[Becoming part of the network] would set us up for the next stage in our recovery in so many more ways than the financial contribution to the resilience planning process. And it would enable us to reach out to the rest of the world with the lessons we have learned – a tribute to those who died, were injured or displaced in the disaster that changed our city forever.
I believe Christchurch is ideally placed to become a world-leader on resilience, in the true sense of the word: The ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events. There are several layers to this definition, but you will see immediately that it is not about government (central or local) doing things for communities, businesses or organisations; it is about enabling those groups to do things for themselves.
Building a resilient city starts at the grassroots so that bottom up meets top down half way. An example from the earthquake was the employee subsidy, which kept many small to medium sized businesses afloat while they sorted themselves out. It is also important that we define who and what we are as a city. I have only recently come to appreciate the importance of all aspects of Christchurch's location and experience. My starting point is this. In 2030 I will be 70 years old. A child going to school for the first time next year will be 21 years old. That's who our focus must be on when we make decisions today. I think of the exponential change that has occurred since I was 21 years old and I can see the world of possibility we can capture. Think of where Christchurch is:
• We face the Canterbury Plains – food and water security are global issues;
• We face the coastline – this is another global issue with over half the world's population now living in large coastal cities exposed to far more extreme weather events and sea-level rise;
• We face natural hazards much closer to our city than we thought – our experience enables us to contribute to an understanding of the physical sciences and new building technologies. It links us to the world of risk, the understanding and measurement of which is equally interesting to governments as it is to insurers and reinsurers; • We are the gateway city to the Aoraki-McKenzie Dark Sky Reserve, another place where we search for knowledge;
• We are one of only five cities in the world that is the gateway to Antarctica, supported by a strong international airport and seaport. Our gateway status has already attracted the United States, Italy and Korea to base their programme support here, which brings scientists and researchers here on a regular basis.
• We are one of only ten gateway cities to the Great Wine Capitals of the World network of internationally renowned wine regions;
• We are passionate about sport, which challenges us to think about the role of protein, diet and exercise as more of the world's manual work is mechanised and we stare down the face of a diabetes epidemic that no health system can sustain
• We love theatre, music, cultural events, art – just look at the numbers that flowed into Cathedral Square for Canterbury Tales during FESTA or the Korean Cultural Day, or the people who contributed to buying the Bull for the city;
• We have some of the world's leading expertise on all of these in our world-class Universities, Institute of Technology, Crown Research Institutes, organisations and private companies.
Thinking to the future for our 21 year old in 2030, is not the Christchurch we are re-creating, one that is a 21st century centre of research, science and technology, which will seek to solve many of the challenges that face the world, while at the same time offering a quality of life second to none? Clean, green, safe, accessible and smart was what we said during Share an Idea. That's why proposals like Christchurch - Sensing City, which would enable us to measure all aspects of our environment in real time, creates such an opportunity. We will know instantly cause and effect, something no place on earth does now. This is the sort of idea that will attract young people to come and encourage them to stay. Think about the recent presentation made by Ian Taylor of Americas Cup animation. Christchurch is uniquely positioned to be a world class showcase of visualisation tools. Will ours be the only city in the world where we can see what was there as we walk through our city in the future? Think about what that means to our 21 year old. Think about the spin-off that comes from these technologies, from internet apps and games through to life-saving technologies – all producing high quality jobs for the 21 year old. When we start reimagining Christchurch in these terms, we can see why our status as one of the resilient cities network creates such a strong platform for the future. We are carving out a place for Christchurch, not just in New Zealand, but globally.
The resilience that already exists in many of our communities as evidenced by our post disaster experience, including emergent groups like the Student Volunteer Army and the Farmy Army, gives us the basis for thinking about participatory democracy. There is no question that the city could have been better served by strong leadership ensuring a partnership between the Government and the Council, which fully engaged the community in decision-making. We can address this.
In my letter to the Rockefeller Foundation I quoted this from a contribution to last year's Civil Defence journal Tephra: "Resilient communities adapt through creating innovative approaches to collective governance, seizing unexpected opportunities to decide for themselves how to respond, organising to work with government agencies in new ways, and accepting both the promise and responsibility of joint decision-making." The thing that excites me most about what he is saying is the seemingly boundless possibility that is presented by enabling communities to participate in 'collective governance'.
As we help communities develop their own capacity to engage in local governance in a meaningful way, including participatory budgeting, they will not only be better prepared for disaster should one strike, but will also of themselves be better and safer places to live. It is from this perspective that I see our selection as part of the resilient cities network as an opportunity to develop a shared understanding of all aspects of our economic, social, cultural, natural and built environment using modern technology and principles of engagement in a way that has never been done before.
That to me is the most exciting of the opportunities that lie ahead, because it secures democratic participation as one of the essential foundations of a resilient city, and that gives great hope that from our disaster we will gain something precious, which will ensure that the 21 year old (and the 70 year old) will be proud to call Christchurch home.