I have been asked to focus on the infrastructure priorities for a City still recovering while facing new and ongoing challenges like climate change. I’ve been asked how can Smart Technology and other strategies help Christchurch to build its resilience?
I put up the word cloud to remind us that resilience doesn’t mean strong – look at the words – flexibility, adaptation, creativity, diversity, community, respect, change, cooperation. It’s all there.
The capacity to adapt and to thrive in a co-created new normal. That requires trust – both ways – and it requires communities to actively seek to take back responsibility for their futures. Those of you have heard me speak before will know how much power communities have ceded to governments – local and central. It is in my view the antithesis of resilience and communities need to relearn to trust themselves and we in government need to learn how to trust our communities.
We need to recognise that there is a natural desire to return to normal as soon as possible, however rebuilding after a disaster takes time. Equipping communities to fully understand and to debate all the issues so they can be involved in the decision-making processes along the way is essential.
If that doesn’t happen the result is cynicism.
For me resilience begins and ends with connected communities. I have put up the cynical voices from Christchurch and New Orleans. People came to Christchurch and said – you’re so resilient when they meant stoic. But for a lot of people – even today – it means “you have no idea how much I am struggling to settle with EQC or my insurer or the fact I’m living in an unrepaired home in a damaged street”. And in New Orleans, ‘ok they’re resilient’ meant the authorities could do something else to me. Stop Calling me Resilient and I am not resilient were as much a plea for agency as they were for help.
So even when you are talking about infrastructure, never forget who it is for and why they matter. It’s always about people.
The Council view was reinforced several times over: "[The tanks] are the most resilient solution for households in areas with land damage, prone to liquefaction,"
Simply replacing the existing gravity system would be a "disservice" to communities and "potentially a huge waste of ratepayer funds“
Parklands resident quoted at the time said she was unhappy with the lack of options, hurried time frame and "loss of democracy". "This is just so typically Christchurch. Things happen to you, not with you," she said.
Her property had been designated as technical category 3 land, so her view was quite simple: if "proper infrastructure" could not be supported after the quakes then land should have been red-zoned.
"A lot of Parklands wanted to go red . . . I didn't but apparently this area can't take a gravity system any more," she said.
"We're told what we can and cannot do with our homes, we're told our schools are closing and merging and now we're told we're having tanks put in because there's no other options."
I had the privilege of attending the UN Conference on DRR in Sendai in 2015. There was a desire to see local government – cities – participation, however it is a government to government environment. Fortunately the WHO felt there was a place for the unique collaboration that existed in Canterbury centred on the DHB’s approach to health centred on the home and radiating out into the community and beyond, to invite me to participate. I’ve highlighted the 4 priorities and although my comments are directed to Priority 4, it is my view that they are all inter-related and mutually reinforcing.
Priority 1. Understanding disaster risk
Disaster risk management should be based on an understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions of vulnerability, capacity, exposure of persons and assets, hazard characteristics and the environment. Such knowledge can be used for risk assessment, prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response.
Priority 2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk
Disaster risk governance at the national, regional and global levels is very important for prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation. It fosters collaboration and partnership.
Priority 3. Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
Public and private investment in disaster risk prevention and reduction through structural and non-structural measures are essential to enhance the economic, social, health and cultural resilience of persons, communities, countries and their assets, as well as the environment.
Priority 4. Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction
The growth of disaster risk means there is a need to strengthen disaster preparedness for response, take action in anticipation of events, and ensure capacities are in place for effective response and recovery at all levels. The recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phase is a critical opportunity to build back better, including through integrating disaster risk reduction into development measures.
In order to Build back better – you need to understand the risks first and know your pre-existing vulnerabilities.
In Christchurch we had a really good understanding of disaster risk. After all, we had this wonderful report Risk & Realities. Not all agencies acted on this report. But Orion did and here we can see part of what was a $6M investment achieved – the protection of around $60M of assets with only three weeks loss of power supply as opposed to over three months loss of power supply. This was a deliberate and planned approach to building resilience into a network based on an independent risk assessment of the hazards we had mapped for our region. Earthquakes were clearly on the radar, but their expected epicentre was at a distance from the central city.
I often ask the question whether a private utility operator would have thought the investment was worth the risk. Fortunately for us in Christchurch that was not an issue as the company remains a Council Controlled Trading Organisation.
The first of the images is a pre-event map of what was expected by way of liquefaction prior to the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. You will struggle to see any difference in the map next to it (the map showing the experience of the Sept 2010 earthquake). These two images show how accurate knowledge was about the pre-existing vulnerabilities to the damage that occurred. February was a little outside the box but not surprising given the extent of the peak ground accelerations. But it happened in the same places we knew it would.
And I have put these three slides below to show a typical house in Bexley’s Pacific Park Subdivision – before and after the quake. In the middle, are photographs I took. On the left, this photo is inside the house – and you'll see the same amount of silt outside the house – the middle is the bathroom where like the rest of the house, the silt forced its way through unreinforced concrete slab foundations. I will never understand why any (let alone so many) houses were allowed to be built alongside a wetlands in this manner.
I have put the other image there just to prove that silver beet survives anything – which probably explains why it’s so good for you.
The issues for me when I look at these images and the maps predictive and actual in terms of Liquefaction and Flooding, are:
- We were too focussed on the hazard rather than the risk.
- There were poor linkages between science and land use planning decisions.
- We had minimal understanding of social and economic risks.
- We hadn’t listened to the community concerns re development in many of these areas.
- Maps and reports available on line.
- Better geotechnical information and foundation design.
- Land zoning and land use planning.
The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission of Inquiry began only 2 months after the February 2011 earthquake and was concluded just over 18 months later.
Changes have been made, good changes that will make a difference, however there remains unfinished business in the regulatory framework for buildings after an earthquake has compromised them or the land they sit on.
The issue that worries me still is this.
Our law distinguishes between dangerous buildings and earthquake prone buildings. The distinction between the two relates to whether or not a potential collapse is dependent on an earthquake. We had a major earthquake in September 2010.
By February 22, 2011 no legal obligation had been created by any regulatory or statutory authority that required anyone, unless they were specifically directed to do so, to undertake a detailed engineering evaluation of buildings that were occupied or insufficiently cordoned on that day. 185 People died – 115 people died in one building. Hundreds more were injured. Of the remaining people, over half were killed by falling unreinforced masonry. Why all these years later, do we not say that someone has to be responsible for ensuring buildings are safe to occupy before we allow people to return. Every local authority and every government department has a threshold for checking. If it’s important for public buildings, then why not privately owned buildings?
We owe it to those who lost their lives or were severely injured, as well as all their families, that we get this right.
The question I ask, looking at the missing story, is have we really addressed the vulnerabilities that were exposed – both in terms of land use and the built environment – and therefore have we learned the lessons from our experience.
I think in both cases, we have come a long way, but still have some way to go. The Resource Management Act continues to prioritise existing use rights even where there is a marked increased vulnerability to natural hazards, and with the built environment, we still don’t have a mechanism for ensuring buildings are safe to occupy after an event.
Obviously Christchurch has been given the opportunity to build back better - innovation in seismic and environmental design have enabled buildings to have more resilience, making them more sustainable and cost effective across the whole of the life of the building.
The Engineering School at Canterbury University has been driving innovation for decades.
I’ve got some images there of Forte Health Medical Centre, rated at 180% of New Building Standard; it has a couple of world first energy dissipation units incorporated in the design.
I’ve got an image of the Isaac Theatre Royal – a stunning restoration that has preserved the façade, the magnificent dome and the grand staircase.
The Art Gallery story is not so much about the base isolation, but the ground stabilisation 124 jet grout columns between 3-4m in diameter and up to 6 1/2 M deep, and the relevelling of the building - 1.5m litres of grout over 44 days – lifting the gallery on average 2mm per day, with lifts of up to 182mm required in some areas.
We created a small smart city programme that provided the Council with opportunities to improve responsiveness and to engage citizens. We used a jigsaw as a metaphor recognising it would require a bit of trial and error. As you can see people are placed at the centre of development - collaborative planning and citizen participation are vital.
Christchurch’s size also means we are big enough to trial things that are scaleable, but and, more importantly, we are “small enough to fail”.
The Smart Cities programme shoulders the risk that always sits with innovation – they are determined to learn fast.
They have been using trials and they leverage existing data / technology / initiatives.
It was designed to be Free & Open Source with all the code published on GitHub – enabling others to leverage off the work being done. And Mobile first … with responsive design for all screen sizes. Still a work in progress.
Here are some of the parts of the jigsaw puzzle that we are using – as you will see they are aimed at empowering citizens and also enabling highly responsive services.
Rubbish overflowing was a high profile issue in the seaside village of New Brighton and prompted comments along the lines of 'If CCC can't sort out their rubbish issues, than how will they revive New Brighton.' Trialling Bigbelly solar compressing bins equipped with a small compactor powered by a solar cell and a daily data logging system, as well as sending email alerts regarding bins status to contractors.
• Rubbish removal has drastically reduced
• Negative comments on Social media and to the call centre have ceased
• Litter in the area has been virtually eliminated
• 100% seagull proof
But they don’t pass the streetscape design test, so we are working with a local company to produce rubbish bin level sensors designed specifically for our existing NZ / Christchurch bins.
Our Mobility Parking proof of concept is a win-win solution for both mobility park users and providers. Unlike other carpark sensors, these are a custom IOT sensor designed by a local company inFact. The device will stick on to the road like any other road marker and contains multiple sensors, most importantly, a bluetooth sensor that matches to a bluetooth tile attached to the mobility parking permit (which could alert enforcement officers to vehicles using mobility parks that don't have the appropriate mobility card identification. An app will accompany this solution that informs drivers of mobility parking location and availability.
Snap Send Solve is a user-friendly app that can be used to report all types of issues including graffiti, blocked drains, fallen trees, broken playground equipment, suspected pests, rubbish and more. It works by identifying the location the photo is taken using the phone's GPS data. It then sends an email to the council, including the picture, which is then allocated to the relevant department. I have challenged the team to produce Solved, Snap, Send with thanks!
Sensor Network We are establishing a sensing platform using Kites, which act like a USB port – where you can change the sensor without having to replace the basic infrastructure.
This Air Quality sensor is just $300 against the standard $60K sensor. It’s currently undergoing calibration testing in the field. While this sensor won’t be as accurate, the standard deviation should be able to be modelled and we should be able to obtain much more rich data and identify sources of problems more quickly.
Sensibel is the product trialled by Christchurch's FabLab, Fabriko, our partner organisation for this proof of concept project. This geotags and records commuters' experiences through a physical device fixed on the handlebars of a bike or via an app for bus users. Feedback from cyclists was that they wanted one button that could be pushed once for a positive experience and twice for a negative experience which has led to the second prototype (currently in development). Fabriko's solution is different to normal crowd-sourced cycle data provided by apps such as Strava in that it communicates commuter experience rather than just route, time, distance, GPS, or count data. A bus user can note when the bus is late or on time, or when the bus driver has been friendly and polite. A cyclist can notify of pot-holes, dangerous merging lanes on a road, or the great experience of a recently opened major cycle route
As a city, Christchurch is proof that with disaster there always comes opportunity. And our opportunity has come at an interesting time in world history – the convergence of accelerating global urbanisation and an exponential digital revolution. I read Thomas Friedman’s book a while back ‘Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations’. It reminds us of that the age of accelerations can leave us little time to reflect and to breath and most importantly to think.
My favourite book is If Mayors Ruled the World. I usually get a laugh when I say that, but Benjamin Barber’s theme is contained in the sub-title - Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Pandemics, climate change, global terrorism don’t happen respect a country’s border. It is only within cities and tightknit communities that we can build resilience. We are seeing a devolution of power to cities, which are so much closer to the action, and the ceding of power upwards to global governance structures based on cooperating cities – like the G20, international city networks and Mayoral Compacts and commitments. Urban pragmatism is displacing national ideology – look at the reaction of major US cities in response to the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Accord.
So we are at an interesting time in world history – escalating urbanisation, coupled with exponential growth in technology. I often say, the future’s coming ready or not – I’d rather be ready.
I like to remind people of the 6Ds, because it reminds us that sometimes you just don’t see it coming (that’s the way of the exponential curve) and although democratisation is the ultimate prize, the disruption can cause pain along the way. Cities need to be ahead of the curve. And that’s what I want for Christchurch and what we all will want for NZ.
So I come back to where I began – resilience is all about people. Nothing about us without us – is the community mantra. We must listen and learn. Whether its about building community resilience or resilient infrastructure, the approach must be the same.
Research, Science & technology:
- need to be relevant and accessible to everyone.
- must integrate with the social sciences and inform land use planning decisions.
- Government central and local
- Civil society
- The private sector and
After everything I have been through and our communities have been through, I would now say that the wisdom of the community when combined with the knowledge of the experts always exceeds what one can offer without the other.
And that’s what must be remembered throughout this Forum and beyond – if it’s not about the people, it’s not about anything.