Mayor welcomes appointment of first Chief Resilience Officer

22 October 2015

Chief Resilience Officer will lead city-wide efforts to build holistic resilience to the social, physical and economic challenges that are an increasing part of the 21st Century.

Wellington city from the evening.

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation - is dedicated to building resilience in cities around the world – Wellington is a founding member of a $164M effort.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown welcomes the appointment of Mike Mendonça as Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), a new position created to lead city-wide resilience building efforts to help Wellington prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment, which are increasingly part of 21st century life. As Chief Resilience Officer, Mike Mendonça will oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive Resilience Strategy for the city.

“Mike has wide experience and will be able to tap into an international body of knowledge and liaise with Chief Resilience Officers in Christchurch, Sydney, and around the world, in developing plans and strategies to make Wellington a resilient city,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Appointing a CRO is an essential element of Wellington’s resilience building partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization is part of a $164M commitment by The Rockefeller Foundation to build urban resilience in 100 cities around the world. Wellington’s engagement with 100 Resilient Cities kicked off in 28 September with a “Resilience Agenda-Setting Workshop”, and under Mike Mendonça’s leadership, the city is poised to take the next step in its resilience planning. The position will be fully funded by 100RC. 

The CRO is an innovative feature of 100RC’s resilience building program, specifically designed to break down existing barriers at the local level, account for pre-existing resilience plans, and create partnerships, alliances and financing mechanisms that will address the resilience vulnerabilities of all city residents, with a particular focus on low-income and vulnerable populations.

“Mike Mendonça joins a network of peers from cities across the globe that will share best practices and surface innovative thinking,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. Mr Mendonça will become a global leader in resilience, and will be a tool both for Wellington and other cities around the world.”

Mike is an avid Wellingtonian with previous Council service in the areas of infrastructure and civil defence. Mike is excited at the prospect of building on Wellington’s already impressive record around resilience when he starts his new role early next month.

“The Council’s relationship with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities is a fantastic opportunity for the City to learn from the best of the best, to see how we rate on the global scale and to make Wellington even better” he says.

This 100 Resilient Cities programme aligns with several natural hazards research projects in the region that are already improving our understanding of the risk from natural hazard events and ways to build resilience. The Joint Centre for Disaster Research – a collaboration between Massey University and GNS Science – is leading an international programme of research on building community-driven resilience. Mike will be charged with fostering a citywide dialogue on Wellington’s unique shocks and stresses profile, helping the city to unite and build the collective capacity for change.

Resilience is much broader than disasters, it’s about strengthening the fabric of the region as a whole. The 100 Resilient Cities Framework proposes four dimensions that make up a city’s resilience; Health and Wellbeing, Economy and Society, Infrastructure and Environment and finally, Leadership and Strategy.

“Resilience is more than simply having a civil defence kit and strong buildings - those things should be a given.  A modern City like ours needs to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what shocks and stresses we might experience. Apart from the obvious things like earthquakes and pandemics, we need to be resilient to stresses like high unemployment, the effects of climate change, water shortages or a major economic downturn,” says Mike Mendonça. “Resilience to these things can’t always be bought off the shelf or designed by an engineer. But resilience can be a state of mind and an attitude that embraces adaptability and positivity. We kiwis pride ourselves on these things.”

“In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities cannot afford to remain crisis-driven and reactive,” said Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin. “Cities like Wellington are at the forefront of fostering a resilience mindset that will be critical to proactively managing the inevitable challenges, shocks and stresses all cities will face.”

Mike will receive personnel and technical support provided by 100RC; and utilize resilience building tools from private, public, academic, and NGO sector organizations that have partnered with 100RC. Wellington’s Resilience Strategy will be a holistic, action-oriented blueprint to build partnerships and alliances, financing mechanisms, and will pay particular attention to meeting the needs of poor and vulnerable populations.

About 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to social, economic, and physical challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each of our cities who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. 100RC currently has 67 member cities. 

100RC recently launched the third and final round of the 100 Resilient Cities challenge, where cities can apply to become part of the final cohort of cities in the global network of 100 cities.