PhD Research Scholarship

Law Research

Governing Disaster Response in Aotearoa New Zealand – An Auckland Volcanic Field Case Study

Building upon existing work in the field, this project will examine the resilience of New Zealand’s legal and constitutional framework in the wake an Auckland Volcanic Field Eruption. The project will utilise scenarios developed by the DEVORA research programme, assess the ability of the current structures to deal with such an event and consider how such structures could be further developed to increase their resilience. Working alongside DEVORA stakeholders (including Auckland Council), the project will aim to provide not only a better understanding of the specific issue of volcanic risk to the legal framework (and thus effective response and recovery) but more generally expand our knowledge of disaster law and governance in a New Zealand context. The project will be supervised by Profs. John Hopkins and Thomas Wilson.

Closing Date for Applications: 31 July 2020

Subject area:

The role of law and governance in disasters is increasingly recognised but still poorly understood. Recent disaster events in New Zealand have emphasised this fact with rapid legislative change introduced in the wake of the Canterbury and Hurunui earthquake sequences as well as changes to the CDEM Act introduced as a result of experiences around those events. However, current approaches still remain focussed upon managing disasters in an ad hoc manner and focus on the creation of new governance structures in the wake of such extreme events. Although such “emergency” laws appear, at first glance to reflect the nature of the event, a deeper understanding of the nature of law and disaster has led to a questioning on this approach. In the aftermath of a disaster, recovery may not be aided by the creation of new and different governance arrangements at a time when those affected have little time to develop an understanding of a new governance landscape. In addition, should new structures be needed, the time for developing them is not in the immediate aftermath of an event, where time for proper consideration of their utility is not possible.

About Resilience to Nature's Challenges:

Resilience to Nature’s Challenges is a national research programme that is building new knowledge and tools to contribute to greater resilience in our unique rural, urban, coastal and Māori communities to natural hazards including earthquakes/tsunamis, volcanoes, weather and coastal hazards. We work with stakeholders to generate co-created research that communities, organisations and agencies can use to improve New Zealand’s natural hazard resilience. 

The scholarship

This PhD scholarship is available to a suitable student who is accepted into the PhD programme at The University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha. The successful scholarship holder will receive NZ$32,000 per year for up to 3 years (including the cost of tuition fees and stipend).


The scholarship is available for pursuing a multi-disciplinary PhD programme based in the Law School | Te Kura Ture of the University of Canterbury. The student will be expected to have an Honours or Masters degree (with a research thesis component) in a relevant social science discipline (including law). Knowledge of the New Zealand constitutional and political system would be an advantage.

The successful candidate will be enrolled full time at The University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha and reside in New Zealand for the tenure of the project and based in the Law School. Candidates must meet the PhD eligibility criteria for enrolling at The University of Canterbury Law School. Please note that for students whose first language is not English the UC Law School requires an IELTS score of 7 (with no single section under 6.5).

Details of relevant requirements and other information are available:
Doctoral enrollment details and postgraduate study options


  • Applications close: 31 July 2020
  • Selection of candidate by 31 August 2020
  • Applicant to commence PhD studies as soon as practicable after August 2020

Enquiries and Applications:

Applicants should submit an email to Julie Scott ( with the subject heading of ‘Auckland Volcanic Governance PhD application’. Please include:

  • A curriculum vitae (max. 2 pages) including two academic references
  • A copy of your academic transcript
  • List of publications (if any)
  • Contact details
  • One A4 page cover letter outlining your interest in the topic, and why you would like to be considered for this scholarship

Apply now!