On that occasion I talked about resilience. There is something serendipitous that this breakfast is scheduled today, when at 3.30 am this morning in New York city, Christchurch was named as one of the 33 cities across 6 continents that make up the first group to be accepted into the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Network.
It is one of our characteristics. It's hard to feel resilient when you are struggling with EQC, insurance, house repairs, temporary accommodation and uncertain timeframes. But here is the true definition of resilience: "The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events."
It is the introduction of the ability to adapt to or even co-create a new kind of normal that indicates the world of opportunity and the connection to so much more than natural events causing disaster. Manmade events can do equally well – look at the extent of the impact of the global financial crisis. When disaster risk reduction is thought of that way, then it is clear that climate change adaptation, sustainable land and water use, food security and grassroots community development are inextricably linked with each other. Disaster risk reduction involves every part of society, every part of government and every part of the professional and private sector. And it requires a long term view. The effects of a changing climate on society can be demonstrated by the increasing frequency and severity of storm events and prolonged drought. The largest global disasters of 2012 were Hurricane Sandy (with a cost of $65 billion) and the year-long Midwest/Plains drought ($35 billion).
Think also about the effects of sea-level rise on small island states and translate that to coastal environments. Never before has such a large number of the world's population lived in such large cities, many of them on the coastlines of the continents and exposed to both extreme weather events and sea level rise. Christchurch's experience of disaster has given us a unique perspective that enables us to leverage off our place in the world that would never otherwise have been realised. We look to the Canterbury Plains, which sees us as a natural base for the research and science around sustainable land and water use and food security – all issues with global reach. And we face Antarctica, as a gateway city, with the support of an international airport and the port of Lyttleton, which has served Antarctica exploration since Shackleton left from there over a century ago. Among other things Antarctica holds the key to knowledge around climate change; again an issue with global reach. We are the gateway to the the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), the fourth such dark sky reserve in the world.
Our earthquake sequence although not unprecedented in world terms, has connected us to the world of disaster risk reduction and raised awareness of calculating and pricing risk in the insurance and reinsurance worlds. At the same time Christchurch is supported by strong Universities and Crown Research Institutes. So when I think about the future we are building here, I cannot help but think there is a tremendous opportunity to build on what we have in a way that we would never have predicted without our own experience of what has occurred. In a way we are the place people will come to learn about what lies ahead. This is why we must remain firmly focussed on the future. And this is why I remain so optimistic.
The United States' National Research Academy wrote a report called 'Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative'. This is something they know they must do. It's an imperative. We've been talking about 'nice-to-haves' in the context of a $40B rebuild – but we have not been talking about resilience as a must have. This recognition by the Rockefeller Foundation enables us as a city to change the course of that conversation. Resilience is a 'must have' and we are going to have the tools to make that happen. Resilience is not something that can be delivered top down.
It must be driven from the grassroots up, but in saying that, it is not an either or. The top down meets the grassroots up half way. And that is where the partnership is forged – government, in all its forms, in partnership with universities, Crown Research Institutes, the health sector, Ngai Tahu can work with local leaders in communities of geography, identity and interest, including business, to enable resilient communities to develop and flourish. This report confronts the topic of how to increase the nation's resilience to disasters through a vision of the characteristics of a resilient nation in the year 2030.
This is what a more resilient nation would look like in 2030:
• Every individual and community has access to the risk and vulnerability information they need to make their communities more resilient. I remember the community meetings where the older residents said they knew Pacific Park should never have been built. We cannot afford to continue to under-estimate the value of local knowledge.
• the council, government departments, communities, and the private sector have all designed resilience strategies and operation plans based on this information. Who is the best to develop a tsunami evacuation plan – the coastal community that will be wiped out if they don't get to high enough ground quickly enough or an expert from the council or civil defence? Obviously the community needs to lead the work, with the experts providing advice and support.
• Proactive investments and policy decisions have reduced loss of lives, costs, and socio-economic impacts of future disasters. This is about building social capital. Most people who are saved in disasters are saved by neighbours, co-workers and passers-by. Knowing this would you invest dollars in USAR capability or making sure every taxi-driver had a first-aid certificate. Communities that have pre-existing relationships recover more quickly. Look at Lyttelton with its Timebank. It costs 15 hours a week for a paid coordinator to collect and maintain the database of skills and offerings and manage the exchange. Is that a cost or an investment?
• Community coalitions are widely organized, recognized, and supported to provide essential services before and after disasters occur. This is actually about doing things for ourselves. Situation reports can be rapidly put together in neighbourhoods and reported to the emergency operations centre. Trusted community leaders can be the information conduit in and out.
• Recovery after disasters is rapid and the cost of responding to disasters has been declining for a decade. $1 spent on disaster risk reduction is $4 saved in recovery. Orion spent $6m that protected $60m worth of assets and meant the power was not off for three months.
• The public is universally safer, healthier, and better educated. That is the legacy we could leave the nation. We have a chance of a lifetime to turn our disaster into the most wonderful platform not just in terms of what the newest city in the world will be like in terms of its built environment, but more importantly what its communities will be like. This is an opportunity to build capacity in all our communities so we can do things for ourselves. I often think of the roots of organisations to explain what I mean. Take Rotary for example. This organisation had its roots in Chicago where young men settled away from their hometowns - they started to meet rotating around the different offices, hence the name Rotary. They created their own sense of community in a home away from home kind of way.
They brought their small town values with them, where neighbours just help each other out because that's what they do. And this is the form of reciprocity that isn't to and fro – it goes around – where someone helps someone who helps else. We recreated the old fashioned values throughout Christchurch after the earthquake. And groups like Rotary stook along the emergent groups like the Student Volunteer Army. If I were designing our civil defence system in light of our experience, I wouldn't start from the top down. I would start from the grassroots up. I would invite all the groups that led the community response and ask them to create a template and then workshop it. I think Civil Defence could be rebuilt on the basis of Residents Associations and Neighbourhood Support with service clubs, business associations, community groups, sports clubs and faith based organisations working with these groups.
Imagine how much better prepared we could be. And imagine how much stronger our communities would be. Interestingly everyone that I have spoken to about communities writing their own plans (with help from Central and Local Government plus the private sector) says that it is not the plan, but the planning process itself that strengthens the whole community. So that's my message. Let's start writing those plans. We stand at a crossroads in this city. I believe it is time that we reclaim the word resilience and own it. And the Rockefeller Foundation will help us do that. We will receive support to hire a Chief Resilience Officer, create a resilience strategy and receive access to tools, technical support and resources for implementing a comprehensive resilience plan. Initial partners for this platform include Swiss Re, Palantir, the World Bank, the American Institute of Architects, and Architecture for Humanity. It is an amazing opportunity as we look to develop who we are and where we are going. We are building the newest city in the world.