I was invited by Hon Gerry Brownlee, Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, to join the government delegation that he was leading to the United Nations 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.
Having been a member of the Parliamentarians Advisory Committee on DRR to the UNISDR and now as Mayor of Christchurch, I had been invited to present to two working sessions at the Conference (Risk Identification and Assessment and Disaster Risk Management for Healthy Societies) and to participate in a public forum on Effective Implementation of Recovery Plans and Programs.
It was on this basis that I joined the delegation.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
DRR is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction.
DRR includes disciplines like disaster management, disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness, and is also part of sustainable development. DRR involves every part of society, every part of government, and every part of the professional and private sector.
"The more governments, UN agencies, organizations, businesses and civil society understand risk and vulnerability, the better equipped they will be to mitigate disasters when they strike and save more lives"
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
Between 2002 and 2011, there were 4130 disasters recorded, resulting from natural hazards around the world where 1,117,527 people perished and a minimum of US$1,195 billion was recorded in losses. In the year 2011 alone, 302 disasters claimed 29,782 lives; affected 206 million people and inflicted damages worth a minimum of estimated US$366 billion. More people and assets are located in areas of high risk. The proportion of world population living in flood-prone river basins has increased by 114%, while those living on cyclone-exposed coastlines have grown by 192% over the past 30 years. Over half of the world's large cities, with populations ranging from 2 to 15 million, are currently located in areas highly vulnerable to seismic activity. Rapid urbanization will further increase exposure to disaster risk.
All countries are vulnerable. While developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, are disproportionately affected, the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami and our own series of earthquakes in New Zealand send a clear message that developed countries are also vulnerable to severe disasters. Unsustainable development practices, ecosystem degradation, poverty as well as climate variability and extremes have led to an increase in both natural and man-made disaster risk at a rate that poses a threat to lives and development efforts.
Economic losses from disasters will continue to increase. Since 1981, economic loss from disasters is growing faster than GDP per capita in the OECD countries. This means that the risk of losing wealth in weather-related disasters is now exceeding the rate at which the wealth itself is being created. Risk is accumulating rapidly as economies grow. New investments need to incorporate disaster risk reduction and mitigation measures otherwise exposure to risk will continue to rise. The same is true for development plans and poverty eradication programmes.
"In many parts of our increasingly globalised world, processes such as badly planned and managed urban development, environmental degradation, poverty and inequality and weak governance, are driving levels of disaster risk to new heights. Given that our current approach to both public and private investment tends to discount disaster risk, the potential for future loss is enormous. This poses a critical threat to economic development, social welfare and environmental health." Margareta Wahlström UNISDR
Since 2005, countries have been addressing this challenge through the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015 – Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, which aims to achieve a substantial reduction of disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of countries and communities by 2015.
The third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, is for a new Post 2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction to be adopted by UN Member States.
Presenting the Christchurch Story at Sendai
New Zealand was very well-represented at Sendai and the Christchurch component of the variety of delegations they were part of meant that we were able to contribute while at the same time learning from others. The need for lessons learned to be captured in a way that enables the global body of knowledge to be expanded to help make our world a safer place was one of the big take home messages for me.
The three presentations that I refer to in this report were my contribution (with the assistance I have identified in brackets) but there were many others who presented, including the Minister, and the interest in Christchurch's story is high.
Risk Identification and Assessment (Kelvin Berryman, GNS, NZ)
My first Working Session presentation was on Risk Identification and Assessment.
I began my presentation with a snapshot of the effects of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence on the city.
• More than 11,000 aftershocks and 400,000 tonnes of liquefaction silt
• More than 100,000 houses damaged and more than 50% CBD buildings severely damaged
• More than 7000 homes "red zoned"
• Land subsidence in excess of 0.5m – more than a metre in some parts of the city
Losses in the earthquake sequence amounted to about 10% of GDP. This is about twice the GDP impact as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on the Japanese economy.
I showed the Liquefaction map of Christchurch and then superimposed it over the City of Sendai. This was a graphic illustration of the scale of the damage.
I said we were aware that Christchurch was a low lying city built on a flood plain, vulnerable to earthquakes, flooding, tsunami and rockfall.
But in terms of pre-earthquake planning the emphasis was on the hazard rather than the risk. There were weak linkages between science and land use planning decisions and a minimal understanding of social and economic risks associated with natural hazards.
The hazard data was there but not in a risk context – for example liquefaction. The maps were there, the technical reports were available, but it was all done without an understanding of what it was to be used for. There was a total lack of awareness by local government planners, lawyers, home owners and home buyers.
Risk information produced before the earthquake sequence informed the building code and hazard management activities in the city (CCC) and region (ECan).
In the aftermath of the earthquakes and in the current recovery phase the main users of the risk information have broadened considerably to central government agencies including the NZ Treasury, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and the national land use policy agency; the Ministry for Environment, the government department that was formed to oversee the recovery – the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and the business and insurance sectors.
Prior to the Canterbury earthquake sequence disaster risk management actions were geared to hazard identification and response actions. Information was not used proactively in risk management, nor was it used very effectively in land use planning.
Now, a risk-based approach to land use planning is being instituted, and social and economic risks of further earthquakes, and risks associated with other perils, are part of a city-wide and national discussion. Christchurch has been selected as one of the 100 Resilient Cities Network pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The New Zealand research community comprising earth scientists, weather hazard specialists, risk and structural engineers, social scientists and economics specialists, under the umbrella of the Natural Hazards Research Platform (NHRP – a nationwide collective of research providers), and in partnership with overseas researchers and CCC, EQC, CERA, are leading the natural hazard risk identification work, both in Christchurch and nationally.
The Christchurch City DRM case study exemplifies all elements of a successful risk identification and management project. For example, there is political will and ownership of risk in Christchurch at both local and national level via CCC, CERA, and Ngai Tahu - the first people of the region.
The case study illustrates purpose and context in recovery from the events of 2010-2011 adhering to principles of build-back-better, improved land use planning processes, and resilience to future natural hazard events and climate change, all in a sustainability framework. Risk-based land use planning guidance has been available for some time and is now being adopted along with economic analysis of risk management options as a component of broader resilience goals for Christchurch, and for New Zealand.
Data pertaining to damage and losses and social impact in the 2010-2011 earthquakes are being made available openly where privacy issues can be protected.
The New Zealand government adheres to an open data policy. The user community for risk identification information is fully engaged and technically highly proficient and risk assessment information is leading to changes in land use planning rules, codes and guidance for engineering solutions, and resilience in the rebuild.
Communicating risk remains a challenging topic especially with the general public.
My take home message was 'Science needs to be relevant and accessible to everyone'.
Disaster Risk Management for Healthy Societies (Dr Alistair Humphrey, Medical Officer of Health)
My next session was "Disaster Risk Management for Healthy Societies"
Based on experience in Christchurch, I am pleased to see how health has been reflected in the draft framework. In the health sector we hear of a culture of prevention – in Christchurch I describe this as a culture of resilience. Resilience helps us prepare, respond and to recover more quickly.
I often say that in the preparedness stage we are very good at preparing for the response and the immediate aftermath – drop, cover and hold and have three days of food, water, means of heating and so on – but my experience was there was nothing to prepare us for what happens next - the recovery.
What I've learned though is that sometimes there are things going on, which are in fact preparing us for the recovery we just don't know it. My message today is how important it is to recognise these preparedness initiatives when considering a Disaster Risk Management framework, because they can shape both the nature and the speed of recovery.
I describe this image as a virtuous circle - it connects response, recovery and resilience in a way that begins and ends with resilience.
In the centre of this picture you will see the image of the Ottawa Charter –enable, mediate, advocate – develop personal skills and strengthen community action – create supportive environments and reorient health services. It sits very neatly within the 100RC framework that has been pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The inner wheel represents: health & wellbeing, society & economy, infrastructure & environment and leadership & strategy. The outer layers identify the benefits of each of these and in so doing also capture the risks of the breakdown in any one.
"Health in all policies" is one of describing this, but in my view it's all about building resilience - before, during and after the event.
The greater the resilience – measured in a community sense by things like social capital – the more rapid the response and the quicker & more enduring the recovery, which itself builds resilience – the virtuous circle.
You will all be familiar with this image that describes the determinants of health – people at the centre, their lifestyle, community, the local economy, activities, the built environment, the natural environment and the Global Ecosystem.
These each reinforce the inter-dependencies between sectors, as well as emphasise the fundamental importance of health and wellbeing of the people, their communities and the environment – economic, social, cultural, built and natural - within which they live.
This was borne out in Christchurch. Large areas of Christchurch that included particularly vulnerable communities were without electricity, sewage and water for three weeks or more and yet there was no outbreak of food or water borne disease.
How could that be? Look to see what was happening before the earthquakes.
Like most countries New Zealand had put into place preparation for a pandemic. As you can see it was an all-embracing campaign. The logo on this material is not from the health board, it's the local authority's logos. This was a health issue owned by the city. There is no room for bureaucratic silos in such an event.
And yes we had had a small outbreak of H1N1 and yes it was contained. And yes it was the surrounding community that was affected by the earthquakes. So we had had a trial run. All the messages learned were reinforced in the weeks after the earthquake – disinfect hands before eating was repeated everywhere. You couldn't pick up a barbecued sausage without someone squirting sanitiser onto your hands. I don't know how much sanitiser was distributed but it worked.
So the preparation that was done to respond to a pandemic contributed to our being prepared for the earthquakes in a way that we would not necessarily have predicted.
Another example relates to the way local councils had worked collaboratively to develop a Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (UDS) which identified areas for greenfields and brownfields development, including intensification through to 2041. This work enabled the Government to move quickly to implement a Land Use Recovery Plan. There is no way the government could have done this so quickly without the analysis having already been completed – analysis which included a major health impact study. Essentially they could fast-track local decisions that had already been made.
But in terms of the longer term recovery, the model of our local health system serves as an example to us all – work had already been done on integrated model both vertically and horizontally. So within the health sector with the home at the heart, primary, secondary and tertiary health services are seen as part of the myriad aspects of life in the city – mutually reinforcing each other and able to be embraced by the local government sector and non-government organisations.
So this is why I as a Mayor can speak alongside health experts understanding as I do from our experience in Christchurch New Zealand that health and wellbeing underpin the resilience that a disaster risk management framework cannot succeed without.
Public Forum on the Effective Implementation of Recovery Plans and Programs
The last of my presentations was a Public Forum on the Effective Implementation of Recovery Plans and Programs.
I repeated the essence of the previous two presentations and added these thoughts.
The first was about what was going on in Christchurch before the earthquakes began: I used the reorientation of the health system in terms of the vertical and horizontal integration with the home at the centre to emphasise that we may not have prepared for recovery but that didn't mean we were unprepared.
I talked about
• the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (UDS) – 3 councils and regional council agreed land use to 2041 for population growth – enabled fast-track changes
• Te Runanga O Ngai Tahu – capacity to tap into a network of Maori runanga, service providers, Maori Wardens, professionals – I described this as the untold story which offers a rich source of knowledge about recovery
• Local community networks able to be used – examples like the Time Bank as part of Project Lyttelton; Aranui Community Trust (ACTIS)
I then referred to
• Reorienting existing networks: Sumner Community Hub; Grace Vineyard Church and the New Brighton Response & Recovery
• Emergent leaders and groups – CanCERN: Canterbury Communities Earthquake Recovery Network; Student Volunteer Army; Rebuild Christchurch
• Transitional leaders and groups - Life in Vacant Spaces; Gapfiller, Greening the Rubble; Festival of Transitional Architecture
And my take home messages were:
• Expect the unexpected & prepare people for that
• Leaders will emerge from all directions – the trick is for decision-makers to embrace that
• Don't look for conventional solutions to pre-disaster preparedness for recovery – look at what was going on before the disaster and what aided the speed & effectiveness of recovery
• Go to where the people are
• Don't set up another committee!!!
And of course my favourite quote:
"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that: it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
Former White House Chief of Staff