Communicating risk and uncertainty

Creating guidelines, models and tools that explicitly identify risk and uncertainty, to help make decision-making more inclusive and multi-sectorial.

Project Leader Duration Budget
Joanne Ellis & Fabrice Stephenson (University of Waikato) May 2020 – June 2023 $1,399,990


Decision-making tools that can communicate the degree of risk and uncertainty associated with a particular decision are urgently needed. Although there are risk assessment methods available internationally, these typically focus on single stressors and do not incorporate mātauranga Māori or ecosystem-based management (EBM).

This project addresses 2 overarching questions:

  1. What risk assessment tools are available that incorporate uncertainty into their estimates, deal with multiple stressors, and are easy for stakeholders and Māori partners to understand and/or use?
  2. How do uncertainties (and thus social and ecological risks) accumulate during decision-making?

The second question includes the:

  • Uncertainties inherent in merging data from different scales – eg, scaling environmental, ecological and social information up or down to match each other or available model types
  • Uncertainties and risks at separate stages of assumptions, modelling and decision-making.

The team will work with iwi, stakeholders, investors, managers and policy makers to co-develop, and scenario test, decision-making tools that are informed by mātauranga Māori and EBM frameworks.

They will consider the cumulative effects of both marine and land-based activities – with a focus on sediment, nutrients, bottom disturbance and climate change, as these have been identified as the main stressors affecting New Zealand's marine environments.

Scenario testing will then be used to integrate environmental and socio-economic risks into integrated risk analysis frameworks.

These tools will be trialled in a case study area, working with Māori researchers in the Awhi Mai Awhi Atu: Enacting a kaitiakitanga based approach to EBM and Perceptions of risk and uncertainty projects.

Research Team

Joanne Ellis (University of Waikato)
Fabrice Stephenson (University of Waikato)
Judi Hewitt (NIWA/University of Auckland)
Ilze Ziedins (University of Auckland)
Maria Armoudian (University of Auckland)
Richard Bulmer (NIWA)
Dana Clark (Cawthron Institute)
Rebecca Gladstone-Gallagher (University of Auckland)
Ani Kainamu (NIWA)
Vera Rullens (University of Waikato)
Tai Lohrer (University of Auckland)

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This is a national project.