Conference paper

Building fire resilience in New Zealand: lessons learnt from the 2009 Victorian bushfires

18 Jun 2018

The 2017 wildfires in the Port Hills, Christchurch, New Zealand, highlight the risk posed by fire adding to the portfolio of natural hazard risks facing New Zealanders. Traditionally, New Zealand places stronger emphasis on seismic and hydro-meteorological perils as they are more prevalent in the country. The Port Hills fire experience underscores the need to build fire resilience, including appropriate institutional capability. This paper explores the institutional setting as well as barriers and opportunities for strengthening the wildfire practices in New Zealand. It uses the ‘lessons learnt’ from the post 2009 Victorian bushfire institutionalisation experience to inform fire risk reduction and resilience capability building in New Zealand. Unlike some ‘lessons learnt’ approaches it does not presume the ready-transferability of practice, but distils key lessons and uses them as a point of entry for further research in the field in New Zealand. This research draws upon mixed methods. It employs desktop research comprising literature reviews and document analysis and distils key lessons learnt from the Victorian case. Subsequent fieldwork and interviews with key informants allowed the researcher to refine and triangulate data collected. The key findings are further used to formulate inquiries in the field in New Zealand to identify opportunities to improve institutional capability for reducing fire risk and building resilience in the country. This paper adds value to fire risk scholarship and practice by identifying institutional strengths and weaknesses within the Australian system and potential application in New Zealand. This research opens up opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and experience between the two countries.

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