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COVID-19 sees natural hazard awareness information taken online

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In late March, as the nation went into lockdown for COVID-19, local hazard education providers AF8 (Alpine Fault magnitude 8) and East Coast Life at the Boundary (East Coast LAB) had hoped to be on the road, informing local communities about the risk posed by two of Aotearoa’s most significant natural hazards, the Hikurangi subduction zone and Alpine Fault. But, as happened with so many parts of New Zealand life, the pandemic forced a change in approach and thinking.

So, to keep the messages coming through, a series of online modules have been created. Funded by the Earthquake Commission (EQC), the resources are designed to enable anyone to explore Aotearoa New Zealand’s active plate boundary, encouraging them to delve into the fascinating world of earth science and grow their knowledge of natural hazards in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Titled ‘What’s On Our Plates?’ the modules follow on from the successful ‘A Lot on Our Plates’ social media campaign, which saw East Coast LAB and AF8 provide interesting facts on natural hazards, risk and preparedness, largely based on questions sent in by the public.

Image of New Zealand with text stating 'What's on our plates?'

“We were really pleased with the response to A Lot on Our Plates,” says Kate Boersen, Project Lead for East Coast LAB. “So it’s been exciting to build on that with this new material that explores the Hikurangi subduction zone and Alpine Fault hazards in new ways.”

The modules have been created using browser-based ESRI Storymaps, which highlight geographical linkages, allowing students to explore the plate boundary in three dimensions and learn about New Zealand’s unique and unstable landscape.

“Using Storymaps has allowed us to take a scientific but relatable approach to developing the modules,” says Alice Lake-Hammond, Programme Lead for AF8. “The platform enables us to bring together a wide range of media, to shape and share what can be quite complex information in an engaging and accessible way.”

While the three initial modules have been designed to fit with the New Zealand Curriculum, all involved hope the content will be interesting for many Kiwis beyond the school environment.

For the Earthquake Commission, switching funding away from the physical roadshows to an online delivery was an easy decision. “It’s really important that we keep reminding ourselves that natural hazards are part of life here in New Zealand,” says Dr Jo Horrocks, EQC Head of Resilience Strategy and Research. “What we hope is that we can grow understanding of these hazards and the risks they pose, with the ultimate goal of communities and households that are better prepared when future disaster events happen.”

It is hoped that the physical roadshow programme for both AF8 and East Coast LAB will be able to resume in the near future, but with the new modules in place this vital awareness info will continue to get through.

10 February 2023

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