But especially Hugh as President of the World Forum of Catastrophe Programmes - an informal platform for national disaster insurance schemes.
May I also acknowledge David Middleton, who was the inaugural chair of the WFCP.
Welcome to Christchurch.
You will be hearing from the experts over the next days, but as the Mayor of Christchurch in a
post disaster environment, I wanted to reinforce why networks like your own are so vital. I
don't believe we could over-state the importance of learning lessons from our experiences and
sharing them with others.
There couldn't be a better time for you to be holding your annual forum here.
Not only, will we be reviewing our own national disaster insurance scheme, EQC, in the
coming months, there have also been significant complexities that have contributed and will
continue to contribute to the duration of the recovery process here in Christchurch. We need to
study them so that we can contribute to the wealth of international knowledge and expertise
that has been developed over the years.
I looked at your website and could see that there is no single solution to how a city or country
develops cover for natural disasters: Public body/Crown entity/Not for Profit; Public Reinsurer;
State Guarantee; Public private partnership – they are all in the mix.
We will consider all of those as we review how EQC has operated when challenged with
something they hadn't planned for.
I tend to think that there's no point having a disaster unless you learn from it.
And we have a lot to offer from our experience. I used to get frustrated with people saying our
experience was unprecedented, given the scale of many other disasters, however there are aspects which are unique, the combination of which provide an extraordinary opportunity to understand so much more about what may emerge in the future.
I have been reading about the twin concepts of emergence and resilience. Emergence
acknowledges that governments can no longer predict with any certainty what lies ahead, so it
is important for communities to prepare to take responsibility for whatever emerges – in other
words building resilience.
This is why I was so passionate about applying to become one of the Rockefeller Foundation
100RC Network. Our success in that regard has given us access to a platform to assist us in
developing a range of strategies across the different environments and we have access to a
network of cities that have as much to offer as they have to learn.
I am accompanied today by Mike Gillooly, who is the city's first Chief Resilience Officer, the
first in New Zealand and one of the first in the world.
Christchurch does have a lot to offer. Never before has so much been known about such a
concentrated piece of urban land and the impact of multiple seismic events on that land and
the built environment it supports.
There was some research published recently that made me think we could even contribute to a
better understanding of the impact of a half metre sea level rise given the significance of the
ground settlement in different parts of the city particularly in the east. I like the idea of our
misfortune being co-opted to a better understanding of the future impacts of climate change
amongst other things.
I noted from your Forum's objectives that you aim to learn from mutual knowledge and
experience and to make this available to new and emerging schemes. This says we are on the
Sometimes what holds us back from a full and frank assessment of our performance post an
event is an anxiety that our decisions or actions will be found wanting. The fear of having
made a mistake or a wrong judgement call can prevent people from offering to essentially
becoming a partner in a collaborative review of what occurred, and instead end up being
dragged in as an unwilling witness to events they would rather forget.
I often wonder if we have truly understood the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who understood
better than anyone else in history, that blame and retribution were no substitute for truth and
The reason that I say that is that it is vital to look back not to blame but to understand. But
look back we must. Otherwise we will not gain the full benefits of our experience.
At the same time we must continue to build momentum around the rebuilding of our city.
I often hear people say that it is four years on and where have we got to. But it isn't four years.
The first 15 months were filled with aftershocks. The most demoralising for me was the last of
the biggest ones, which was on 23 December 2011 – 15 months after the first. We were all
getting ready for the Christmas break we were all so desperate for. I was a Member of
Parliament then and I was about to send out my last Earthquake Information Update for the
year. We thought it was all over. It had been 6 months since the last big one on June 13. And
bang. This one was just off the coast so my electorate was hammered again.
No-one was really prepared for the aftershocks. Over 10,000 is unsettling to say the least, but
over 50 of them registered over magnitude five on the Richter Scale. No wonder people's
nerves were shot. What this means though is that the recovery did not really start until several
weeks into 2012 – 18 months after the first earthquake.
What you will hear over the next few days is how EQC has contributed to the city's recovery.
For an organisation that had 22 staff on its books on the 4th September 2010, they have done an
However people's experience depends on where they lived, how much damage they
experienced, whether they could remain in their home after each event, how many events
impacted on their home and to what proportion on each occasion, whether their land
experienced damage, whether their land is stable or secure enough for rebuilding, whether
their house will be repaired or rebuilt, whether there is an agreed scope of works – the list goes
This is what I mean by complexity. And it is holding people back. They cannot move on. There
are a significant number of Christchurch households who are literally stuck. And many of them
will blame EQC. But, and this is where it is useful to have you all here, there is no
counterfactual. What would we have done absent EQC?
Decisions have been made with the best will in the world – for example red zoning residential
properties helped de-risk the insurance landscape and allowed a retreat from areas that
suffered area-wide damage that would take years to remediate at a cost that was assessed to
have been too high – but the communication has not been great and there has been an
unwillingness to acknowledge the importance of engaging affected communities in the
There is a fear that consultation and engagement slows things down. But my experience is that
the international evidence is spot on. You need to balance speed with deliberation – or as I re-
framed it – take your time as quickly as you can.
If there is one thing I have learned, and I believe it to be universal, is the importance of
communication. Information is power and if people believe information is being withheld, it
doesn't take long for a theory to fill the vacuum. Enabling people to make informed choices
means making information freely available in an understandable and accessible form.
So welcome to Christchurch. As I said it's a great time to be here. As you look around the city
in its damaged form, I hope you take the opportunity to imagine what it will look like in 5
years, then 10 years time.
We will again have a beating heart with our town centre a place to gather - to enjoy the theatre,
a wonderful dinner, a concert or an interesting talk at world-class venues.
But we are not waiting for everything to happen. We are open for business.
We have been highlighted as a place to visit by Lonely Planet and the New York Times; not for
the traditional reasons, but for the energy, innovation and creativity that has emerged in the
transition – the ReStart Mall, the Transitional Cathedral, Greening the Rubble, Gap Filler –
there is life in vacant spaces.
We are going to be hosting the Cricket World Cup here in February and the FIFA under 20
World Cup in June. Christchurch 2015 It's Happening.
These are important events, not just for the international exposure, but they help us regain
confidence as a city. We have always been a great host city in Christchurch. The friendliness
of the people sits alongside the quality of life we offer – a city that is big enough to be
interesting with plenty to do and small enough not to be lost in the crowd.
So welcome once more and thank you for choosing Christchurch. I hope you gain a lot from
your time here.