Mayor signs resilience pledge

The Greater Christchurch Partnership was established several years before the earthquakes struck. The vision has not only survived our experience; it has been enhanced.

The vision was:

By the year 2041, we will have a vibrant inner city and suburban centres surrounded by thriving rural communities and towns, connected by efficient and sustainable infrastructure.

There will be a wealth of public spaces ranging from bustling inner city streets to expansive open spaces and parks, which embrace natural systems, landscapes and heritage.

Innovative businesses will be welcomed and can thrive, supported by a wide range of attractive facilities and opportunities.

Prosperous communities will enjoy a variety of lifestyles in good health and safety, enriched by the diversity of cultures and the beautiful environment of Greater Christchurch.

Today is a milestone for the Greater Christchurch Partnership.

Just before being elected as Mayor in 2013 I discovered that the Rockefeller Foundation had decided to celebrate their centenary by devoting their energy and financial support to building a network of resilient cities around the world.

I had already worked out that building resilience was the solution that I had been looking for in the light of our experience.  We can confidently face an unknown future from the perspective of disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and sustainable development when we build resilience.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to enthuse Christchurch to embrace resilience, because we collectively groan when someone comes and tells us that we are resilient, when they mean stoic.  Which is of course an admirable Cantabrian trait.  But it doesn’t mean resilience.

The true meaning of resilience is what’s vital to preparing for an uncertain future – it’s the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, grow and even transform in the face of stress and shocks and even transform when conditions require it.  Building resilience is about making people, communities and systems better prepared to withstand catastrophic events – both natural and manmade – and be able to bounce back more quickly and emerge stronger from these shocks and stresses.

The capacity for adaptive management and the ability to co-create the new normal as I call it is another element of building resilience.

That is why community engagement lies at the heart of the matter.  I remember Professor Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Scientist, making this point early on in the piece.  He said:

“It follows that, from the psychosocial perspective, those involved in directing the recovery should create governance structures that understand and actively include community participation and enhance individual and community resilience.  Such approaches will be most likely to be effective in re-establishing coping and functioning communities.”

The deadline for applying for the 100 Resilient Cities Network was before the elections in 2013 but the Mayor, Sir Bob Parker, readily helped ensure Christchurch could submit an expression of interest.  After I was elected one of my first tasks was to sign the official application to the Rockefeller Foundation.   And here we are.

The Resilient Greater Christchurch Plan sets up our city and surrounding districts to be forward looking and prepared for the challenges of the future, whatever they may be.

It will enable our communities to be more resilient and to play an active role in their recovery and regeneration.

This plan sets out four key goals, and wrapped around them are two guiding principles.

The first of these is achieving a meaningful Treaty partnership with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the Papatipu Rūnanga.

The second key principles speaks to the importance of consistency and collaboration across tiers of government.  We cannot afford to have silos within and between agencies be they central or local government and the wider community.

Regenerate Christchurch is a new collaborative model that has community engagement embedded in its DNA and that creates real optimism for the future.

Our resilience plan describes how we can build resilience through four goals, each with related programmes and actions.

  • We are connected communities living in adaptable places
  • We are a community that participates in shaping our future
  • We are prosperous by sustaining the vitality of the natural environment, fostering innovation and attracting people
  • We understand our risks to be better prepared for future challenges

There are many elements to achieving these goals but I think that you will see that all of them are about mutual actions.  Resilience is not a top down exercise, but nor is it grassroots up alone.  It has to be both.

I remember the local Canterbury Community Recovery Network had a motto – the wisdom of the community always exceeds the knowledge of the experts.   I believe it should say – the wisdom of the community when combined with the knowledge of the experts always exceeds what one can offer without the other.

To achieve these resilience goals we need leaders – champions.  And these are already embedded in our community as you will hear.

We are committing at least 10% of our budget to resilience – that’s not only about infrastructure – it’s about people.  Resilient communities lie at the heart of resilient cities and our commitment is actually an investment in our people.

Resilience is a journey, not a destination.

Which is why I like quoting Judith Rodin the chair of the Rockefeller Foundation who ended her book the Resilience Dividend thus:

 “There is no ultimate or end state of resilience.  But, by working together to build resilience to the greatest degree possible, we can reduce our reliance on crisis as a driver of change and, instead, deliberately take the future into our own hands – for the well-being of our families, our communities, our cities, and indeed, the planet we all share.”

Isn’t that a hopeful and challenging way to introduce our plan.  No-one needs to wait for a crisis to do that if we truly learn the lessons of the Christchurch experience.

Nō reira, Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa