$1m granted to earthquake research

A 7.4 magnitude quake in March caused mass evacuations around the Bay of Plenty. File Image.

The Earthquake Commission has awarded 13 researchers a total of $1m as part of its Biennial Grants to help New Zealanders better understand our natural hazard risks and identify ways to reduce the impact of those hazards.

EQC wants natural hazard resilience to become embedded in all aspects of decision-making for homes, towns, and cities.

One vital part of achieving this vision is to invest in research that will reduce our vulnerability to natural hazard events. Biennial Grants are awarded every two years.

Successful applications for this year’s grants were those that aligned with EQC’s research priorities, but also weaved in either a mātauranga Māori, climate change or social science lens over their research.

The programme has been running since 1989 and this year around 120 researchers applied, which was a record number.

EQC’s Research Manager Dr Natalie Balfour says each of the 13 projects will help understand New Zealand’s natural hazard risk and reduce the impact on people and property when events do happen.

“The successful projects cover everything from building lower carbon cost homes that are seismically resilient, to deploying ocean bottom seismometers to study Wellington offshore earthquakes in the ‘locked’ region of the Hikurangi Subduction Zone, and design for the re-erection of an important wharenui using mātauranga Māori,” says Natalie.

“When sound data and research is put into the hands of key decision-makers like policy makers, local councils, designers, engineers, builders and most importantly, the New Zealand public, this is when we can start making a difference. Investing in science and research and translating that into tangible outcomes is a critical part of that.”

She says results from previous EQC investment had led to new building techniques and guidance for engineers, identifying at-risk land, and detailed information for planners and emergency managers about the likely effects of natural hazards across the country.

“When homeowners are paying their EQC levy, as well as getting natural disaster insurance, they are making a contribution to research that helps us better understand the likelihood and impact of natural hazards, and what steps can be taken to reduce the impact on New Zealanders,” she says.

EQC this year introduced two special allocations for the grants to ensure there are opportunities for Māori and early-career researchers.

“EQC is thrilled by the response to this year’s grant round. We are pleased to be supporting fantastic projects that broaden the focus of EQC’s research programme and will deliver new knowledge for New Zealand’s resilience.”

Along with funding the Biennial Grants, EQC also contributes $14 million to the GeoNet natural hazard monitoring system, invests in research at universities across New Zealand and supports regional organisations that bring together natural hazard research with local government decision-makers and emergency managers.

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