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UC Conference Highlights Valuable Lessons from Disaster

UC Conference Highlights Valuable Lessons from Disaster

May 27, 2013

The University of Canterbury (UC) is hosting a one-day conference next week to highlight some of the important things Christchurch researchers are learning from the earthquakes, creating new knowledge that they hope will help the world.

The director of UC’s CEISMIC digital archive, Associate Professor Paul Millar, says the June 5 conference will focus on a number of research projects initiated following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

``UC is better placed than almost any other university in the world to study and learn from a disaster that has impacted so widely on communities, ecosystems, infrastructure, commerce and government.

``We have engineering and geology students coming to UC because it is the place to study these sorts of events. We have social science students coming here because there are ample areas for important disaster-related research. We have people working with CEISMIC because it is a world-leading digital humanities project aligned with the 9/11 digital archive.

``The world knows we have experienced one of the most significant disasters in recent history. What they may not know is the tremendous opportunity this has presented for us to learn from the event.

``We want to share what we are learning about risk, resilience and renewal with the world. We want students coming to Christchurch to know how challenging and exciting it is to be part of history and see an entire city being rebuilt.

``Much of the research presented in the conference points to practical things that can be done in disaster situations to help others. If we apply what we learn, then Christchurch will rise from rubble better and stronger, to be one of the world’s great 21st century cities. That is an experience worth sharing.’’
Fletcher Building chief executive Mark Adamson says the UC Quake Centre and events like the June 5 forum provide considerable opportunity for industry to learn, innovate and develop.

``Building and construction activity will continue in Canterbury for years to come and it’s vital the region’s future landscape is built strong and resilient. Sharing lessons learnt will ensure that happens.

``It’s equally important, though, to share the knowledge from Canterbury with the rest of the world, to educate, inform and ultimately lead to safer environments,” he says.

Professor Millar says the conference will include speakers on organisational resilience, something every organisation needs to know about. It will also hear about stories of strong women who faced their worst fears for their families and communities and won through.

Other speakers will talk about protecting coastal cities, where most of the world’s population live, and how communities experiencing disaster can become stronger and more bonded.

``UC is an institution forced by circumstances beyond its control to completely refashion itself in order to serve its community. On a larger scale all of Canterbury has to do something similar. We wouldn’t wish such a disaster on anyone, but when disasters inevitably happen we want our experiences to help others,” Professor Millar says.

``Aftershocks are infrequent these days, and it’s a little ironic that Christchurch, with its quake-tested older buildings and high-spec new buildings, feels safer to me than many other places I visit. We’ve learned a lot, and we’re keen to share that knowledge. This conference is a way we can do that.”

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