David R Brunsdon

Citation For Life Membership of NZSEE, 14 April 2012


David Brunsdon has a wide range of experience across the building, infrastructure, emergency management and research sectors. The majority of his work involves the co-ordination of complex multi-agency projects within and across these sectors, including a number at the interface between Earthquake Engineering and Emergency Management.

David has been responsible over the past decade for developing and implementing NZ’s national post-disaster building safety evaluation arrangements. He led the NZ Earthquake Assistance Team that undertook building safety evaluations following the Padang, West Sumatra earthquake in 2009 and co-ordinated the building safety evaluation process on behalf of Christchurch City Council following the 4 September 2010 Canterbury earthquake.

David is:

  • a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) (Civil), University of Canterbury, 1980
  • a Master of Engineering (Distinction) (Civil), University of Canterbury, 1984
  • Chartered Professional Engineer, New Zealand
  • Fellow – Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand
  • Fellow and Past-President – New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering
  • Member – Institution of Engineers Australia
  • Member – New Zealand Society for Risk Management
  • Member – International Association of Emergency Managers

David Brunsdon is a Fellow of the Society, and is a former President of note (2000-2002), for his energetic, strong, and inspirational leadership.

David has contributed to NZSEE interests for several decades, by ways of:  –

  • Leading the implementation into New Zealand of the US Applied Technology Council Guideline ATC-20 on “Building Safety Evaluation following earthquake”, following experience of the post earthquake triaging of buildings in Newcastle, Australia in 1989, led by then NZSEE President, Bruce Shephard.  Following a decade of work by Bruce and others, David developed the process further and oversaw the first application of the NZSEE draft guidelines in Gisborne, following the 20 Dec 2007 earthquake. The procedures have evolved and have now been used in Canterbury post 4 Sept 2010 and 22 Feb 2011, and also in Hawke’s Bay and Nelson/Tasman following their flood and landslide emergencies;
  • Leading several NZSEE Learning From Earthquakes teams to Guam, to Kobe (a Lifelines team), to Taiwan (Chi Chi); and to Padang;
  • Playing a key structural engineering leadership role with New Zealand Fire Service and others in the development of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capability in NZ that saved lives in the post 22 Feb 2011 aftermath, by. This arose from the NZSEE Learning From Earthquakes visit to the scene of the Northridge earthquake. David has been Leader of the Urban Search and Rescue Specialist Skills Working Group (2002 to 2008) and is a member of NZ USAR Task Force 1;
  • Advocating for lifeline engineering in NZ for decades, following NZSEE Learning From Earthquakes visits to the locations of the Northridge and Kobe earthquake, he almost single handedly led the build up of Engineering Lifelines Groups throughout New Zealand (following the influential Centre for Advanced Engineering University of Canterbury initiatives in Wellington, and in Christchurch – ‘Risks and Realities‘); David has been the National Engineering Lifelines Co-ordinator for NZ since 1999; he has also been on the Building Research Association of NZ Board (1999 – 2005);
  • Leading the drive, for over a decade, of the development of the concept of Professional Engineers for Emergency Management (PEEM); although not yet formalised, the concepts have been  implemented, as in the response of engineers and the involvement of IPENZ following the Canterbury earthquakes, particularly post 4 Sept 2010 and Feb 2011;
  • Being the inaugural leader of the buildings and infrastructure programme of the Natural Hazards Research Platform;
  • Advocating passionately across New Zealand and the South Pacific for the principles of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (with the vision of a resilient NZ founded on the 4Rs of Reduction (of risk), Readiness, Response, and Recovery); he was a Member of the Government’s Independent Review of the response following the February 2004 Floods;
  • Leading the Building Safety Evaluations in Christchurch following the earthquake of 4 September 2010, at a scale never attempted before in NZ, and in so doing, instructing others who were then able to lead that work at an even bigger scale post 22 Feb 2011;
  • Leading the international USAR engineering response to 22 Feb 2011 with little regard for his own welfare and to a point of near collapse from exhaustion;
  • Leading the Engineering Advisory Group for the Department of Building and Housing, post the Canterbury earthquakes.

David is also a recipient of other Awards, including:

  • Freyssinnet Award 1986 – Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand
  • Otto Glogau Award 1986 – NZ National Society for Earthquake Engineering
  • Professional Commitment Award 1996 – Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand
  • Technical Award : Multi-disciplinary 2002 – Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand
  • MacLean Citation 2011 – Institution of Professional Engineers, New Zealand.

When considering what David Brunsdon has contributed over many years, as a leader at a senior level, it is remarkable. All the more so, as it is done so effectively that it may pass without notice.

Also, considering David’s role in Christchurch within 24hrs of the earthquake on 4th September 2010 and again after the earthquake of 22nd February 2011; the roles on each of those occasions were quite different, but his leadership on both occasions was vital to the response operation; his arrival and leadership made a difference. When we consider the contributions of each of our current Life Members, they too were significant and in each case they too made a difference.

David Brunsdon is today awarded Life Membership of the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering, for his energetic, strong, and inspirational leadership.

Peter Wood, President, NZSEE. 14 April 2012