An Example of How Community Participation can be Successfully Incorporated into the Disaster Risk Assessment Process, Aotearoa-New Zealand
During disasters, exposed communities bear the brunt of impacts and are first to respond. People of these communities obtain local and/or indigenous understanding of locally-specific challenges and opportunities, which no external expert could derive alone. Community-based, participatory disaster risk assessments involve participation of people who may be directly impacted by disasters, to: encourage sharing of valuable local knowledge, empower communities and local authorities to reduce vulnerabilities and strengthen capacities, and to form Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives that are well-informed and invested in by those involved.
Kristie-Lee Thomas, a Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience student at the University of Canterbury and her supervision cohort set out to assess tsunami risk to her tūrangawaewae, Wharekauri - the Chatham Islands. This assessment was carried out for, with and by the Chatham Islands community to engender community-led action to reduce future tsunami impact.
The study involved: a) Hazard assessment, including an investigation of historical tsunami impacts and inundation extents preserved in local archives and Māori knowledge. b) Assessment of potential impacts on infrastructure, to evaluate resultant levels of services based on expert judgment from local infrastructure personnel to form a credible high-impact tsunami scenario. c) Sharing this information with the community to co-develop actions to reduce future tsunami impact through participatory tools during workshops.
Participation of the Chatham Islands community throughout the risk assessment process produced useful and usable outcomes. The study provides a demonstrable application of how community participation can be successfully incorporated into the disaster risk assessment process.
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