Planning for resilient communities: and every other day: learning from the Canterbury 2010-2012 earthquake sequence
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
After a disaster, cities experience profound social and environmental upheaval. Current research on disasters describes this social disruption along with collective community action to provide support. Pre-existing social capital is recognised as fundamental to this observed support. This research examines the relationship between sense of place for neighbourhood, social connectedness and resilience.
Canterbury residents experienced considerable and continued disruption following a large and protracted sequence of earthquakes starting in September 2010. A major aftershock on 22 February 2011 caused significant loss of life, destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Following this earthquake some suburbs of Christchurch showed strong collective action. This research examines the features of the built environment that helped to form this cooperative support. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 20 key informants followed by 38 participants from four case study suburbs. The objectives were to describe the community response of suburbs, to identify the key features of the built environment and the role of social infrastructure in fostering social connectedness. The last objective was to contribute to future planning for community resilience.
The findings from this research indicated that social capital and community competence are significant resources to be called upon after a disaster. Features of the local environment facilitated the formation of neighbourhood connections that enabled participants to cope, manage and to collectively solve problems. These features also strengthened a sense of belonging and attachment to the home territory. Propinquity was important; the bumping and gathering places such as schools, small local shops and parks provided the common ground for meaningful pre-existing local interaction.
Well-defined geography, intimate street typology, access to quality natural space and social infrastructure helped to build the local social connections and develop a sense of place. Resourceful individuals and groups were also a factor, and many are drawn to live near the inner city or more natural places. The features are the same well understood attributes that contribute to health and wellbeing. The policy and planning framework needs to consider broader social outcomes, including resilience in new and existing urban developments. The socio-political structures that provide access to secure and stable housing and local education should also be recognised and incorporated into local planning for resilience and the everyday.