Defining Urban Resilience in Christchurch

November 30th, 2014

On December 3, 2014 the 100 Resilient Cities Campaign will announce its 3rd cohort of resilient and liveable cities.  The Resilient Cities campaign takes the view that resilience helps cities evaluate their capacity to respond to specific “shocks and stresses” and to develop proactive and integrated strategies to address those challenges and to respond to them more effectively.  Most importantly, “resilience is about making cities better, for both the short and long-term, for everyone.”

Cities of Migration would like to applaud the work of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, which was recognized as a resilient city in 2012.

In 2010, the City of Christchurch experienced a catastrophic earthquake. Hundreds of buildings were demolished and thousands of homes needed to be rebuilt. Extensive damage was caused to schools and hospitals, and essential infrastructure. Yet, the city was able to re-establish essential functions quickly.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the New Zealand Police set up their earthquake response headquarters in a Buddhist temple with assistance also coming from mosques and other ethnic community hubs – an example of the goodwill already established between local police and ethnic communities in Christchurch. In previous years the police had worked hard on recruiting new hires from ethnic communities and building better communication lines with marginalized ethnic communities. Joris de Bres, Race Relations Commissioner, explains: “That hard work paid off when the Police were able to quickly respond to the varying needs of communities in Christchurch – from getting Police on the ground that could speak different languages to having frontline staff who are sensitive to specific customs and culture.”

Superintendent Wallace Haumaha spoke to us at the 2014 Cities of Migration conference in Berlin about Christchurch’s cultural transformation. As an organization, says Haumaha, the New Zealand Policeès ability to be  “courageous and innovative” and work in partnership with community is what allowed them  to manage risk, embrace diversity and support the most vulnerable members of the devastated community:

View the video interview with Superintendent Wallace Haumaha, Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services, New Zealand Police National Headquarters at the 2014 Cities of Migration Conference, June 4-6, Berlin:

In 2012, the 100 Resilient Cities campaign cited Christchurch and its people as an example of a city “bouncing back” and a model for how a resilience plan developed through a grassroots participatory planning process can aid a city’s recovery by ensuring communities, buildings, and infrastructure and systems are better prepared to withstand catastrophic events.

In 2014, Mike Gillooly was appointed the first Chief Resilience Officer of Christchurch, New Zealand. His vision for urban resilience involves working side-by-side with members of the community as equals.  We like Gillooly’s definition of urban resilience:

“Resilience needs to be community-driven if it is to be relevant.”

We congratulate the winners of the 2014 cohort of Resilient Cities and encourage them to be as courageous, innovative and inclusive of diversity   as Christchurch in setting a course for urban resilience and shared prosperity in the cities they call home.

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