities. All available information will be shared with territorial authorities and other relevant stakeholders so that if an event does take place, there is a detailed action plan ready to follow.

The RPS also clarifies what actions regional plans and district plans will undertake in relation to natural hazard management.

Risk based approach for managing activities: The Natural Hazards chapter takes a risk based approach. This covers the risk levels of acceptable, tolerable and unacceptable risk. For example, in the case of unacceptable risk, the number of habitable buildings or other vulnerable development should be reduced. All risk will be reduced to tolerable or acceptable.

Planning for an event: The RPS requires local authorities to consider the potential effects of high impact, low probability natural hazard events and plan ahead. For areas at risk of tsunami, this could be planning how water could be slowed, blocked or redirected. It could also mean raising structures and habitable areas above the expected level of inundation or ensuring facilities such as hospitals and schools are easily evacuated in areas at risk from tsunami, lahars, lava and pyroclastic flows and debris avalanche. Maintaining and improving community awareness of the risks from natural hazards and the relationship between activities and natural hazards will also be increased. 

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Key contacts

Rick Liefting, Team Leader for Integrated Catchment Management (Regional Hazards and Environmental Compliance).

Heather Craig, Senior Regional Hazards Advisor for Integrated Catchment Management (Regional Hazards and Environmental Compliance).

Dave Lovatt, Senior Emergency Management Officer for Integrated Catchment Management (Regional Hazards and Environmental Compliance).



“The Natural Hazards chapter of the RPS ensures that the Waikato region has a consistent approach to managing natural hazard risk through district and regional plans.  Using a risk based methodology, Waikato Regional Council will collaborate with communities and stakeholders to identify areas at risk from natural hazards. It will ensure that robust information will be used to assist communities in managing natural hazard risk, both currently and into the future.” Rick Liefting, Senior Regional Hazards Advisor for Integrated Catchment Management (Regional Hazards and Environmental Compliance).