We couldn't invite everyone who wanted to come today, so each of us has a responsibility to
contribute 150%. I don't want anyone feeling jealous that you got to come to this workshop
and they didn't – you need to help them organise an even better workshop for the people we didn't reach today and would not reach even if we had hundreds in the room.
I want to thank the DHB for allowing us to come to the Design Lab, an environment that allows
for everyone to combine their individual knowledge and expertise, so that a collective wisdom
This is a place that constantly proves that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" and
that is what I want from today.
We are at a crossroads as a city.
As I said last night resilience is not a destination – it is a means by which we can determine our
destination as well as providing us with the means of getting there.
I often describe the time since the first earthquake as my journey of discovery. I have learned
new words that I didn't know before, like liquefaction and lateral spread, but more importantly
I have learned the true meaning of words like, community, leadership and resilience.
A community is not the co-location of houses – that's a suburb – a community is the
relationship between the people in those houses, or with a shared interest, culture or identity,
and their relationship with other communities and with decision-makers.
Leadership is not a position you hold; it is a mark of character. Leaders are trusted and in turn
trust others to lead in their own right.
And resilience is not strong in the face of adversity – that is stoicism. Resilience captures the
full range from planning and preparedness, through absorbing adversity to recovery,
adaptation and the capacity to co-create a new normal.
The new council elected by the city nearly 6 months ago has major challenges to address. But
this way of thinking provides an exciting springboard for whatever future we want to co-create
for ourselves as a city that will at the very least emerge with the capacity to thrive in the face of
adversity. As they would say in Aranui – bring it on!
That's what a resilient city looks like to me, but that's just me. What I think at the end of today
may well change. I have learned enough to know that even though I like being proved right, I
am much happier knowing that I have the capacity to listen to others, to analyse what they say
and to make adjustments to my own frame of reference if necessary. This is co-creation we are
modelling here today.
People said that they were pleased about what I said last night for two reasons – one the
acknowledgement that not everyone is ready to hear about resilience, because they are sick of
hearing that they are resilient when they are not. The other was the acknowledgement that
governments cannot build resilience for communities. We can help communities build
resilience but that is as far as we can go.
I said I was going to go a step further this morning to explain about my journey of discovery
and why I see this as a way to do government differently.
Shortly after the February quakes I was given a copy of a March 2010 report of a roundtable
meeting on: Resilience and Emergence in Public Administration. It was convened to explore
these two themes:
Emergence: Governments are increasingly called upon to serve in highly complex and
uncertain circumstances, where public issues regularly emerge as surprises and require
equally emergent responses. This transforms the role of government and the relationship
between government and society. It emphasizes the need for more agile, innovative and
adaptive approaches to governance and public administration.
Resilience: Notwithstanding the efforts of governments and citizens to explore, innovate,
prevent, pre-empt or course-correct, unforeseen events will arise and unpredictable shocks will
occur. The role of government extends to promoting the resilience of individuals, communities
I won't go through the report but it opened my mind to resilience as a much bigger concept
than I had imagined; it introduced me to the notion that both neglect and dependency
undermine resilience.; and that governments should emphasise strengths-based,
collaborative, positive, learning-led approaches over negative, deficit-based, vulnerability-led
This reminded me that these ideas were not new and that I was just hearing them in a different
context. This is from the 1989 Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion:
"Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to
improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social well-
being, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realize aspirations, to
satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as
a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept
emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Therefore,
health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond
healthy life-styles to well-being."
Health promotion works through concrete and effective community action in setting
priorities, making decisions, planning strategies and implementing them to achieve
At the heart of this process is the empowerment of communities - their ownership and
control of their own endeavours and destinies.
Community development draws on existing human and material resources in the
community to enhance self-help and social support, and to develop flexible systems for
strengthening public participation in and direction of health matters. This requires full
and continuous access to information, learning opportunities for health, as well as
The French have a nice phrase 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose' – the more things
change the more they stay the same.
What was new for me in the Roundtable report was the concept of emergence, the lack of
predictability about what the future might hold, the theory around complexity and the
importance of trustful leadership in such environments – externally focussed, non
hierarchical, connected with society. I was also introduced to the concept of co-creation. That
was completely new to me.
At their essence the two concepts resilience and emergence promoted a form of partnership
between government and society which sees we, the people, not as consumers but as engaged
citizens actively involved in decision-making and becoming more resilient individually and
collectively. The role of government – both central and local – changes as well and we
· Enablers within a framework of collective responsibility;
· Partners who use their power and that of the State to support the contributions of others;
partnership depending as it does on trust, goodwill and mutual respect;
· Facilitators who convene citizens and organisations to build communities of purpose;
· Collaborative actors who work with others to coordinate decisions and to achieve
· Stewards of the collective interest with the power to intervene and to course-correct when
the public interest demands it;
· Leaders to achieve convergence and a common sense of purpose;
I can't even remember what the source is for that quote.
In preparing for today, I discovered in my files a paper entitled Policy Challenges supporting
Community Resilience. It said this:
"The strategic foundation of all hazards resilience ... involves engagement with neighborhood
associations, businesses, schools, faith-based community groups, trade groups, fraternal
organizations, ethnic centers, and other civic-minded organizations that have routine, direct
ties to local communities. In a real sense, they are the community. Local collective action, by,
with and for the individuals who live in local areas, becomes the leading edge of efforts to
protect and sustain the nation.
Local collective action – by, with and for the locals – protects and sustains the nation.
And that's the thinking that gets me out of bed every day.
I know that there are many people in our city who are struggling and would see no point in
coming to a workshop about resilience.
But I know their lives would be enhanced if the energy they have been forced to dissipate in
fighting the system, their insurer, EQC, their council could be focused on everything they want
their city to be.
I see imagination, creativity and innovation at work everyday in this city. I see the wisdom of
age combining with the energy of youth everywhere I look.
There is life in vacant spaces as we now know and as Lonely Planet knows and the New York
We need optimism, self-reliance and strong partnerships built on trust.
We need to unlock the potential of the people – and we will be a resilient city – but we will also
be a place where people want to be, because they are leading the life they want to lead.