About the social vulnerability indicators

We have developed a set of social vulnerability indicators for natural hazards and climate change in New Zealand.  This section presents information about these social vulnerability indicators.

What are social vulnerability indicators?

Social vulnerability indicators (SVIs) are a useful tool for understanding social vulnerability in a community. 

Social vulnerability indicators identify geographic areas where people are more vulnerable to these negative impacts of natural hazards (including climate change). In these areas, people may be less able to anticipate, prepare, cope and recover from an event. Understanding the vulnerability of a population can identify the specific needs of  that population and can inform planning. 

We have developed a set of social vulnerability indicators for natural hazards and climate change in New Zealand. Data for the indicators mostly come from the 2018 New Zealand Census. The indicators are based on specific dimensions of social vulnerability. The indicators build on a set of social vulnerability indicators developed for flooding for 2013.

These social vulnerability indicators provide important information for action. They can inform planning, response, and recovery for natural hazards, climate change, and pandemics (such as COVID-19).

Read more about social vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change

Explore the 2018 social vulnerability indicators and the 2013 social vulnerability indicators

What indicator data is currently available?

Indicator data is generally based on Census data. The social vulnerability indicators are currently available for 2013 and 2018.

The indicators provide information relating to the following topics:

  • Population and households
  • Children
  • Older adults
  • Health and disability status (pre-existing health conditions, other physical and/or mental health needs, disability) (in development)
  • Money (having enough money to cope with losses)
  • Social connectedness
  • Awareness of hazards (ie awareness, knowledge and skills to cope with hazards)
  • Housing (safe, secure and healthy housing)
  • Emergency supplies (having enough food and water to cope with shortage)
  • Decision-making and participation
  • Occupation

When will the indicators be updated?

Indicators based on data from the 2023 Census of Population and Dwellings will be made available in 2024–2025, after Census data is made available. 

We are also currently developing indicators of health status.

Point locations relating to social vulnerability and resilience

We have also identified point locations that relate to vulnerability and resilience in local communities. These include locations where vulnerable populations are likely to be located before or during an event. They also include locations that are important to local resilience. 

These point locations include:

  • Early childhood education centres and schools
  • Residential aged care facilities for older adults; retirement villages; social housing for older people
  • Health facilities, including primary health care facilities, pharmacies, hospitals, medical supply depots
  • Marae
  • Community emergency shelters
  • Social housing
  • Visitor accommodation

A full list of point locations to consider is available in the Toolkit for users (pdf, 1.4MB).

How can the social vulnerability indicators be used?

The social vulnerability indicators can be used to understand where more vulnerable population groups live, and what contributes to their vulnerability.

These indicators are designed to be used as information for action.

Social vulnerability indicators can be used to:

  • identify social vulnerability in local communities across New Zealand
  • inform emergency management response and recovery efforts during and after an event
  • inform climate change planning and adaptation work
  • target and prioritise resources to communities that are more vulnerable
  • identify key locations and vulnerable populations in hazard zones (eg flood hazard zones, coastal inundation zones)
  • inform decision-making in local and regional councils (eg district plan rules about activities permitted in hazard zones)

Key end-users for the social vulnerability indicators include:

  • Civil defence emergency management (CDEM)
  • Local councils and regional councils
  • Health sector, particularly emergency planners and public health
  • Local community groups, iwi, non-governmental organisations
  • People involved in climate change, sustainability and adaptation work.

For more information on how the indicators can be used, see the Toolkit for users (pdf, 1.4MB).

How were the social vulnerability indicators developed?

The social vulnerability indicators for flooding were developed by the EHINZ team in 2019. This research project was funded by the Natural Hazards Research Platform.

The study developed a set of social vulnerability indicators for flooding in Aotearoa New Zealand. These indicators provide a practical tool to inform local efforts in emergency management and health care before, during and after a flood. The results of the study aimed to inform important risk reduction and emergency management activities.

The specific aims of this study were:

  • To identify a set of social vulnerability indicators for flooding for New Zealand
  • To identify populations vulnerable to flooding, and important facilities and infrastructure within flood zones, for a case study of Porirua City, New Zealand
  • To identify how indicators could potentially be used by emergency management, local councils and the health sector.

The project was successfully completed in November 2019.  Research reports and user guides from the project are available on the Reports and publications webpage. The full set of social vulnerability indicators from the project are available on the social vulnerability indicators for 2013 webpage

While the social vulnerability indicators were first developed for flooding, they are relevant for other natural hazards, particularly sudden-onset hazards. These include geological hazards (eg earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami) and climate-related hazards (eg heatwaves, extreme weather events, wildfires, droughts).    

The social vulnerability indicators for 2018 were developed based on the 2013 indicators, using 2018 Census data. 

Explore the 2018 social vulnerability indicators and the 2013 social vulnerability indicators

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