University Of Tasmania
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Community-led disaster risk management: A Māori response to Ōtautahi (Christchurch) earthquakes

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 17:06 authored by Kenney, CM, Phibbs, SR, Douglas Paton, Reid, J, Johnston, DM

Since September 2010, a series of earthquakes have caused widespread social, financial and environmental devastation in Christchurch, New Zealand. Anecdotal evidence suggests that local Māori responded effectively to facilitate community recovery and resilience. Cultural technologies that are protective in times of adversity have previously been noted in Māori communities, but rarely documented. An ongoing research project conducted in partnership with the local Christchurch Iwi (tribe) Ngāi Tahu, has been identifying, and documenting the ways Māori cultural factors have facilitated disaster risk reduction and management in response to the earthquakes.

A qualitative research methodology (Te Whakamāramatanga), based on Ngāi Tahu values, and practices has shaped the community-based participatory research design. Māori research participants were recruited purposively and through self-selection. At the time of writing, the researchers had conducted semi-structured interviews with 43 Māori research participants. Culturally relevant (dialogical and narrative) interviewing approaches have been used to gather research information and facilitate trusting relationships between researchers and local Māori communities. Community engagement has been fostered, as well as a capture of Māori understandings and practices associated with risk reduction and mitigation, disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Data analysis draws on social and risk theories as well as indigenous epistemological concepts. Initial data analysis suggests that within the New Zealand context, Civil Defence and Emergency Management policies and disaster risk reduction practices may be enhanced by the respectful integration of pertinent Māori knowledge and strategies.

Ngāi Tahu has a statutory governance role in the Christchurch rebuild as stipulated in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act (2011) and relational links with the New Zealand government and local authorities. Accordingly, information arising from data analysis, tribal knowledge, and Māori emergency management practices documented during this project is shaping development of contextualised risk reduction and disaster management strategies at urban and regional levels. Upon project conclusion, research results and recommendations will be disseminated to Iwi (tribes) and key stakeholders, to facilitate Māori disaster management capability, and disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and recovery planning throughout New Zealand. The researchers anticipate that lessons learned from this research may have relevance for other small island states and/or countries with indigenous populations that have similar value systems and bodies of traditional knowledge.


Publication title

Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies








School of Psychological Sciences


Massey University * School of Psychology

Place of publication

New Zealand

Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2015. Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in psychology

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