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Meet the Risk Reduction and Resilience team

The Natural Hazards Commission Toka Tū Ake Risk Reduction and Resilience team is led by Sarah-Jayne McCurrach. The team leverages the research and data NHC Toka Tū Ake funds to advocate, influence and where possible implement the reduction of natural hazard damage.

You can reach the team by emailing or read the team bios below for more information about their expertise and how you can contact them.

Sarah-Jayne McCurrach

Head of Risk Reduction and Resilience


Sarah-Jayne McCurrach is responsible for leading NHC Toka Tū Ake’s natural hazard risk management programme, which has a strong focus on risk reduction. Her team advocate for improved evidence-based co-ordination, leadership and action across New Zealand’s Natural hazard risk management system, specifically in regard to smarter land-use, resilient buildings, risk tolerance and influencing how data is used and understood for smarter decision making and improving hazard risk literacy.

She has led numerous, successful, national-level projects and programmes of work to improve hazard risk management decisions and outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally. Her work includes ensuring national level risk management is translated at the local and regional level. Her passion is ensuring science and research is used to make risk-based decisions for our future, by enhancing our polices and practice. She is driven by building strong, knowledge-aware communities regarding hazard and risk, so all New Zealanders are empowered to make their own choices regarding the risks they face.

Dr Wendy Saunders

Principal Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience


Wendy is NHC Toka Tū Ake’s land use planning specialist. Following her PhD on risk-based land use planning, she has worked with councils to develop and implement their risk-based planning policies, and on the science side at GNS Science.

At NHC Toka Tū Ake, she leads the Smarter Land Use plan with a full focus on how land use planning can reduce natural hazard risk.

Richard Woods

Principal Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience

Richard Woods, Principal Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience

Richard is a trusted international disaster risk reduction expert, commissioned by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to lead projects overseas. In Aotearoa New Zealand Richard has been an expert witness in the Environment Court for natural hazard warnings and evacuation planning. His project portfolio covers a range of domestic and international projects, including the development of the award winning RiskScape software and extensive disaster management experience in Indonesia.

Dr Alistair Davies

Senior Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience


Ali started out studying geography at the University of Cambridge. He worked in a flood risk consultancy in the United Kingdom, before coming to Aotearoa New Zealand to do his NHC Toka Tū Ake-funded PhD on disaster risk and resilience at the University of Canterbury. He then moved to the National Emergency Management Agency before joining NHC Toka Tū Ake. Ali is leading the development of NHC Toka Tū Ake’s internal climate change adaptation plan, alongside work on the National Hazard Scenario Database and submissions on government policy.

Caleb Dunne

Senior Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience

CD Headshot Jan 2021

Caleb is a licensed professional engineer from California. After practising structural engineering, a passion for risk reduction led him to Aotearoa New Zealand, where he thought people might know about disasters. Caleb studied Disaster Risk and Resilience and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Canterbury. At NHC Toka Tū Ake he works to increase the resilience of our built environment, such as with the 'Resilient Homes and Buildings' Action Plan, and drive national consistency on risk thresholds. Caleb is actively involved in the earthquake engineering community, and also volunteers on New Zealand Response Team 14 with Civil Defence.

Tabitha Bushell

Advisor, Risk Reduction and Resilience

Tabitha Bushell

Tabitha studied geology at the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury. In 2022 she completed a NHC Toka Tū Ake-funded PhD on the Kaikōura earthquake at the University of Canterbury. Though her background is in earthquakes, she is interested in hazard science and community resilience across the board and is always keen to learn something new.

Josh Smith

Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience

Josh Smith, Advisor Risk Reduction and Resilience

Josh studied Geology and Geography at the University of Canterbury and recently completed a Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience. Josh has a passion for increasing societal resilience to hazards in New Zealand. He coordinated a national survey project on tsunami evacuation response and behaviour of New Zealand’s coastal communities to the 5th of March 2021 Hikurangi-Kermadec earthquake sequence, funded by the University of Canterbury and GNS Science.