100 day blueprint for Christchurch Central (Boffa Miskell, July 2012)

Christchurch Central Recovery Plan

Achievable, full of potential, and ready to fly. The 100 day spatial blueprint for Christchurch’s recovery is out only three days past its ambitious due date. The blueprint, developed by NZ urban design specialists Boffa Miskell, describes a more compact, low-rise central city – a city of precincts, with strong connections to green spaces and to the river that runs through it. The blueprint envisions ‘a well-formed and vibrant city centre that produces economic and social benefits by bringing people together for business, cultural or social activities’.

About 840 properties are to be bought from owners by the government, so that key facilities can go where they are needed. The old Turners & Growers site, on the edge of the CBD’s eastern precincts has been chosen for a new a covered stadium to replace the earthquake-damaged AMI Stadium. It will seat 35,000 people. A 2000 seat convention centre is also part of the plan, as is increasing the density of dwellings in the inner heart of the CBD, to accommodate 20,000 people. A massive children’s play park will be one of the riverside amenities expected to be fast-tracked to draw people back into the heart of Christchurch. The plan has been founded on a set of goals:

See the blueprint at

A Vision for Christchurch Central Recovery

  • greater productivity
  • connectedness
  • development of human capital
  • sharing of ideas and
  • a shared identity
  • reflecting heritage

5.5 billion dollars has been set aside by government for implementing the Christchurch recovery plan, which Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee says, will set it apart from any other urban centre. Seventy per cent of buildings in Christchurch’s centre have been under demolition in the wake of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, with 80 percent of them insured. Insurers have an obligation to pay to reinstate what was damaged, and there may be a gap between what is paid out, and the actual cost of rebuilding. However, there is reason to be optimistic regarding the affordability of the blue print, and the potential for investor capital to flow back into the city, suggests Chamber of Commerce CEO, Peter Townsend. It is just a plan. We have to make it work, and we will, he told Radio NZ National.

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaccs called the blueprint ‘bold and innovative’. He said that the blueprint was important to lift the confidence of investors, as much as residents. While the stadium might take ten years to complete, Mr Isaccs suggested that within three years, people could expect to see good progress on the proposed river park and the ‘green frame’ around the city. Integrating the river into the fabric of the city will be at the top of the list, Mr Townsend  indicated.

Christchurch Central Recovery Plan - lower buildings will become a defining feature of the central city

Lower buildings will become a defining feature of the central city in the medium term

Christchurch Central Recovery Plan - The Frame


Presenters:  Donald Bell (Chair), Peter TownsendJacki Johnson Steve Brazier (did not present on the day)  , Bill Butzbach  with additional commentary from Alan Bollard and Roger Sutton. Speakers are identified in bold type.

Theme 2 – Restoring Confidence and Effectiveness Immediately after an Event (Download the PDF)

Response teams training together - Image Robyn MooreThe devastating impact of the Canterbury earthquake necessitated a large and coordinated response by central and local government, as well as private sector agencies. New Zealand was also fortunate enough to receive assistance from other nations during the disaster recovery period that followed the February earthquake.

Reserve Bank Wellington - Image by Robyn MooreAlan Bollard (Reserve Bank Governor) – One of the pressing concerns immediately following the earthquakes was the maintenance of payments systems. In the aftermath of events such as natural disasters, there is strong demand for food, water, petrol and other necessities. And with damage to power and telecommunications systems, access to cash is a key concern.

Only two hours after the February earthquake, the Reserve Bank started receiving orders from banks for more cash for delivery to Christchurch.

Ensuring cash was available required us to work closely with banks and Cash in Transit companies to meet the spike in demand. This task was complicated by damage to roads that meant travel, where possible in Christchurch, was taking about three times as long as normal.

Christchurch earthquake 2011 - Fact boxThe public also needed information about where cash was available. To ensure this, Bank staff used Google maps to provide a live feed of operational and accessible ATMs. Overall about $150 million of extra cash was sent to Christchurch in the week of the earthquake, representing about $350 per resident.

Earthquake-related expenditure estimated at $13.6 billion contributed to a marked deterioration in the Government’s operating deficit over the 2010/2011 year. The resulting pressure on the Government’s debt position was highlighted by Standard and Poor’s when they downgraded New Zealand’s long-term sovereign rating to ‘AA’ earlier this year. In response to the costs associated with the earthquakes, the Government’s June Budget incorporated an increased focus on fiscal consolidation with a reduction in new discretionary spending over the coming four years. In addition, the Government has recently announced an increase in the earthquake cover levy component of home insurance, to cover the costs faced by the EQC and to rebuild its Natural Disaster Fund.

We have also been researching how other countries have responded to similar earthquakes. Rapid recovery of communications infrastructure, speedy decisions on rebuild, and availability of finance, have led to rapid bounce-backs in industrial production, confidence and growth. Where the New Zealand situation looks most different is in the lingering seismic instability.

Earthquake damage on Worcester Street in Christchurch CBD

Donald Bell (Session Chair) is Territorial Commander for the Salvation Army.   

This session is focussed on the immediate aftermath. How do we react appropriately to an unexpected, catastrophic event? Almost everyone talks about the need to plan effectively in order to react effectively – and that is absolutely true. But two other aspects of the response in the immediate aftermath are also worthy of discussion.

  1. the actual event is not what was planned for, and
  2. if you haven’t planned, the plans aren’t available, or the people with the knowledge of the plans are not available, we realise that action is still required.

Action is often required that is not in the plan. This is sometimes described as ‘train, train, train – and in the face of unexpected events that were not what we trained for, exercise independent judgement.’ Exercising that judgement can require great skill, so there are important lessons here.

Peter Townsend is CEO for the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce. He talks about five issues relating to the topic,including loss of human and financial capital, delays, perceptions, and isolation.

I have ten minutes to talk about 30 billion dollars. For those of you who think it’s 20 billion, it’s not. It’s 30, and get used to it. Two words appropriate to my presentation are certainty and hope. Critical words as we go forward in Christchurch. To reinforce the size of the event for you: 1200 buildings destroyed, meaning if you want to renew and repair and replace over a 10 year period, you’ve got to open a new commercial building every three days, for the next 10 years.

1200 buildings in our city destroyed. 30,000 houses and in excess of $100,000 worth of damage to each. That’s equivalent to a town the size of Ashburton – destroyed – so we have to replace Ashburton in Christchurch. It’s estimated that will require 30,000 new people above business-as-usual, to help rebuild our city.

I want to focus on 5 key issues.

The first is capital flight, the risk of capital flight. We are the best insured city ever to have been struck by an earthquake of these proportions – this is the fourth most expensive earthquake in world history when it comes to insurance. It’s a double-edged sword – it’s great to have that insurance that comes in and can help us rebuild our city, but insurance means that we are very liquid. Cash is the ultimate liquidity and being liquid means that the cash can go anywhere. I’ve talked about capital flight, some of my colleagues talk about landing capital – we have to have a Christchurch where capital lands in the future because we don’t want to lose capital. We are going to be the recipients of 30,000 million dollars to replace a lot of lost equity in our household sector, our business sector, and our community, so we want to make sure that money sticks.

The second issue is the issue of human capital flight, of losing people. We haven’t lost many people in Christchurch, and I don’t think we will. When you consider 30,000 people are coming in to help rebuild Christchurch, we might have the opposite problem. We may have lost between 8 and 10 thousand people and some of those are coming back.

To give you an example, in Wanaka, the schools down there peaked at 367 kids immediately following the February earthquake, and that is now down to 100 kids from Christchurch still down in Wanaka. People come back.

There are many reasons people want to come back to Christchurch. One is that they love the city. It’s broken, but they love it. Their equity is in Christchurch, their house, their businesses. Their kids’ schools are there, their social networks are there. There are many reasons that people come back, so I am not anticipating too much human capital flight, but we need to be careful and we need to be accurate. There were reports that 30,000 have taken flight in the press not that long ago – that sort of information, we don’t need.

The third factor is delay. I describe delay as a cancer that eats away at recovery. The longer the delay, the more difficult it is to get back up. Delay from my perspective is an interaction between land stability, aftershocks, and insurance. At the moment we are into our 8,600th aftershock and they continue.  As long as they continue there is this dependency between land stability, aftershocks and insurance. I have sympathy for the insurance companies and the bind they find themselves in, gearing up for big payouts for reconstruction in the face of continuing seismic activity. It’s a massive, massive problem.

The fourth issue that I think is critical, is the perception that we will go back to where we came from. Christchurch is not going back where we came from. It is going somewhere else. We have 52,000 people inside our CBD. 6000 companies. Most of those have left the CBD and some of them will come back, but not all of them. Christchurch will be recreated as downtown Christchurch, and I use recreated wisely. We have a lot of different challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

The fifth issue is controversial and extremely important – the risk of isolation. It is the risk that because we are going through a 10-20 year recovery, the rest of the country gets on with doing their own thing, we concentrate on our recovery, and we run the risk of being in isolation over time. This is an issue of national significance and requires ongoing national support. The support we’ve had so far has been unbelievable. What worries me is that over time, the rest of the world will move on while we struggle. We have to make sure that does not happen.

So, we have these 5 key issues. We need to turn every one of these into opportunities.

I just want to touch on organisational resiliency in our city. It is unbelievably resilient. Of those members of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, and there are 3000 members, 350 operating in the CBD, we have contacted them all since February 22nd and 90% are still in business.

The stories of resilience, the way they’ve changed their business models, their customer base, their supply chains, the way they have had to rebuild their business support systems, every one of those stories is a story of business heroism.

Something that I really want to reinforce is that the role of Recovery Canterbury, which was a joint venture between the Chamber of Commerce and the Canterbury Development Corporation. We set up a website, set up a call centre, put business recovery coordinators on the road to assist business, optimise business survival and success.

A critical issue was that of the employment subsidy scheme. Post-September, Bill English initiated the employment subsidy scheme after a conversation with myself, and we got 10.2 million dollars for 2,200 companies and 11,700 employees. After February 22nd, Bill English called me and said that I didn’t need to call, that they were gearing up the employment subsidy again. Post February 22nd, the Government pumped 200 million dollars into the Christchurch business community, binding the businesses and employees together and ensuring that the businesses can concentrate on things other than survival.  They can think about relocation, they can think about their markets, they can think about adapting their business models, they can think about renewing their supply chain.

It was a critical time and that 200 million dollars applied to 57,000 of our employees, 27% of our total workforce, and 50,000 companies. This money was pumped in on a high-trust basis immediately. It saved companies and it saved jobs. Fewer than 100 people ended up going on the dole, and Christchurch has lower employment rates than the rest of New Zealand, even in the face of the biggest natural disaster to ever hit our country. A lot of the credit for this has to go to the fact that these companies were able to have time, 8 weeks, to think about their options and not worry about their cash flow.

Jacki Johnson took up the role of Chief Executive Officer of IAG Insurance Group’s New Zealand business in November 2010. She discusses insurance in the context of organisational effectiveness.

Insurance is one of those areas that people don’t pay too much attention to until they really need it. It is often at this point, that it is too late to understand the product that has been purchased. I would also like to acknowledge my colleagues who are here today, and the way we have worked together with very difficult issues.

Firstly, I want to put insurance into context with the theme of today. The framework I encourage you to think about is as follows: Individuals and businesses need to understand their risk appetite – how much risk can they take and how much are they willing to take. Of course, this is very rational approach. What tends to happen is that people buy insurance on a price point and not with this active decision-making.

If it is true that the world is becoming a riskier place, then we need to make sure we help with active and informed decision-making.

To effectively manage insurance cover, an individual or business should be identifying and assessing their risks and then taking action to mitigate their risk. For example, this can be in the form of BCP, managing design-decisions or the OH&S of their people they employ, or their own health and safety.

One other key part is risk transfer. How much of the risk is transferred is dependent on the availability of cover, the risk appetite and affordability. I want to cover each of these with you. The immediate need, in addition to the obvious need of assisting people make their homes watertight and lodge claims was to ensure global capital remained to support our ongoing customers needs for insurance.

When an event is still going, it is normal practice to not offer renewal.

The local underwriters can only continue to provide support whilst they have cover from their re-insurers. We also had to work with reinsurers, with government and with Council to determine how the rebuild will occur.

The first priority is being accessible to customers - image via Jacki Johnson IAGAfter ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, the first priority in any major event is being accessible to your customers.  We mobilised employees from across IAG and had mobile vans out in the community.

When customers have no reliable phone communication and have immediate issues that need attending to, we need to respond.  We also need to go to a place that is convenient for them.

These situations are typically chaotic (at least in the early days) and full of complex issues.

You need to be able to work together across stakeholders – government, industry, cross industry and communities to find good long-term solutions. You need to work in a way that balances speed, initiative and good risk/safety management.

It is critical the shared future is designed and articulated across stakeholders.  This requires good relationships based on trust, and understanding each other’s perspectives. The following, more specific, imperatives that arose in Christchurch are testament to this.

For insurers to be able to write policies and renew policies, we require access to capital – both from investors and reinsurers. Insurance, although manufactured and distributed at a local level, really is about a global market of investment. Sharing the risk.  It is about ensuring there is enough capital to back up the promise. Too much aggregated risk is not good for an insurance model. Diversification helps to manage the long-term risk and accessibility of insurance.

As insurers, we need to engage in good risk management to be there for customers and economies. In that regard, the Global Reinsurance market is critical to us. Confidence must remain for Reinsurers and shareholders to invest in a market, and it is important to understand that the market here is linked to Australia and that Reinsurers see us as one part of the world.  What this means is a higher volatility from natural events and relatively small populations and markets – so we need to decrease volatility across other parts of our balance sheet – there needs to be confidence that government will make rational decisions and work with the industry. I am pleased to say this has been the case here in NZ. Government and insurers are making sure they are actively engaging with Global Reinsurers to ensure they understand the decisions and planning that are occurring.  Without access to global capital, we cannot restore confidence to households or local businesses.

Ensuring all parts of the insurance chain are adequately reserved, is critical for restoring confidence but a challenge in a small market. Many people expected insurers to be able to start repairing and rebuilding their homes immediately. Like what happens after major weather events.

Geological events are different – the event has not yet stopped and significant land damage has occurred. We have fixed some driveways up to 4 times!

Determining what land is safe to start building on, understanding the ongoing seismic risks, the building standards, the city plan, how Councils will give consents – all are key to us being able to start to rebuild people’s homes and businesses. That is not to say we haven’t started. A high proportion of assessments are now completed and the planning and resourcing has occurred.  We have also completed some rebuild activity, but it is not as fast as people would like, and our 570 staff based in Christchurch take the brunt of this. The next panel about Leading people, will deal with this particular topic .

The key thing to remember is that no matter how well you plan, events will overtake you.  Maintaining resilience and ensuring you see and adapt to emerging issues is critical.

I would like to give you some examples we are dealing with:

Clearly, a big challenge is the availability of affordable and building-ready land and the maintenance of communities and community support structures.  The issues of contract works and resultant cover is one of capacity and exposure.  It is particularly acute for developers looking to get ahead of demand. The absence of land cover from EQC during the build is an issue. However, we have committed to provide contracts of works cover to existing customers. At IAG, we are working to support our existing customers and making prudent decisions taking into account geo-technical, consent and planning information.

We also continue to work through the Insurance Council and Business NZ to ensure that the industry is able to play a positive role in the rebuild. Access to the CDB has been a long-standing issue – one I’m pleased to see has reduced over the months, as the industry and CERA have worked together to find solutions.

Concerns about recovery of stock and plant and the settlement of claims have been resolved through improved access. Concerns about demolition – in particular, notifications and differences in engineering assessments, have also improved markedly.  Our engineers and CERA engineers are largely on the same page, when it comes to assessment.  The ability to speed-up demolition remains a concern for business – we appreciate safety of workers must be paramount in decision-making. Speed of demolitions has improved of late.

The issue of depopulation and prevention has been an issue for business in and outside the cordon and will come to a head, as we approach the calculation of final settlements.  Once again, the uniqueness of the events in Christchurch has tested policy wording in ways not thought likely when they were first written. Business-interruption covered clients for losses resulting from property damage. But this does not extend to the wider impact of the quake, such as the general depopulation or economic downturn that often occurs following a widespread damage event. Businesses now understand that they need to be very familiar with what’s in their policy.  This extra scrutiny is a good thing for our industry – for brokers and insurers.

Finally, the key to ensuring confidence in a community through insurance is working together in a manner that builds trust and making sure your own people feel safe and supported. Without their resilience and commitment you cannot respond effectively to people in their time of need. A highly engaged workforce is most critical.

People creating a shared future based on trust and understanding each other's perspectives - Image via Jacki Johnson IAGWhat Natural Disasters do is give us the opportunity to work together in a way we do not normally have to. We identify issues at hand, but also minimise future risk, from what we learn. Without working together across countries, across businesses and across community stakeholders, we would never evolve and improve communities and economies. Thank you.

Bill Butzbach is Director, Strategic Development, NZ Fire Service. He presents some lessons for Wellington and Christchurch, including working together and keeping each other informed.

Our response comprised some 600 fire fighters, 400 of them volunteers, 150 New Zealand urban city and rescue personnel, and 150 support staff.

There’s actually a key lesson in that as well – we put our corporate staff out into a disaster zone and we made the assumption that they were going to be able to deal with that and of course it was so foreign for them. So we learnt a great deal about how we would respond in the future, just making sure that they were adequately prepared to work in that environment.

We were also able to roll out nine of the seventeen new dual-role hazmat/command vehicles. We’ve invested heavily in those over the past few years. There were fully trained staff on them 24/7 and it’s state of the art equipment. We were able to share this equipment with other agencies like the Police. The disaster and victim identification had a couple of them, and they were spread throughout the city for some time.  There was a lot of support required from our IT staff to ensure that the technology could keep going in such difficult circumstances.

This was a very significant local event, yet at the same time we had to wear the National Fire Service badge and ensure that business-as-usual was happening.

It was interesting that many people were wanting to self deploy – and we had to hold them back at some point.

I think the thing we needed to think about most carefully was who was sent down to Christchurch. Because sending too many down would overload the local infrastructure, which is probably something I wouldn’t have thought about previously – not enough places to sleep, not enough food and water about, so you have to be careful and maintain some balance.

There was a lot going on in the background, thinking about longer-term focus, and looking at rebuilding a city and identifying the role that your organisation is going to play in that.  That’s what my presentation is about today – working together for the benefit of Christchurch, looking to the future, what we can learn a great deal from – for the rest of New Zealand.

The feedback we got as an organisation is that the media coverage and how high-profile the organisation was, provided a sense of reassurance to the public, because it reminded them that something was being done. So that’s something to reflect on, how the media can be important in situations like these. While search and rescue dominated the media coverage in the news, there was a tremendous amount of brand activity that we needed the media for – to get key messages out. Because usual channels of communication were disrupted, no infrastructure, no facilities, no television, so a lot of the way in which we had to get key messages out in the community was face to face, just keeping people on the ground to talk to.

To get some insight into our business continuity at the front end of our fire service, this event certainly tested our BCP. From February 22 – 24 there was a real peak in demand, mostly rescues, sometimes people just wanting assistance. But as that initial demand dropped off until March 10, there was actually a wider community demand which to some degree overwhelmed us in the initial phases – they wanted support and information, so we had to adapt to that and think about things differently.

During that time, we responded to over 400 incidents, there were 70 live rescues from fire service personnel.

Fortunately, there was very little post-earthquake fire and that was probably attributable to the gas reticulation in Christchurch. In Wellington it will be a different matter. The likely scenario here is that we expect a lot of post-earthquake fires because of the nature of our building structures here, our gas reticulation system and other matters.

Our Southern Communication centres worked tremendously well on the day, and it was a test of our BCP to keep this network going. We’ve invested heavily over the past 6 years in technology to create a common database, common directory and radio network so that day we could switch off most of the operations in Christchurch and divert the calls to Wellington and it was business as usual. So we have a great deal of confidence in that infrastructure going forward.

We experienced a new demand, as a traditional fire service in Canterbury, because of Canterbury’s changing risk-profile. Obviously, there’s liquefaction. It’s a bit wet, but there are no utilities. So people are buying gas stoves and using them for heating, gas stoves that aren’t suitable for use inside, using candles, unfamiliar house layouts, overcrowding in houses, because there are a lot more people there than there usually would be. So this provided an extraordinarily high level of fire risk.

We got together with other agencies and used various networks to get key messages out there to the groups of people on the ground. We set up an 0800 number. A lot of the things we did in this area still continue to this day.

Some of the other work we’re involved in at a national level is working with the Department of Building and Housing to develop two temporary housing precincts. We have also been involved in basic design-specs, dealing with issues around fire fighting and rescue, that sort of thing.

The key lessons for our agency have been firstly, that earthquakes hit business and economies hard. They want to get up and running as soon as possible, so we need to be responsive to their needs and provide timely advice, including assisting building and business owners with regulatory compliance matters. The demand is different, the focus must shift quickly. In rebuilding, there are increased expectancies from a lot of agencies for us to be involved in strategic planning and in the longer term strategic issues and roles – and we are doing that. I think the big lessons are working together, keeping each other informed in what is now business as usual in Christchurch, and it should be the same here, in Wellington.

Geoff Bascand outlines the response of Statistics NZ.

How did we respond to the earthquakes? There were many practical responses. Yet the intangible care and support responses were most significant.

Initially, we executed our existing crisis management plans with daily crisis meetings, led by me, with the senior executive team, the corporate support manager and the general manager of the Christchurch office by phone.   Every meeting had an agenda of people-care and management matters, buildings/facilities issues, business activity/service delivery issues, and communication (internally and externally).

Following the September quake, key responses were prioritisation of business activity, reorganisation of office space to accommodate staff and re-planning the critical path for the census.  In this case, for operational matters, we largely utilised existing lines of responsibility, relying principally on the corporate services manager and the GM Christchurch.

Roger Sutton of CERA has the last word in this section – on insurance and confidence.

Insurance is the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. This is not an event they expected to happen; we’d always expected some sort of event in Canterbury, we always expected it to be the Alpine fault, but they never expected a proper faultline to be right under a CBD.

So there is an awful lot of work we’re doing – talking to the insurers, to reassure them, and give them information, so they can start writing policies again and it’s also around trying to persuade them to start paying out to people. Insurance may become a major issue. At the moment it’s still only a few months since we had the last 6 magnitude quake. We have to give the insurers time to get their confidence back. We’ve worked hard to give them information to give them that confidence. It is confidence that is fundamental to making this recovery happen.

Download the PDF Restoring confidence and effectiveness

Click here for the draft recovery plan to rebuild Christchurch’s Central City.


Presenters: Pat Walsh (Chair),  Colin JamesIan AthfieldRoger Sutton

Additional commentary: Dr Helen Anderson, Margaret Jefferies, Peter Townsend and Jacki Johnson. Speakers are identified in bold type.

Theme 4 – Rebuilding our future: Is an earthquake required? (Download the PDF)

Presenting in the first session on Building resilience, some of the observations by Dr Helen Anderson are relevant here. This section begins with her comments on re-thinking the status of buildings.

Wellington Fact BoxAlready, there are changes in the commercial landscape, especially round Wellington’s CBD. These changes are going to be, and already are, driven by insurers increasing their premiums –  and linking those increases to the status of the building and its percentage of the new building standards. Insurers, tenants, schools, board members, many of us, are rethinking what it means when a building is not 100 per cent of code in respect to earthquake. We’re seeing a change in the market that may lead to some buildings not being economically viable. This will present challenges, especially for smaller businesses – if you were going to trade-off low rent for the safety of yourself and your staff, maybe you should think differently.

Margaret Jefferies is the Chair of Project Lyttelton. This grass-roots community group is working together to achieve their vision of a vibrant, sustainable community. She emphasises the most human elements around rebuilding the future, describing some of Project Lyttelton’s notable successes.

We set up the first Time Bank in New Zealand. It is going really well and has played a significant role in rebuilding our future after the February 2011 earthquake. People share their skills with one another – measuring by the hour, not the dollar. And everyone’s time is regarded as equal. Civil Defence was called into action too – they didn’t normally have a presence in Lyttelton. The Time Bank is about sharing skills, hour on hour. We have a population of 3000, with over 400 people registered. So we have a system that works – we might send out broadcasts saying that we need people to take a chimney down, whatever the need – it is strongly coordinated. We link with other services too.

We also have a farmers market. It creates a sense of community, provides a meeting place and provides food. While you may bump into the odd person you know at a supermarket, you can do a lot of your local networking at your farmers market – always building on the sense of community and building relationships.  Relationships are key.

Welcome bags are another fabulous project, such a tiny thing – but fabulous.  Everyone new to Lyttleton gets a welcome bag. The bag is sewn by Time Bank members, with new people coming to our notice through neighbours or real-estate agents. In the bags are useful things like bus timetables, details about the time bank, the community garden, and there’ll be some fresh home baking too. It’s about going to your new neighbours’ door and saying welcome to our community. It touches people.

A lot of people ask about online communities, but if a beam falls on top of you, it’s not your online community that’s going to save you, it’s going to be your neighbour.

Communications is another important project. We are lucky to have a monthly insert in one of the free newspapers. So we are building relationships all the time, and we are doing it from an appreciative inquiry point of view. We’re not moaning, we are being positive and saying good things about what we’re creating. We have a website, Facebook, all of the usual mediums to easily connect. Just don’t forget the personal touch – to talk and connect. That’s what I’ve loved since the earthquake – all the random hugs.

Community vegesThe next thing to mention is local food production. We realised that without connection, no tunnel, the roads cut off, food was an issue – where would it come from? I’m excited that Lyttelton is now looking into improving food security in light of the earthquake. We have Crown funding to set up as a co-op and get the whole community into business together.

A key lesson – have a good time while you’re doing it all. You want people to come on-board and people won’t respond to a doomsday thing. They won’t respond if they’re in a state of fear.

We have a lot of fun while we’re doing these projects. It’s also important to have compassion and realise that people react in different ways. Even if you have every system in place, people can still feel anxious.

Peter Townsend is CEO of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce. He sets out a vision for the rebuilding of Christchurch:

It’s not just about torches, batteries, ropes and first aid kits, it’s about the real issues facing business. So Christchurch’s future – we have a Draft Plan now, Christchurch City Council presented it. There’s a lot of work being done. I’m confident that we are going to end up with a fantastic offering in Christchurch.

It is going to be an iconic city, it is going to be a green city. It will be framed by our four Avenues that our forefathers had the foresight to put in place all those years ago. This will be interspersed with high quality housing, high quality accommodation, high quality iconic retail offerings, and high quality office space.

You will all see a completely different central city Christchurch. It will be a city that faces the future, in the same way that 150 years ago our forefathers laid down this city that has looked after us so well in the past. But it’s going to be different, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take an enormous amount of perseverance from the Christchurch community and the rest of New Zealand.

Jacki Johnson leads insurance company IAG in New Zealand. She comments on the Plan for rebuilding Christchurch:

The recently released Central City Plan presents a vision for a rebuilt Christchurch.  We are seeing some groups raise concerns. The requirement for higher-spec building is of real concern to developers. Architects think the proposals are too restrictive.  I understand that the business community supports the principles of the Plan. Clearly more detail, science and economic work is needed.  Nevertheless, the Plan provides a starting point for thinking about the future and building confidence in a new central city.

Roger Sutton is CEO of CERA. He describes the role of CERA, and what the priorities are for rebuilding Christchurch.

CERA – we don’t do everything, we’re a coordinating organisation. We’re the guys who try to ensure that things can happen, that the bits of society that need to come together and make the recovery, can happen. We also have the role of making sure that things like orders in Council get written, because we have this role of government. The CERA legislation gives us all sorts of special powers.

We were originally going to be a ‘skinny’ organisation – of 50 people or so. Over time, the job gets bigger and bigger. In particular, all the land issues – the damage to the land is enormous, and we need people managing that.

We’ve got ourselves established in an office in the CBD, in an eleven-storey building. I’m getting an office on the top floor, and we’re getting handles fitted from the ceiling just like you’ve got in a bus, that way you know if things start rocking you’re not going to fall over.

I’m not joking actually.

I’m not. Just talking about it though, maybe when I’m talking to people about the size of the event, it can be hard for people to get a feel for how big was the physical event. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake was equivalent to dropping a thousand of the worlds largest oil tankers from about 500 meters above the ground, onto the ground. That’s the sort of energy released. That’s enough energy to make a pot of tea for every single person in the world. And that’s the hard thing, because nature gives us so much wonderfulness, but in the September 4th quake, and on February 22nd – just in a few seconds, it took away so much, and it’s going to take 5, 10, 15 years to pull it back together again.

Talking about our priorities, the first priority is around the land.

There’s never been an earthquake event anywhere in the world that’s done so much damage to land as we’ve had in Canterbury. So at the moment there’s something like 6000 properties where we’ve said it’s not going to be economic to rebuild again.

Associated with those 6000 properties, we’re trying to bring more land to market more quickly, and that’s not a small job. We’re talking about the fact that we need to keep communities together, that we need to try to engage with communities. It’s very difficult to engage with people, when 6000 people know they have to move, and on top of that there’s another 8000 properties, that are what we call orange, we don’t know whether they’re going to be red or green? And then there are another 3 or 4000 properties in the Port Hills and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them.

So, we have these fantastic powers to ride over the RMA and other planning processes, trying to get land to market more quickly. Rather than sitting in Mr Brownlee’s office with big felt pens, drawing circles on maps and saying, “Well that looks like a jolly nice place to have another subdivision,” what we’re trying to do is speed up the process by using what has already been through  the conventional consenting process. Land that was, in general, getting held up by appeals put by other developers that hadn’t wanted a particular development to happen.

The infrastructure – I could talk for hours about infrastructure. There’s three or four billion dollars worth of work to be done there. It’s maybe a 5, 6, 7, maybe an 8 year programme. Already, we’re doing work at two or three times the rate you would normally see in Christchurch. The scale of it is quite extraordinary.

Then there’s the demolition. There’s something like 1200 buildings to bring down in the CBD, that’s about half of all the buildings inside the CBD, and about 600 have come down so far. Someone said today that the Wellington City Council building is at 14% of code – is that true? That’s outrageous, extraordinary, I really think that is extraordinary.

Christchurch have really struggled to get their city going again, and their Council buildings were pretty much up to code. Just all the light fittings and that type of thing fell down. The whole notion is that you can run a recovery, as long as your City Council has a response centre. And Christchurch had that. So I guess the question for Wellington is: have you got facilities for your 1000, 1500 staff to work in a week later? Have you got somewhere that is completely up to code?

Image R Moore

Brick building - Wellington CBD. Courage is needed to make the hard decisions around these types of buildings.

I guess I’m just a bit cynical about some of the local bodies’ ability to make hard decisions. It would have been better in Christchurch if Christchurch City Council had more courage around brick and masonry buildings a long time ago. But I don’t remember the last time a City Council in New Zealand did something really gutsy around those earthquake buildings. It’s the nature of local bodies. But the demolition thing is a really, really big issue. We’ve got the CBD cordon down to about half the size it was, but it’s not going to be down completely until roughly April of next year. The time frames are pretty extraordinary.

We’re writing a recovery strategy. And one of the key things is around the speed of recovery. We can have a conversation with the people of Christchurch, and say look, the recovery can take 3 or 4 years, and we’ll fill the town up with people from Ireland, Indonesia, the Philippines.

We’ll fill the town up and do it in 3 or 4 years. We’ll have maybe 20 or 30 thousand extra workers.

Or we’ll do it over a longer time period – 7 or 8 years and it will be a bit flatter, what do you want? They might say “Oh, we’ll have it in 2 or 3 years, please.” And that’s the thinking, educated people.

There are two dimensions to the speed of recovery. The first one is how thoughtful you’re going to be in making it happen. Are you going to get proper architects involved? Are you just going to draw lines on map, depending where your mood takes you? How many people are you going to throw at this issue, and to what extent you are going to create opportunities for your own people?

Or are you just going to bring a lot of people in – with the associated social issues? That’s a conversation we haven’t yet started in Christchurch. If left up to the pure political process it might just be – lets throw lots of resources at it, really quickly. So one of my roles as the guy who runs CERA, is trying to get the key leaders in Christchurch to start talking to a common theme – we have to make this a calmer, slower more considered recovery and avoid the riskier top-down approach.

Getting everybody wanting to row their waka at a more considerate pace won’t be easy.  I don’t for a moment say, people who are living in squalor shouldn’t get out of that squalor quickly. Because there are literally thousands of people living in badly broken houses at the moment, and we have to get them out – fast. And if necessary, we’ve got to bring pre-built houses from China, or wherever. We should do that, but we’ve also got to be more considered about how fast we rebuild.

The last of what we do is around communication. At the moment, there are a lot of communication messages that we’re not getting out there. So one of my roles is trying to coordinate all the players, to make sure they are communicating with the people, so people have confidence. So they can see the milestones. They can see where we’ve got to, where we’re going, and when we’re going to get there. That’s a key thing. We must get people believing that we are eventually going to get there. We will get there, but it will take longer than 2 or 3 years – it’s going to be much longer than that.

One of the guys I hired has come down from Wellington, he talks about the fact that when he came down, he was starting in the afternoon, he came via Uncle Trevor – and his name really is Uncle Trevor – and I’m not really sure where he lives in Christchurch, but Mike got to Uncle Trevor’s place at 10 o’clock in the morning. And Uncle Trevor’s in his 70’s, and Uncle Trevor was still sitting on the end of his bed in his underpants at 10 o’clock in the morning.

So when I talk about CERA, about how we have demolition to do, infrastructure to rebuild and all those sort of things, we’re not really doing enough, if Uncle Trevor in a year’s time, is still sitting at the end of his bed in his underpants, at 10 o’clock in the morning. At the end of the day, this recovery is about the people. It’s about giving people a sense that things are going to get better, we are going to be stronger, and that it all has a purpose. So we say – what have we done today to try to make Uncle Trevor’s life better? What have we done to try to make communities that support Uncle Trevor stronger? So they can give support to him.

Optimism. Am I optimistic about Christchurch? I am optimistic about Christchurch. I’m optimistic for three reasons. The first reason is insurance. New Zealand is well-insured. Christchurch is really well-insured. We’re lucky that 98% of houses are insured, and their land is largely insured. Businesses largely have insurance – so insurance is the first reason for optimism.

The second reason is physically, it’s still a great place. We have our wonderful parks, the mountains are just down the road, they’re a bit further away because of the way that the fault is. The Port Hills are still there, they’re a bit higher than they were – that’s a good thing. But seriously, Christchurch is still very much a great place, physically.

The last reason for optimism are the people. Christchurch is very much a community. All the key people have each other’s cell phone numbers. Everybody wants to work together, everyone has largely the same common vision, and I think we’re lucky in that way – we’re not so big that we can’t pull everyone together.

Ian Athfield, a prominent NZ architect. He talks about Christchurch, past, present and future – and offers some lessons for Wellington.

Before these earthquakes, I had always thought of engineering as a science. We have a building in Christchurch, which has heritage order and after 4th of September, we went straight back in. After February 22, the engineers said, “This is perfectly good, you can go back into the building.” So we went back in and everyone said, “It was a bit of a bloody shake you know.”

Anyway, we have a woman called Jane in the office and she’s got a fairly large frame, she’s tall and bears 10 pound babies. She was leaning against the wall in the middle of the office, and Ashley said, “The bloody wall’s moving Jane!” And she said, “You mean like that?” And all of a sudden the building started creaking and the glass started moving right throughout the building. The engineers came straight away and said it was 20% of the code – that’s 10% of the Wellington code – and we were out within one hour. A good example of engineering as a creative art?

To talk about the future of any settlement, one must look at the past. Here we have the Edward Gibbon Wakefield plan. Edward Gibbon Wakefield plan 1877Like many New Zealand cities, Christchurch was designed in Britain. They drew it up on the other side of the world. Luckily, they never ran up against hills. Woodward Street in Wellington was supposed to go out to Karori! But in Christchurch, they could go anywhere, never meeting a hill or a sea, and they just kept on going!

So this is a plan, about 1877, and the only thing that happened differently was they put a diagonal through the orthogonal plan drawn in England, mainly to get people from the Port through to the churches and back out to the sewerage system. And if we look at the pattern of growth in Christchurch, we trace it through 1886, 1926, 1946 and 1976, and like most new cities of the world, developed cities, it was based on that suburban model. Car driven, subdivision driven, maximum lot size, set-backs, and based on the nuclear family – 2 adults, 2 children and a guaranteed vote. Christchurch of all the cities, barring parts of Auckland, was one of those places that developed closely along these lines.

One of the interesting things which developed along with the suburban area, was the train system. As a kid, I remember going into the square – and the most important things about the square were the seven picture theatres, two milk bars, and the men’s toilet right in the center. And the settlement patterns were based around a transportation system, which assisted the city up until the mid 1950s.

Tram Cashel St. Image via Ian AthfieldHere we have an image of Christchurch, from Cathedral square looking down High street – this is early 1900’s. I can still remember these scenes from the 1950’s, and one thing that happened in 1947. Dad worked for Whitcombe and Tombs. My mum would send us up by tram from Sydenham to get the staff discount. From outside Whitcombe and Tombs, we watched the fire engulf Ballantynes. We saw people going out the windows, and for 10 years I got up every night, dreaming of fires. The last 13 months, I’ve changed those fire dreams to earthquakes, and thank God, in the last month, I’ve stopped thinking about them, and now get a decent night’s sleep.

Straight after the February 22nd earthquake, Richard Ballantyne approached us and asked, “Would you be prepared to talk, and work with the owners in the Cashel Mall area?” Cashel Mall and CBD Red Zone - Image Ian AthfieldWe knew that they had a start-up program with Buchan Group and Warren and Mahoney, but we felt it was important to sort of talk to people and try to get them to work together for the future of this sort of area.

So we spent a lot of time with them, we talked about those areas, we talked about amalgamating sites, and we talked about how we should inform the Council in the new District Plan. And to do that, we started talking about the bigger issues – to make them feel comfortable about the particular issues we were looking at for them. And so we have a plan, with Hagley Park on one side. We said, get rid of the one way street systems, get rid of all that transport through town, and start thinking about how you will develop housing around small ‘pocket’ parks. Think about how those parks can be used collectively by children safely, and how the streets can also become children’s playgrounds. We had the opportunity of 10 minutes to present to Council – and it was like presenting Roman Catholicism to Destiny Church.

The city went their own way and produced some pretty pictures. They also produced another set of regulations, compounding the frustrations of people – like permanent buildings, no less than 3 storeys in height, and no more than 7 storeys. The architects went out and did exercises. Finally, after they talked to their insurers, they realised that it’s going to be more expensive to upgrade the buildings than to redo them. So we have a city now that has a density less than Berlin at end of the Second World War.

So in Wellington, what are the lessons?

We have to look at our heritage buildings differently - Athfield Image R Moore

We have to look at our heritage buildings differently - Ian Athfield

We have to look carefully at our heritage structures. We have to look at them quite differently. If we have no business plan for a building, we have no building in the future. We actually have to look at the adaptive reuse. This particular building might have housing in it, on unit titles, so it has to be strengthened on the outside. So that is going to change the way the building looks, and if you want to keep it, then you have to think differently about it.

And then those important buildings within our city, which need quite a bit of work to bring them up to code, and one of the realisations for Christchurch is that we are seeing many modern buildings coming down.

An example is Gallery Apartments. It’s completely intact, but with very poor foundations and liquefied ground. If it had pile foundations and base isolation, it would remain there, but this is the sort of building that we are going to see come down in Christchurch, and we have so many of them. Around us we have six multi-storey buildings, five of them are now being demolished, and that’s outside the red zone.

I think for the future, we have to get our Territorial Authorities talking to each other, working together. Now, before an earthquake. We have to deal with the country, the urban area and the suburban area, all together, as one. We won’t get the answer by dealing with one aspect in isolation. Thank you.

Colin James is a political journalist commentator and analyst. He has the last word in this post on rebuilding our future, with the suggestion that we need a more solid core that will lend us better capacity to emerge from seismic shifts.

The economy has the advantage that exports are based principally on products and services for which demand can be expected to grow. But that advantage is not an immutable given. To make the most of it over time, we will need constantly to innovate and to reset policy to facilitate or promote an innovative capacity, so that earned incomes rise through higher-value activities.

If we don’t do that successfully, we will be more vulnerable to the globalisation of labour and talent and to the congregation of elites in certain offshore cities and locations. We would, as now, need to import human and financial capital to compensate for those who leave and that is a potential cost to social harmony, which is a core ingredient in economic success.

If we are to be resilient through the next 15 or 30 years, we could usefully start now to think through the policy frameworks we will need to perceive, develop and exploit human potential.

That is, we need to agree what our core is and secure it. We need a strong core to be secure in the new world order that will emerge from the seismic shifts in geopolitics and geo-economics. No one yet knows what that new order will be. Our relationship with China is interesting but still formative. Our relationship with India is formative, but based on shared goodwill, though we take too much for granted from cricket and our shared (though different) imperial history and we don’t study Indian history, heritage and language.

It’s those international connections we need, in addition to a strong core, an intelligent flexibility. That is because power shifts often in unpredicted and sometimes in sudden ways. Managing foreign policy, including trade policy, over the next 15 or 30 years is going to require suppleness and skill. It might also drive us close in to Australia (and vice-versa) but it is far too early to guess at that.

Then there are man-made and natural shocks.

The Rena incident reminds us that it is not only tectonic plates that jolt and holes in the ground that go on fire.

At one level there has been a failure of foresight in not updating our subscription to international conventions, a failure to keep the enveloping materials in top condition. At another level, the backbiting and anger in the media and among residents reflect a corrosive lack of trust in authorities, which undermines effective governance and management. That suggests the core is not solid and there is work to do.

The flexible, elastic, compressible and adaptable envelope is mostly in place, as the country’s relatively light damage from the great financial crisis indicates, though there is work to do on domestic economic policy and there is other maintenance work needed, as the inadequacy of safety measures at Pike River, the leaky regulatory environment which allowed leaky homes to be built, the permits to build houses in areas of Christchurch known to be at risk of  liquefaction and the failure to update maritime disaster conventions.

There is work to do on the core. As a people, a nation, we need to be able to constantly innovate, and be able to reset policy to facilitate or promote innovation and capacity.


The response, recovery and rebuild following the Christchurch earthquakes has not been a smooth, steady pathway. Uncertainty is the new norm, with continually changing plans, ongoing disruptions. Rebuilding our future requires intelligent flexibility and foresight, within a strong core, and as Fran Wilde observed in her summary, “That’s a pretty good recipe for organisational effectiveness. It’s a recipe for the big challenges in this world, where the speed of change just keeps increasing.”

The lessons for Wellington are clear. Build resilience now. Make our CBD safer. Make solid, but adaptable Business Continuity Plans, and test them. Connect people in organisations – and have people who know other people’s jobs. Connect organisations with their local communities. Drive community engagement and be positive about messages, wherever possible. Provide the collaborative and informed environment that will ensure we can make and support the considered decisions that are required – to build a better prepared, more resilient, confident and effective Wellington.

Download the PDF Rebuilding our future/Forum summary