This short position paper is for decision-makers and those who have an interest in ensuring New Zealand is better protected from natural hazards. New Zealand is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impact of natural disasters for an economy of our size. The Canterbury earthquakes cost New Zealand about $40 billion or 20 per cent of the country's GDP. We remain at risk from further earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami. 2013 and 2014 were also among the most expensive years for weather-related events. Climate change will increase the risk of flooding in parts of the country and drought in other areas. Coastal areas will be more vulnerable as sea levels rise and we can expect more severe windstorms in the west.
When natural catastrophe strikes it takes a heavy social toll. Lives can be lost, homes destroyed, sanitation and communications systems wrecked, businesses bankrupted and jobs lost quite apart from the trauma and stress families suffer as they try to put their lives back together.