Post-disaster housing recovery and community resilience: the case of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011
Background: After a major natural disaster like the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, western democracies like New Zealand tend to enact top-down recovery statutes and regulations that are thought to enable a nimble response to national emergencies, save lives, and restore social order. But these statutory changes in governance not only determine the sustainability of the natural and built environments. They can also affect the wellbeing of those impacted, impairing their democratic ability to have a say and actively participate in the urban renewal processes taking place around them. What does this mean in terms of community action and resilience? This project is a case study of post-disaster housing recovery in Christchurch after the Canterbury earthquake of 2010 and 2011. Aims: In this qualitative study, I analysed the statutory framework governing the process of post-disaster housing recovery in Christchurch and its impact on local democracy. I also explored the role of communities and the third sector in housing and urban renewal. This aim was to contribute to the development of a critical theoretical understanding of community resilience as an inherently political concept. Community resilience is influenced by causal factors or generative mechanisms that impact upon the relations between people in a particular social context. I undertook this empirical study to develop a critical realist approach to understanding community resilience. Methods: I completed a narrative synthesis of textual data, derived from a thematic analysis of in-depth interviews with key informants, related policies, media, and fieldwork. Results: I found that a centralisation of government authority over housing recovery resulted in an erosion of democracy and representative government at a local level. This centralisation had a major impact on communities and their voice in the process of post-disaster housing recovery. Communities, however, never relented and worked tirelessly among themselves and with other social sectors to make a positive impact to post-disaster housing and urban recovery against difficult odds and stretched resources. This immense social capital and inspiring sense of community must be fostered and given the opportunity to democratically participate in the development of recovery policy as a key element of community resilience.
Advisor: Howden-Chapman, Philippa; Fougere, Geoff
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Public Health, UOW
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: community resilience; participation; consultation; democracy; housing recovery; Christchurch
Research Type: Thesis