EY: What has the relationship with the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities network brought the city?
Dalziel: One of the first things I did when I became Mayor was to sign the official nomination of our city for the 100 Resilient Cities network. We now have a Chief Resilience Officer and a Resilient Greater Christchurch Plan. But just as importantly, we made connections with other cities that are dealing with resilience from a range of different perspectives.
Being a part of the network taught us that resilience isn’t just about preparing or reacting to a natural disaster like an earthquake. It’s also about addressing endemic challenges that are slower to unfold but equally debilitating, such as the devastation of a city through unemployment, the loss of industries, or even a pandemic — an outbreak of disease that affects a large number of the population.
EY: Can you give some examples of community-driven resilience?
Dalziel: We had a community come to the Greater Christchurch Council last week. They said that they wanted to buy a church that had been abandoned. The community won a competition to fix the building, as it is out of level due to the earthquake. They told the Council that the community was going to clean up the site. They told us that they have a business plan to bring in a café, organize other rental accommodations and make the building a community hub.
We agreed to help them buy it. It’s completely driven from the community but we, the Council, will support them. It’s a completely different way of doing things. Normally, we would go to the community and say that we’re going to build you a community center and let’s have your input. But this is the other way around.
Another example is the Lyttelton project, in which the Lyttelton community created a time bank. Citizens offer their services to other citizens through the time bank. And one hour of work equals one hour of work. You might be filing a tax return for a neighbor, while that person might be providing childcare for someone else. And when you know your neighbors because you do things for each other and the measure of contribution is hour for hour, not dollar for dollar, you’ve got an incredibly strong base for response and recovery after a disaster.
EY: What can other cities learn from Christchurch’s experiences?
Dalziel: Don’t establish a new organization to rebuild the city that is disconnected from the existing local authorities. In our case, the government established the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), but it wasn’t an authority underpinned by an independent board; it was a government department.
It’s really important to look at what you already have in a city. You need to ask: what community-based authorities or networks are already in place and how can you strengthen them? At the end of the day, an organization like CERA will be dissolved while local authorities and community organizations will remain in place and they need to be stronger than they were before.
Four key takeaways for urban leaders
- Don’t wait for a disaster to address the challenge of making a city more resilient for the future.
- Resilience is not an endpoint. It’s about what a city is becoming, and that is constantly changing. Resilience requires constant refreshing.
- Build social capital now. When disaster strikes, leverage the communities already in place. Find innovative ways to strengthen the connections between and within communities, as well as community relationships with decision-makers.
- Partner with organizations such as the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities network. Learn from other cities and their experiences.