Community, resilience and recovery: building or burning bridges?
There is a critical strand of literature suggesting that there are no ‘natural’ disasters (Abramovitz, 2001; Anderson and Woodrow, 1998; Clarke, 2008; Hinchliffe, 2004). There are only those that leave us – the people - more or less shaken and disturbed. There may be some substance to this; for example, how many readers recall the 7.8 magnitude earthquake centred in Fiordland in July 2009? Because it was so far away from a major centre and very few people suffered any consequences, the number is likely to be far fewer than those who remember (all too vividly) the relatively smaller 7.1 magnitude Canterbury quake of September 4th 2010 and the more recent 6.3 magnitude February 22nd 2011 event. One implication of this construction of disasters is that seismic events, like those in Canterbury, are as much socio-political as they are geological. Yet, as this paper shows, the temptation in recovery is to tick boxes and rebuild rather than recover, and to focus on hard infrastructure rather than civic expertise and community involvement. In this paper I draw upon different models of community engagement and use Putnam’s (1995) notion of ‘social capital’ to frame the argument that ‘building bridges’ after a disaster is a complex blend of engineering, communication and collaboration. I then present the results of a qualitative research project undertaken after the September 4th earthquake. This research helps to illustrate the important connections between technical rebuilding, social capital, recovery processes and overall urban resilience.... [Show full abstract]