Social vulnerability indicators for natural hazards

This section presents a set of social vulnerability indicators that we have developed for natural hazards, pandemics and other emergencies in New Zealand for 2018.

These indicators help identify areas with people who are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of natural hazards, pandemics and other emergencies.  These indicators provide valuable information for action for the health sector, local authorities, and government agencies.   

What are social vulnerability indicators?

Social vulnerability indicators help identify areas with people who are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of natural hazards and emergencies. Vulnerable people are more likely to be affected by a hazard - they may be less able to prepare for, cope with or adapt to a hazard.

We have developed a set of social vulnerability indicators for natural hazards, pandemics and other emergencies in New Zealand. Data for the indicators mostly come from the 2018 Census. The indicators are based on specific dimensions of social vulnerability. The indicators build on a set of social vulnerability indicators for flooding that we developed using 2013 Census data.

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

Story Map for the Social Vulnerability Indicators 2018

This Story Map lets you explore interactive maps of the Social Vulnerability Indicators for New Zealand for 2018. Indicators are presented for each dimension of social vulnerability, with rationale about why they are important for social vulnerability. Indicators are mostly presented at the Statistical Area 2 (SA2) level (neighbourhood level).

Visit the Story Map for the Social Vulnerability Indicators for New Zealand 2018

Story Map SVIs 

Data Explorer for the Social Vulnerability Indicators 2018

This Data Explorer is a tool for local authorities, the health sector, and government agencies, to help explore social vulnerability indicators for New Zealand.

This tool presents the indicator data in interactive tables, heatmaps, and geographic maps. Indicator data is available at the SA2, territorial authority, district health board and Auckland local board area level. 

Visit the Data Explorer for the Social Vulnerability Indicators for New Zealand 2018  

Data explorer

Indicator data for New Zealand

Indicator data is now available to download for a range of geographies, including SA2, territorial authority, Auckland local board areas, and District Health Boards. Indicator data is mainly from the 2018 Census.

Social vulnerability indicators - heatmaps by SA2 (Oct 2020) (xlsx, 4.7MB):  This SVI heatmap dataset provides summary indicator data by SA2, for Civil Defence regions and territorial authorities. Indicator data are presented as summary 'heatmaps', to show indicators at a glance.

Figure 1: Example of social vulnerability indicators 'heatmap' from the Excel file

heatmap example 2018

Social vulnerability indicators - full indicator dataset (Oct 2020) (xlsx, 7.3MB): This full indicator dataset provides the full set of indicators, by SA2, territorial authority, Auckland local board areas, and District Health Board (where possible). Data about population demographics are also included. The indicator data comes mainly from the 2018 Census. 

Conceptual framework for social vulnerability

The social vulnerability indicators measure the following dimensions of social vulnerability:

  • Exposure: direct exposure, indirect exposure 
  • Susceptibility: children; older adults; people with physical health needs; people with mental health needs; people with a disability 
  • Lack of resilience: enough money to cope with crises/losses; social connectedness; knowledge, skills and awareness to face hazards; safe, secure and healthy housing; enough food and water to cope with shortage; decision-making and leadership.  

These dimensions come from a conceptual framework that we developed for social vulnerability to flooding (Figure 1) [1], which was based on previous work [2, 3, 4].

This conceptual framework for social vulnerability can be used for other natural hazards and emergencies such as pandemics.

Figure 1: Conceptual framework for social vulnerability to natural hazards [1]

 conceptual framework

This conceptual framework takes into account that natural hazards can have a large impact on people's health and wellbeing, through:

  • injuries and/or death
  • illness (eg due to contact with contaminated water)
  • worsening of existing health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma)
  • poorer mental health.

People can also be impacted by disruption to lifeline infrastructure, including transport networks, electricity, telecommunications, safe drinking water, food supplies, and health services.

Natural hazards can also damage houses, property and cars, and lead to ongoing issues to housing (such as damp and mouldy houses, and displacement).

Information about the 2018 indicator data

Data for the Social Vulnerability Indicators 2018 come from the 2018 Census of Populations and Dwellings, the 2018 New Zealand Index of Deprivation (NZDep2018) [5], local body election voter turnout statistics [6], and tourism spending data [7]. This work includes customised data from Stats NZ, which are licensed by Stats NZ for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

The 2018 Census suffered from implementation problems, resulting in lower response rates than expected. Given this, we have only used data of at least moderate quality (as determined by Stats NZ and the External Data Quality Panel) that we also considered would be of sufficient quality at the small area level. We have also included information about data quality for indicators. For indicators with missing data, the dataset includes the counts, percents among the total stated, unknown counts, and the lower and upper bounds of the percents.

Where to find out more

These indicators were developed by the Environmental Health Indicators (EHI) team at Massey University.

For more information about the 2013 Social Vulnerability Indicators for flooding, see the EHI webpage: Social vulnerability indicators project

For further questions and information about these indicators, contact Kylie Mason ( or the EHI team (


1. Mason KM, Lindberg K, Haenfling C, Schori A, Thomas KL, Popovich B, Faulkner R, Beban JG, Gunnell S, Marsters H, Read D, Borman B. 2019. Social vulnerability indicators for flooding in Aotearoa New Zealand: Research Report. Wellington: Environmental Health Indicators Programme, Massey University. Available from:

2. Birkmann J, Cardona OD, Carreno ML, Barbat AH, Pelling M, et al. 2013 Framing vulnerability, risk and societal responses: the MOVE framework. Natural Hazards 67: 193-211.

3. Wisner B, Gaillard J, Kelman I. 2012. Framing disaster: Theories and stories seeking to understand hazards, vulnerability and risk. In Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction, ed. B Wisner, J Gaillard, I Kelman. London: Routledge.

4. Durie M. 1985. A Māori perspective of health. Social Science & Medicine 20: 483-86.

5. Atkinson J, Salmond C, Crampton P. 2019. NZDep2018 Index of Deprivation: Interim Research Report, December 2019. Wellington: University of Otago.

6. DIA. 2019. 2019 Local Authority Elections Statistics. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. URL: (accessed May 2020).

7. MBIE. 2020. Monthly Regional Tourism Estimates (MRTEs) (Year to March). Wellington: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. URL: (accessed May 2020).

Interested in more information?

Kylie Mason

Phone +64 4 979 3124 (ext 63124)
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