transport corridor

December 2018 Kate Palmer

Moving people and goods around New Zealand requires infrastructure that crosses regional boundaries, uses multiple modes (on land and water, and in the air), and includes public and private organisations. The decisions we make in this area will affect our communities long into the future. Dr Vivienne Ivory, WSP Opus Technical Principal, Social Science, Resilience, Public Health, discusses the work being done to future-ready our infrastructure.

Systems analysis of the transport infrastructure networks following November 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes identified silos of information and decision-making that may ultimately hinder resilience efforts. Adding to this, how we make transport decisions tends to favour the repair and protection of existing infrastructure rather than adapting for future shocks and stresses.

Given the network nature of transport infrastructure and the rapidly changing nature of how we move people and goods, it’s not surprising that making long-term decisions about infrastructure is challenging. Natural hazard events amplify this challenge, so it’s important to develop capacity to make future-focused decisions before a crisis, rather than be forced to make them during one.

A new approach

Multi-modal, multi-regional Corridor Forums are being used in the European Union to bring together interests and expertise from diverse stakeholders across countries seeking to develop and improve the performance of the corridor (transport network in a given area) over the long-term. Benefits include removing information silos, establishing effective relationships that ‘bridge’ organisations before crises, and capacity building to think strategically about future challenges.

These are being piloted In New Zealand as a governance tool to increase our capacity to adapt and potentially transform our transport infrastructure, increasing resiliency to the many shocks and stresses ahead of us.

Putting it into practice

The Manawatu-Whanganui-Taranaki Corridor Forum brings together players from across a transport system that includes public and private organisations, local and national interests. This corridor is of national significance, has road, rail, air and shipping ports, and is exposed to multiple natural hazards.

The pilot involves a series of four structured workshops, attended by decision-makers from across regional and national-level bodies, bringing transport operators alongside users (freight, tourism, community, civil defence) and investors (policy makers, regional authorities).

Two aspects of this pilot study are particularly novel. The first is in bringing together people and organisations from across the transport system, an initiative often acknowledged, but less frequently practiced in resilience governance. Not only do the workshops bring together transport investors and operators, they also include the users such as tourism and freight. These users aren’t always involved in decision-making conversations and provide invaluable insights into an area’s strengths, vulnerabilities and values. Including a range of local participants will result in a wealth of local and national knowledge and technical expertise, as well as varied perspectives on future management prioritisation.

The second novel aspect is in its use of foresight techniques. The Forum uses plausible but hypothetical crisis examples (rather than ’live’ threats) developed using foresight techniques and state-of-the-art hazard scenario processes. This gives participants experience in working with uncertainty, different values and priorities. Foresight thinking techniques are useful in stretching people’s imagination about what our transport and wider society could be like in the future (such as with demographic and technological change), and how that interacts with the known sources of shocks (such as floods) as well as the less certain stresses from forces such as climate change.

The Forum is very much about developing capacity to have challenging conversations about the uncertainties we face and our collective understanding of risk and resilience.

Following the pilot completion in early 2019, lessons will be gathered for the value of Corridor Forums for New Zealand’s transport infrastructure, including the opportunities and governance arrangements for ongoing forums.

In New Zealand, we think they can allow us to collectively consider natural hazards in our future thinking and make informed decisions about how we plan for and manage our transport networks.

Read more: To learn more about the work being done by the Resilience Challenge click here. Additional support for this article was supplied by  Ali Rogers, Resilience Challenge Science Communicator, for her help. 

About: Vivienne Ivory is Technical Principal - Social Science Resilience and Public Health. To contact Vivienne by email click here