Building asset resilience

Asset resilience in Aotearoa requires our infrastructure assets to withstand, adapt, and recover from unexpected but probable events like cyclones and other natural disasters. Our decision making needs to enable resilient assets that are physically durable, financially sustainable, offer operational continuity and serve our communities in the long term. At the 2024 Āpōpō Congress, the term ‘mokopuna decision-making’ really resonated that generational thinking needs to be at the forefront of an asset manager’s decision making.

Mokopuna decision-making reminds and grounds me that it’s about the people. Infrastructure is a valuable, tangible lifeline, but without the people, an asset serves no purpose.

Cyclone Gabrielle caused significant unprecedented damage to many communities across the North Island of New Zealand, impacting many assets, and our lifelines – infrastructure, housing, the primary sector, and businesses. Vital infrastructure we might have taken for granted was tested – our roads, water, wastewater, stormwater, waste, communications, and power supplies all impacted, creating rippling effects that will be felt for decades.

Post-disaster recovery requires a multifaceted, multi-agency approach to respond, recover, plan and mitigate future risks as best we can. As infrastructure sector leaders, we need to be addressing both immediate solutions following an event, and then taking the lessons and creating long-term recovery plans. Cyclone Gabrielle’s devastating impact on Aotearoa calls for robust asset management strategies to navigate the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

At a high level, the following areas are starters for asset managers to be thinking about when managing risk, building resilience or recovering from events;

  • Learn from an event, understand how your asset performed, and how you and your community responded. Update risk assessments using scenario planning, and consider Dynamic Adaptive Pathway Planning in creating mitigation plans
  • Invest in creating resilient infrastructure and consider what ‘Resilience’ OR ‘Build Back Better’ actually mean for your assets and communities
  • Embrace sustainable solutions and empower communities to build their own resilience and be less reliant on centralised assets
  • Leverage Innovation – data is king, challenging ourselves to embrace technology to help us make informed decisions and assist in monitoring our existing assets
  • Be the asset manager of the future, change is the one constant, we must be flexible, and pragmatic. Engagement with our community and storytelling will help us tackle challenges of the future.

Climate change has made our future uncertain, and further complicated decision making. We cannot bury our heads in the sand, and as leaders and stewards of our community assets we can make a difference. The decisions we make everyday influence how prepared the communities and people we serve are for the future. At a local community level, or through our advocacy and influence into policy and government direction we can be a part of the change we need.

Cyclone Gabrielle has made climate change real, and 2023 is an unmistakable turning point in Aotearoa’s climate history and future, etched for all the wrong reasons, and providing us a stark reminder of the critical importance of infrastructure as a lifeline in our daily lives.

My reflection in the mahi and challenges we are facing, is summed up well in this wero that John Lewis curiously asked, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”  

Check out the great suite of Āpōpō Risk and Resilience digital badges that help engage, educate, and empower our asset management community to be prepared for the future.


This thought leadership piece written by Āpōpō Board member and East Coast/Bay of Plenty Branch Chair, Darren de Klerk.

Darren is the Business Director – Water at Beca, based in Hawke’s Bay. He is an experienced and ambitious infrastructure leader having held leadership roles in the public and private sector, as a contractor and client.