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Delays to Christchurch rebuild biggest concern

Delays to Christchurch rebuild biggest concern heard at hazard conference

August 24, 2012

Delays in the reconstruction of Christchurch, mainly due to the delays from insurance settlements, was one of the biggest concerns to come out of the Australasian natural hazard management conference which winds up at the University of Canterbury (UC) this week.

This was one of the most distressing issues relating to the impact and reaction of the Christchurch earthquakes, one of the conference organisers UC lecturer Tom Wilson said today.

``Acknowledging this is one of the most complex insurance events ever, there were some searching questions asked about why the start of the rebuild had been delayed.

``This was repeated across many talks during the conference including talks from insurance loss modellers, social scientists, who highlighted the impacts this has had on people's lives, to government agencies including CERA, who were very aware of the situation.

``A lot of focus was placed on the land use zoning. This is a significant measure, which was agreed was needed. But the lack of transparency or perception of lack of transparency in how decisions have been made was a cross cutting theme.’’

CERA and government leaders told the conference they had moved from being in a setting up-crisis-reactive mode; to a more proactive posture, focusing on actively planning and achieving real outcomes and mindful to keep moving things on, not just planning.

They had a strong sense of providing leadership and focusing their efforts around their six recovery goals. Wilson said they gave a lot of attention on providing certainty in planning decisions, so that investment returns and thrives in Christchurch, such as the Central Business District (CBD).

CERA and government were very focused on community resilience. The core infrastructure rebuild programme was just ramping up with $2.5 billion being invested over five years.

``Problems and delays with insurance have been identified as the main barrier to individual and business recovery at present Leading on from this, the technical classification of land around Christchurch was meant to facilitate a faster rebuild, but it has created significant uncertainty for some land owners,’’ he said.

As a result of the week-long conference and gathering of 250 experts, academics and CERA and government leaders, Wilson said he expected to see more similar major conferences so that people could talk to those working and living at the quake-recovery coal face and to see the disaster recovery for themselves.

UC will host the New Zealand Geological Society on campus next year which will attract many similar experts. This week’s conference had a remarkably wide scope from structural and geotechnical engineering through to human behaviour and from economics through to planning.

``I felt there was a strong desire to contribute high quality, evidence based research science to the Christchurch recovery and to learn from this disaster to increase resilience throughout NZ and the world. In particular the international guests were highly motivated to learn Christchurch’s lessons.

``UC has won a lot of respect about how we managed the disaster and this was acknowledged in several talks, and commonly in informal sessions.

``It was important for people to see that the University of Canterbury was functioning, with plenty of students around and lots of top quality research going on. They could see how we have adapted to and in many instances thriving with new opportunities we have in front of us. We live and work in the Christchurch disaster laboratory’’

Wilson and UC facilities and operations manager Chris Hawker have been invited to London in November to give presentations on the Christchurch earthquake.


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