A Tale of Two Suburbs: Earthquake recovery and civil society in Christchurch
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study followed two similarly affected, but socio-economically disparate suburbs as residents responded to and attempted to recover from the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand, on February 22, 2011. More specifically, it focuses on the role of local churches, community-based organisations (CBOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), here referred to broadly as civil society, in meeting the immediate needs of local residents and assisting with the longer-term recovery of each neighbourhood. Despite considerable socioeconomic differences between the two neighbourhoods, civil society in both suburbs has been vital in addressing the needs of locals in the short and long term following the earthquake. Institutions were able to utilise local knowledge of both residents and the extent of damage in the area to a) provide a swifter local response than government or civil defence and then help direct the relief these agencies provided locally; b) set up central points for distribution of supplies and information where locals would naturally gather; c) take action on what were perceived to be unmet needs; and d) act as a way of bridging locals to a variety of material, informational, and emotional resources. However the findings also support literature which indicates that other factors are also important in understanding neighbourhood recovery and the role of civil society, including: local leadership; a shared, place-based identity; the type and form of civil society organizations; social capital; and neighbourhood- and household-level indicators of relative vulnerability and inequality. The intertwining of these various factors seems to influence how these neighbourhoods have coped with and taken steps in recovering from this disaster. It is recommended that future research be directed at developing a better understanding of how this occurs. It is suggested that a model similar to Yasui’s (2007) Community Vulnerability and Capacity model be developed as a useful way to approach future research in this area.