Better resilience evaluation

Reflections on investments in seismic resilience for infrastructure


  • Nicola McDonald ME Research, Auckland
  • Levente Timar Motu, Wellington
  • Garry McDonald ME Research, Auckland
  • Catherine Murray AECOM, Dublin



In the context of infrastructure and natural hazard planning, a new agenda for applied research is emerging which, focused on resilience, integrates government, hazard science, engineering and economics. This paper sets out the context and key tenets guiding the direction of this topic of enquiry, including the New Zealand legislative and policy context under which infrastructure decisions are made, core principles implied by the resilience objective, current norms and challenges in the practice of infrastructure planning, and key criteria for decision-support tools. While decision-making processes strongly informed by cost-benefit analysis (CBA) continue to be common in the New Zealand policy process, this paper demonstrates that there are certain distinguishing features of infrastructure networks that make it challenging to effectively and validly apply standard CBA approaches, particularly when resilience values are at stake. To help address this challenge, a new conceptual framework is presented to assist in the critical review and selection of decision-making tools to support infrastructure planning. This framework provides a synthesis of the ways through which contextual uncertainties influence the relative advantages and appropriateness of different decision support tools. Ultimately, we seek to promote a diverse but also nuanced approach to analysis supporting infrastructure planning under seismic and other natural hazard risk.

Author Biography

Levente Timar, Motu, Wellington

Research Fellow


Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (2003). “The National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets”. Department of Homeland Security, Washington DC, 97 pp.

Grimes A (2010). “The Economics of Infrastructure Investment: Beyond Simple Cost Benefit Analysis”. Motu Working Paper 10-03, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, Wellington, 60 pp. DOI:

Pant R, Barker K and Zobel CW (2014). “Static and dynamic metrics of economic resilience for interdependent infrastructure and industry sectors”. Reliability Engineering & System Safety, 125: 92-102. DOI:

UNISDR (2009). “2009 UNISDR Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction”. Geneva, Switzerland, 30 pp.

Rose A (2019). “Measuring Economic Resilience: Recent Advances and Future Priorities” Page 171-190 in The Future of Risk Management. Editors: Kunreuther H, Meyer RJ and Michel-Kerjan EO, ISBN: 9780812251326, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Béné C (2013). “Towards a quantifiable measure of resilience”. IDS Working Papers, 2013(434), Institute of Development Studies, 1-27. DOI:

Folke C (2006). “Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for ecological systems analyses”. Global Environmental Change, 16(3): 253-267. DOI:

Hatton T, Brown C, Kipp R, Seville E, Brouggy P and Loveday M (2018). “Developing a model and instrument to measure the resilience of critical infrastructure sector organisations”. International Journal of Critical Infrastructures, 14(1): 59-79. DOI:

Aurecon (2018). “Wellington Lifelines Project: Protecting Wellington’s economy through accelerated infrastructure investment programme business case. Stage 1 – Demonstration of benefits”. Aurecon, Wellington, 51 pp.

Tanner T, Surminski S, Wilkinson E, Reid R, Rentschler J and Rajput S (2015). “The Triple Dividend of Resilience: Realising development goals through the multiple benefits of disaster risk management”. Overseas Development Institute, London. 34 pp.

Seville E (2018). “Building resilience: how to have a positive impact at the organizational and individual employee level”. Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal, 32(3): 15-18. DOI:

Stevenson JR, Brown C, Seville E and Vargo J (2017). “Business Recovery: an assessment framework”. Disasters, 42(3): 519-540. DOI:

McDonald G, Smith N and Murray C (2015). “Economic impact of seismic events: Modelling” in Encyclopedia of Earthquake Engineering. Editors: Beer M, Patelli E, Kougioumtzoglou I and Au I, Springer Publishing, Berlin, Heidelberg. DOI:

Smith N, Brown C, McDonald G, Ayers M, Kipp R and Saunders W (2017). “Challenges and opportunities for economic evaluation of disaster risk decisions”. Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, 1: 111-120. DOI:

Frieling M and Warren M (2018). “Resilience and Future Wellbeing: The start of a conversation on improving the risk management and resilience of the Living Standards Capitals”. New Zealand Treasury Discussion Paper 18/05, New Zealand Treasury, Wellington, 47 pp.

The Treasury (2018a). “Our People Our Country Our Future. Living Standards Framework: Background and Future Work”. ISBN 978-1-98-855688-8, The Treasury, Wellington, 57 pp.

The Treasury, (2018b). “Statement of Intent 2017-2021”. ISBN 978-1-98-853458-9 (Online), The Treasury, Wellington, 20 pp.

The Treasury (2005). “Cost Benefit Analysis Primer”. The Treasury, Wellington, 52 pp.

The Treasury (2015a). “Guide to Social Cost Benefit Analysis”. ISBN 978-0-478-43698-3, The Treasury, Wellington, 78 pp.

The Treasury (2015b). “Better Business Cases. Guide to developing the detailed business case”. ISBN 978-0-908337-09-5 (Online), The Treasury, Wellington, 21 pp.

MBIE (2012). “Earthquake-Prone Building Policy Review”. Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, Wellington, 22 pp.

NZTA, (2013). “Economic Evaluation Manual”. ISBN 978-0-478-40782-2 (online), New Zealand Transport Agency, Wellington, 510 pp.

Ministry for the Environment. (2017). “A guide to section 32 of the Resource Management Act: Incorporating changes as a result of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2017”. ISBN 978-0-908339-87-7, ME 1304, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington, 102 pp.

Dobes L, Leung J and Argyrous G (2016). “Social cost-benefit analysis in Australia and New Zealand”. ANZSOG Series, ANU Press, Canberra, 232 pp. DOI:

Smith W (2003). “Criteria for strengthening buildings: cost-benefit analysis is misleading”. Bulletin of the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering, 36(4): 260-262. DOI:

Kind J, Botzen WJW and Aerts JCJH (2017). “Accounting for risk aversion, income distribution and social welfare in cost-benefit analysis for flood risk management”. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Climate Change, 8(2): e446. DOI:

Smith N, Brown C, Vergara M-J and McDonald G (2019). “Economics of Fuel Supply Disruptions and Mitigations”. ISBN 978-1-98-857097-6 (online), Market Economics, Auckland, 100 pp.

Trout E and Blakeley R (2019). “Government Inquiry into the Auckland Fuel Supply Disruption. Final Report”. Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 136 pp.

Atkinson G and Mourato S (2008). “Environmental cost‐benefit analysis”. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 33: 317–344. DOI:

McClelland GH, Schulze W and Coursey D (1993). “Insurance for low-probability hazards: A bimodal response to unlikely events”. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 7(1): 95-116. DOI:

Ganderton PT, Brookshire DS, McKee M, Stewart S and Thurston H (2000). “Buying insurance for disaster-type risks: Experimental evidence”. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 20(3): 271-289. DOI:

Botzen WJW and van den Bergh JCJM (2012). “Risk attitudes to low-probability climate change risks: WTP for flood insurance”. Journal of Economic Behaviour & Organization, 82(1): 151-166. DOI:

Rabin M (2000). “Risk aversion and expected-utility theory: A calibration theorem”. Econometrica, 68(5): 1281-1292. DOI:

Kunreuther H (1996). “Mitigating disaster losses through insurance”. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 12(2-3): 171-187. DOI:

Petrolia DR, Landry CE and Coble KH (2013). “Risk preferences, risk perceptions, and flood insurance”. Land Economics, 89(2): 227-245. DOI:

Kaufman N (2014). “Why is risk aversion unaccounted for in environmental policy evaluations?”. Climatic Change, 125(2): 127-135. DOI:

Arrow K and Lind RC (1970). “Uncertainty and the evaluation of public investment decisions”. American Economic Review, 60(3): 364-378.

Halek M and Eisenhauer J (2001). “Demography of risk aversion”. Journal of Risk and Insurance, 68(1): 1-24. DOI:

Boardman A, Greenberg D, Vining A and Weimer D (2014). “Cost Benefit Analysis concepts and practice”. Fourth edition. ISBN 9781108235594. Pearson Education Limited, London, 560 pp. DOI:

De Nooij M, Koopmans C and Bijvoet C (2007). “The value of supply security: The costs of power interruptions: Economic input for damage reduction and investment in networks”. Energy Economics, 29(2): 277-295. DOI:

Botzen WJW, Kunreuther H and Michel-Kerjan E (2015). “Divergence between individual perceptions and objective indicators of tail risks: Evidence from floodplain residents in New York City”. Judgment and Decision Making, 10(4): 365-385.

Gibbons DC (1986). “The Economic Value of Water”. ISBN 978-0915707232, Resources for the Future Inc., Washington D. C., 101 pp.

Wellington Lifelines (2019). “Wellington Lifelines Project: Protecting Wellington’s Economy through Accelerated Infrastructure Investment Programme Business Case”. Revision 3, Wellington Lifelines, Wellington, 51 pp.

Stirling A (2010). “Keep it complex”. Nature, 468(7327): 1029-1031. DOI:

Kalra N, Hallegatte S, Lempert R, Brown C, Fozzard A, Gill S and Shah A (2014). “Agreeing on Robust Decisions New Processes for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty”. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 6906, The World Bank, Washington D.C., 37 pp. DOI:

Brown C, Smith N, Saunders W and Harvey E (2017). “Disaster risk management evaluation (DAMAGE): A framework for assessing and comparing disaster risk intervention options”. Resilient Organisations, Christchurch, 51 pp.

Communities and Local Government (2009). “Multi-Criteria Analysis: A Manual”. Department for Communities and Local Government, London, 165 pp.

McDonald G, Cronin SJ, Kim J-H, Smith N, Murray CF and Proctor JN (2017). “Computable general equilibrium modelling of economic impacts from volcanic events scenarios at regional and national scale, Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand”. Bulletin of Volcanology, 79(12): 1-18. DOI:

Smith N, McDonald G and Harvey E (2016). “Dynamic Economic Model: A technical report prepared under the Economics of Resilient Infrastructure Programme”. Research Report 2017/02, GNS Science, Wellington, 101 pp.

Brown C, Seville E, Hatton T, Stevenson J, Smith N and Vargo J (2019). “Accounting for business adaptations in economic disruption models”. Journal of Infrastructure Systems, 25(1): 67 pp.

Hallegatte S, Shah A, Brown C, Lempert R and Gill S (2012). “Investment Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty - Application to Climate Change”. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 6193, The World Bank, Washington D.C., 41 pp. DOI:

Lempert RJ (2019). “Robust Decision Making (RDM)” in Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty: from Theory to Practice. Editors: Marchau VAWJ, Walker WE, Bloemen PJTM and Popper SW, ISBN: 9783030052522, Springer, Cham, 23-51.

Van der Pol TD, Gabbert S, Weikard H-P, van Ierland EC and Hendrix EMT (2017). “A minimax regret analysis of flood risk management strategies under climate change uncertainty and emerging information”. Environmental and Resource Economics, 68: 1087-1109. DOI:

Maier HR, Guillaume JHA, van Delden H and Riddell G (2016). “An uncertain future, deep uncertainty, scenarios, robustness and adaptation: How do they fit together?”. Environmental Modelling and Software, 81: 154-164. DOI:

Ringland G (2006). “Scenario Planning: Managing for the Future”. 2nd edition, ISBN 978-0471977902, Wiley, New York, 482 pp.

Maier H R, Kapelan Z, Kasprzyk J, Kollat J, Matott LS, Cunha MC, Dandy GC, Gibbs MS, Keedwell E, Marchi A, Ostfeld A, Savic DA, Solo-Matine DP, Vrugt JA, Zecchin AC, Minsker BS, Barbour EJ, Kuczera GL, Pasha F, Castelletti A, Giuliani M and Reed PM (2014). “Evolutionary algorithms and other metaheuristics in water resources: current status, research challenges and future directions”. Environmental Modelling and Software, 62: 271-299. DOI:

Marchau VAWJ, Walker WE, Bloemen PJTM and Popper SW (2019). “Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty”. ISBN 978-3-030-05252-2, Springer, Cham, 405 pp.

Ivory VC and Stevenson JR (2019). “From contesting to conversing about resilience: kickstarting measurement in complex research environments”. Natural Hazards, 97: 935-947. DOI:

Kenter JO, Bryce R, Christie M, Cooper N, Hockley N, Irvine KN, Fazey I, O’Brien L, Orchard-Webb J, Ravenscroft N, Raymond CM, Reed MS, Tett P and Watson V (2016). “Shared values and deliberative valuation: Future directions”. Ecosystem Services, 21(B): 358-371. DOI:

Seville E (2017). “Resilient Organizations: How to survive, thrive and create opportunities through crisis and change”. ISBN 978-0749478551, Kogan Page, London, 200 pp.

Sterman JD (2000). “Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World”. ISBN 978-0072389159, McGraw Hill, Boston, 982 pp.

Powell JH, Mustafee N, Chen AS and Hammond C (2016). “System-focused risk identification and assessment for disaster preparedness: Dynamic threat analysis”. European Journal of Operational Research, 254(2): 550-564. DOI:

Jenkins M (2012). “Indicative CBA Model for Earthquake Prone Building Review: Summary of Methodology and Results”. Martin Jenkins, Wellington, 45 pp.

NZIER (2012). “New Zealand Oil Security Assessment Update”. NZIER Report to Ministry of Economic Development, NZIER, Wellington, 60 pp.

Burkhalter S, Gastil J and Kelshaw T (2006). “A conceptual definition and theoretical model of public deliberation in small face-to-face groups”. Communication Theory, 12(4): 398-422. DOI:

Gastil J (2008). “Political Communication and Deliberation”. ISBN 978-1412916288, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, 345 pp. DOI:

Wein AM, Journeay M and Bernknoph RL (2007). “Scenario-based risk analysis within an analytic-deliberative framework for regional risk reduction planning”. MODSIM 2007 Proceedings, Christchurch, December 2007.

Meadows D (1998). “Indicators for Information Systems for Sustainable Development”. The Sustainability Institute, Vermont, 78 pp.

Stevenson J, Kay E, Bowie C and Ivory V (2019). “The Resilience Indicators Bank and the New Zealand Resilience Index”. Resilient Organisations, Christchurch, 32 pp.

van den Belt M (2004). “Mediated Modeling: A System Dynamics Approach to Environmental Consensus Building”. ISBN 9781559639613, Island Press, Washington D.C., 296 pp.

Van Bruggen A, Nikolic I and Kwakkel J (2019). “Modeling with stakeholders for transformative change”. Sustainability, 11(3): 825. DOI:

Miles SB (2018). “Participatory disaster recovery simulation modeling for community resilience”. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 9: 519-529. DOI:

Haase D (2013). “Participatory modelling of vulnerability and adaptive capacity in flood risk management”. Natural Hazards, 67(1): 77-97. DOI:

Barker DHN, van Avendonk H and Fujie G (2019). “Seismogenesis at Hikurangi Integrated Research Experiment (SHIRE) Report of RV Tangaroa cruise TAN1710, 23 Oct-20 Nov 2017”. GNS Science Report 2019/01. GNS Science: Wellington, 22 pp.

Human Rights Commission (2013). “Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery”. ISBN 978-0-478-35655-7 (Online), Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 184 pp.

Caterino N, Iervolino I, Manfredi G and Cosenza E (2009). “Comparative analysis of multi-criteria decision-making methods for seismic structural retrofitting”. Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, 24(6): 432-445. DOI:

Opricovic S and Tzeng G-H (2002). “Multicriteria planning of post-earthquake sustainable reconstruction”. Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, 17(3): 211-220. DOI:

Nocedal J and Wright SJ (2000). “Numerical Optimization”. Second Edition, ISBN 978-0-387-22742-9 (Online), Springer, New York, 664 pp.

Ehrgott M (2005). “Multicriteria Optimization”. Second Edition, ISBN 978-3-540-27659-3 (Online), Springer, Berlin, 323 pp.

Zhang W, Wang N and Nicholson C (2015). “Resilience-based post disaster recovery strategies for road-bridge networks”. Structure and Infrastructure Engineering: Maintenance, Management, Life-Cycle Design and Performance, 13(11): 1404-1413. DOI:

Bellagamba X, Bradley BA, Wotherspoon LM and Lagrava WD (2019). “A decision-support algorithm for post-earthquake water services recovery and its application to the 22 February MW 6.2 Christchurch Earthquake”. Earthquake Spectra, 35(3): 1397-1420. DOI:

Tesfamariam S and Goda K (2013). “Handbook of Seismic Risk Analysis and Management of Civil Infrastructure Systems”. ISBN 9780857098986 (online), Woodhead Publishing, Cambridge, 912 pp. DOI:

Bommer JJ (2002). “Deterministic vs. probabilistic seismic hazard assessment: An exaggerated and obstructive dichotomy”. Journal of Earthquake Engineering, 6(1): 43-73. DOI:

Liu Y, Wotherspoon L, Nair NKC and Blake D (2020). “Quantifying the seismic risk for electric power distribution systems”. Structure and Infrastructure Engineering: Maintenance, Management, Life-Cycle Design and Performance. 1-16. DOI:

Power W, Wang X, Lane E and Gillibrand P (2012). “A probabilistic tsunami hazard study of the Auckland region, Part I: Propagation modelling and tsunami hazard assessment at the shoreline”. Pure and Applied Geophysics, 170(9-10): 1621-1634. DOI:

Marotta A, Sorrentino L, Liberatore D and Ingham J (2018). “Seismic risk assessment of New Zealand unreinforced masonry churches using statistical procedures”. International Journal of Architectural Heritage, 12(3): 448-464. DOI:

Schwartz P (1996). “The Art of the Long View – Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World”. ISBN 978-0385267328, Currency-Doubleday, New York, 272 pp.

Lempert R, Kalra N, Peyraud S, Mao Z, Tan SB, Cira D and Lotsch A (2013). “Ensuring Robust Flood Risk Management in Ho Chi Minh City”. Policy Research Working Paper No. 6465. The World Bank, Washington D.C., 63 pp. DOI:

Keough SM and Shanahan KJ (2008). “Scenario planning: toward a more complete model for practice”. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 10(2), 166-178. DOI:

Orchistron C (2012). “Seismic risk scenario planning and sustainable tourism management: Christchurch and the Alpine Fault zone, South Island, New Zealand”. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 20(1): 59-79. DOI:

Deligne NI, Fitzgerald RH, Blake DM, Davies AJ, Hayes JL, Stewart C, Wilson G, Wilson TM, Castelino R, Kennedy BM, Muspratt S and Woods R (2017). “Investigating the consequences of urban volcanism using a scenario approach I: Development and application of a hypothetical eruption in the Auckland Volcanic Field, New Zealand”. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 336: 192-208. DOI:

Tate E (2012). “Social vulnerability indices: A comparative assessment using uncertainty and sensitivity analysis”. Natural Hazards, 63: 325-347. DOI:

Kenter JO, Jobstvogt N, Watson V, Irvine KN, Christie M and Bryce R (2016). “The impact of information, value deliberation and group-based decision-making on values for ecosystem services: Integrating deliberative monetary valuation and storytelling”. Ecosystem Services, 21(B): 270-290. DOI:

Goldstein BE, Wessells AT, Lejano R and Butler W (2013). “Narrating resilience: Transforming urban systems through collaborative storytelling”. Urban Studies, 52(7): 1285-1303. DOI:

Pauly D, Christensen V, Guenette A, Pitcher TJ, Sumaila UR, Walters CJ, Watson R and Zeller D (2002). “Towards sustainability of world fisheries”. Nature, 418: 689-695. DOI:

Sumaila UR and Walters C (2005). “Intergenerational discounting: a new intuitive approach”. Ecological Economics, 52: 135-142. DOI:




How to Cite

McDonald, N., Timar, L., McDonald, G., & Murray, C. (2020). Better resilience evaluation: Reflections on investments in seismic resilience for infrastructure. Bulletin of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, 53(4), 203–214.