- First from the Rockefeller Foundation: Bryna Lipper and Aaron Spencer;
- Second from the 100 Resilient Cities' Strategic Partners: Sandia, Palantir & Swiss Re;
- Third the team from Aecom who were invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to assist with our workshop
- And finally the local organisations and agencies that supported our bid to become one of the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Network: The Universities – Canterbury & Lincoln, CDHB, ECan, Chamber of Commerce, Lifeline
initiative, I knew that this was what I wanted for the city. I contacted the previous Mayor and
asked if he would nominate Christchurch. With his blessing, I worked with Di Keenan to
complete the expression of interest; then two days after I was elected to office, I signed the
formal application, submitting it on the final day.
I was thrilled to find we were accepted in the first tranche of 33 cities around the world, and am
delighted that tomorrow we will be holding our first 100RC workshop to set the agenda for how
we will build resilience.
I have to be honest and admit that I have struggled to explain why I believe this is so important
when a lot of Cantabrians are tired of being described as resilient. Many still feel anything but.
But it is important. We need to learn from our experience, build on it and share the lessons
That being said, I don't want Christchurch to be known as the Resilient City – I simply want us
to be a resilient city. To me it is part of our journey, but it is not our destination. Our
destination is something we must determine together and building resilience will help us get
All of the definitions of resilience that I have read contain certain elements: preparation and
planning; the ability to absorb or withstand disturbance or adversity while keeping the
essentials going; the capacity to recover, 'bounce back' or better still 'bounce forward' and the
capacity to adapt given a change in conditions.
But I have been inspired by the thought that resilience means much more than that. That it
includes a capacity to thrive in the face of adversity, evidencing a willingness to take risks and
to be creative or innovative in exploring the world of possibility that such an environment
And it also contains within its meaning the power to co-create, to work collaboratively with
government, giving real meaning to the phrase participatory democracy. That is something
that really excites me, especially coming from central government to local government, where
everything is so much more upfront and personal. Reclaiming the word resilience in its
broadest sense will enable us collectively to reclaim the power that rightly resides within our
neighbourhoods and our communities.
I have developed a sense that, over the years, governments may have inadvertently
undermined the adaptive capacity of communities by taking over roles that used to be picked
up within traditional social and workplace networks. In so doing, we have unwittingly
undermined one of the essential components of community resilience, which has been
described as 'collective governance'.
It was from a quote in the 2012 Ministry of Civil Defence Journal Tephra, which was dedicated
to community resilience as evidenced by the experience of the community response to the
Canterbury earthquakes. Examples included the emergent responses based on combining
existing networks within affected communities for example in Lyttelton and New Brighton or
based on new networks like the Student Volunteer Army and CanCERN. It said:
"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 excited me most about the quote is the seemingly boundless possibility that is
presented by empowering communities to participate in 'collective governance'.
If we in central and local government helped our communities to develop resilience – in the
true sense of the word - then we would in effect be increasing their capacity to engage in local
governance in a meaningful way. Resilient communities would not only be better prepared for
disaster should one strike, but would also of themselves be better connected both internally
and externally and would be better places to live.
The potential has struck me as enormous. Not only does it bring the promise of a better way of
life, it also gives meaning to democracy in the true sense of the word. As the article continues:
"Resilience involves transformation of the role of citizen and grassroots organisations from
that of stakeholders, who are able at best to advise governments, to full equity partners. Equity
partners are full shareholders, equally able to participate in the design and implementation of
disaster-related efforts. The challenge for governments is to find ways to embrace these
innovations and redesign their own structures and processes to incorporate the changes."
Take away the reference to disaster-related efforts and include reference to any decision-
making that impacts on citizens and grassroots organisations, and it is clear to me that we are
talking about something significantly more than a bounce-back effect. We are talking about
The Rockefeller Foundation has given us a chance to re-create the foundation of community as
full equity partners. The 21st century may mean that communities are radically different than
they were, but then again the tools for engagement have been revolutionalised as well. To me
this is what our participation in the 100RC Network could mean, not just for Christchurch and
our region, but for our nation as a whole.