About Us

We specialise in delivering behavioural, spatial, and engineering research to inform and improve urban, individual, and community response and resilience to natural hazard events through the evaluation of perceptions, policies, and patterns of economic activity.

Our inter-disciplinary research team has extensive research expertise in the behavioural, geographical, and engineering sciences

Our team employs a range of quantitative and qualitative research techniques, including: computer aided and paper-based surveys, secondary data analysis, focus groups, interviews, social media analyses, computer modelling, and wind tunnel simulations.

In addition, our team has strong links to local government, policy agencies, and community groups.

For more detail, please refer to the following sections:

Opus

Our People

Opus Research

Opus Research (formerly Opus Central Laboratories) is an independent, world-class research and advisory facility located in Lower Hutt. Our researchers include: psychologists, geographers, chemists, environmental scientists, research engineers, physicists and materials scientists.

We specialise in providing research and innovative solutions for issues and problems facing our communities, settlements and physical infrastructure. Our strong relationships with diverse stakeholders in national and local government, business, and private sector industries, provide a solid practical basis for all our work. Through a combination of commercial and public-good projects we interact and work with stakeholders and in partnership with other research organisations to provide the latest understanding of issues.

We have developed a diverse urban research portfolio, investigating 'how cities work and recovery from shocks' through four major research programmes funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) (now known as the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment). For more details on these programmes, see the Track Record section below.

Opus Research

Track Record in Public Good Research

All of the current research outlined on this website is funded by the Natural Hazards Research Platform managed by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

Social and Economic Recovery from Natural Disasters through Community Resilience (2005-2011)

The outputs of this research aimed to enhance the resilience of New Zealand urban communities so as to bring about a more rapid social and economic recovery following a devastating natural hazard event. The research investigated the likely response of New Zealanders to the disruption caused by a natural hazard event and the subsequent recovery process.

Mobility, communication and information are fundamental in that they bind our communities and underpin their resilience. These fundamentals were examined to gain an understanding of our need for these in the initial response, how they shape our behaviours, and their contribution to social and economic recovery. Increased resilience will speed up social recovery, and social recovery connects to economic recovery. Some of these inter-relationships were quantified within the New Zealand context.

Key projects have examined travel behaviours and motivations after a disaster has occurred, information needs and sources most trusted by the public, return to work behaviours, factors influencing business location decisions and their subsequent retention after a disaster, and the recovery of businesses following the Gisborne earthquake in December 2007. Publications arising from this programme can be found on the publications page.

Learning Sustainability (2003-2009)

The principal outcome of the Learning Sustainability programme is knowledge to facilitate more sustainable New Zealand settlements. To accomplish this, we set out to determine the relationship between the urban form and environmental, social, and economic performance of our settlements. Major components of this programme included examining the relationship of form to transport networks, the major components of settlement liveability, the role of commercial and retail areas within urban form, relationships between form and environmental performance, and settlement governance. These components were explored across a range of scales from the neighbourhood level, as in gated communities, through to the metropolitan scale in growth management strategies.

Transport, Energy, and Urban Form (2009-2012)

It is anticipated that changes in transport systems to achieve GHG emission reduction targets will initiate self-adjusting changes in urban form, so that relocation rather than outward expansion is the dominant influence. Opportunities for improved wealth and liveability that may arise through these changes in transport. There will be opportunities to direct resources to the types of infrastructure and urban forms that will better reflect New Zealand's futures, and to strengthen the alignment between market processes and planning (governance) processes in shaping the form of our settlements. This research programme is unique because it represents a step change in thinking; moving from how to cope with transport change to how to take advantage of it. We investigated: the functionality of future transport; the influence of new transport systems on household location preferences; the location preferences of retail and industry once transport substituting technologies have been allowed for; and, how to align governance and the market to deliver enhanced liveability and economic growth. See our website for more information about this programme www.successfulcities.co.nz

Reduced CO2 through Sustainable Household Travel (2004-2009)

This programme is helping New Zealand agencies such as Auckland Regional Transport Agency, NZTA and Ministry of Transport to reduce CO2 emissions from household transport by providing understanding of behaviour and motivations underlying transport fuel use. This knowledge will help to support effective strategies to reduce household transport energy consumption. This research has identified the causes of the observed growth in fuel consumption by relating this to accessibility demands, to reliance on private motor vehicles, and to social and behavioural aspects particular to New Zealand culture. The latter include demographics, life stage, and the socio-economic status of New Zealand households. Key projects within the programme have identified household transport trends in New Zealand, both in shorter form via household and regional travel surveys analysis over the 1989-2006 period, and in longer form from 1900 onwards using secondary information. We have examined the key relationship between recreational travel and vehicle uptake and vehicle choice, attitudes about public-transport, concerns of safety with regard to uptake of larger vehicles, and the social and economic impacts that would occur if vehicle use was restricted without alternatives in place.

Natural Hazards Research Platform Funding

In 2010, New Zealand's Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) was merged with the Ministry of Research Science and Technology (MoRST) to become the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) and, most recently, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE). Our research is undertaken as part of a multi-party research platform funded by the MBIE that is dedicated to increasing New Zealand's resilience to natural hazards via high quality collaborative research.

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