Thursday, 7 April 2016

Lessons for Christchurch non-recovery from the Kobe earthquake


A new paper contrasts the recovery of Kobe, Japan, with the continuing non-recovery of Christchurch. “The article describes well known earthquake recovery initiatives that took part in Japan twenty years ago,” explains the author, Dr Ljubica Mamula-Seadon, Director of urban planning consultancy Seadon Consulting & Research, Auckland, New Zealand. “The results are there for everyone to see. It’s an interesting mix of rampant capitalism, enlightened democracy and traditional reliance on strong community networks.
    “I wrote the article to demonstrate by example what is possible, since it has been pretty impossible to convey the ideas in any other form. As I say at the end of the article, New Zealand is actually much better placed for this kind of partnership, in theory.”

Guest post by Hugh Pavletich

Kobe illustrates the critical importance of local community control for a successful recovery.

Even with the superior performances of the adjoining smaller units of local government of Selwyn and Waimakariri, the national and local authorities have yet to learn the critical importance of restoring local community control in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Years later, the order of the day is still what suits the bureaucrats.

Restoring community control was supposed to have happened following the February 2012 ‘Peoples Protest’ in Christchurch and the local government election late 2013. It never happened.

This important paper, explaining the community-led recovery management following the Kobe, Japan earthquakes of 1995, need to be read and discussed widely:

Community led opportunity for renewal — Kobe earthquake recovery 1995–2000
       – by Ljubica Mamula-Seadon

There are hugely important lessons within it for other urban areas from the Kobe and Christchurch earthquake events, with the contrasting recovery managements.

I am strongly of the view that events in Christchurch events have been less of an earthquake disaster, and more of a bureaucratic disaster.

Long-term poor-quality governance and planning from the time of the forced local government amalgamations of 1989, mean the Christchurch events will likely cost in excess of $NZ46 billion, when the costs should have been in the order of $NZ20 billion.

Little wonder that in a Local Government New Zealand/Colmar Brunton poll  taken in 2014 (but which was stalled by LGNZ for twelve months for its own reasons) it was found that only 28% of New Zealanders were able to say they were “satisfied” with the performance of local government. The 2015 Poll results have yet to be released by LGNZ. You may imagine why.

Not surprisingly, local government amalgamations suggested for Wellington, Hawkes Bay and Northland during 2015 were also and overwhelmingly rejected by the public. Unlike the bureaucrasts, they had learnt the lessons of the Christchurch and Auckland amalgamation disasters.

In May last year New Zealand Finance Minister Bill English acknowledged that   … the costs of the man-made disaster had jumped $1.1b in just a year.

To a question about subsidies or incentives to persuade businesses to come to Christchurch English said basic economics was the best way to attract people to the city.

"That means relatively cheaper housing, relatively cheaper business overheads."

In the discussion on Christchurch's competitiveness he acknowledged Government ownership of large chunks of land in the CBD was not helping.

"One of the more useful things the Government can do is carefully but decisively exit its land ownership interests in the CBD because we are an odd sort of owner.
    "It doesn't follow commercial incentives and in my view we've probably kept the land price too high in the CBD and if we got out of it, it would ultimately find the right level a bit quicker."

Nonetheless, central government still remains the dominant influence in the central city.

The other massively negative influence has been the way councils themselves have gone about their business. Selwyn and Waimakariri councils were open for business about the day after the first earthquake and had been  vehicles for growth " but Christchurch city adopted a different attitude that nothing had changed "so nothing did change". … read more via hyperlink above …

In 2012, former Christchurch Labour Central MP Brendon Burns had this to say within a The Press Opinion … Shining a light in the darkness

… extract …

For this city to best recover from its seismic nightmare, the process of decision- making needs to be inverted to truly empower communities. Such a radical change is very difficult to accept for anyone - of any political persuasion - who happens to be in power.

The most empowered minority in this  context, of course, should have been individual property owners. To date instead, the required response has been tokenistic and destructuve of entrepreneurial initiative. A top-down command and control system may be appropriate in the days immediately after a disaster (though even then folk were held back from effecting rescrues that didn’t otherwise happen) but not in a recovery that will by necessity take years.

It takes even longer when the man-made disaster continues…




MarkT said...

Of course I agree that it's primarily individual property owners that need to be empowered, but I'm not convinced that's what most people mean when they talk about "empowering communities". They may well want to take away powers from central government, but that's no gain if they then hand it to community board NIMBYs who disregard property rights to the same or greater degree.

paul scott said...

Maybe when we sack the entire Council, Dalziel can go for a push bike ride around the disaster sites. Of course there are bicycle lanes everywhere for her, one lane each way. Tree squares jutting out in block formation, but no cars allowed, so she should not be hit by an angry motorist. But just to be sure, maybe a man carrying a red flag in front of her . The crowd lining the blocked out streets and jeering,at the antiquated mind on the Penny Farthing .
She could be followed by 2000 idiot staff, and at the end of their walk through the desolation, we herd them into compounds never to be seen or heard of again