There has been a minor kerfuffle over a group of Christchurch City Councillors planning a trip to San Francisco to have a look at how that city responded to their quake (I can’t find the article online at the Press, but will keep looking.) Some of the councillors are starting to get defensive about the jaunt, and given some of the other trips that councillors have taken, they might be right to be wary. I don’t particularly care if they want to go over there, I am happy that they are keen to learn from other disasters.

But how come they are only keen to learn if there is a trip to somewhere fun? There are undoubtedly lessons to be learnt from San Fran*, lessons that could be better learnt, I would argue, from actually sitting down and reading about it. Why do our politicians continue to only take lessons if those lessons involve long-haul travel to some trendy locale at someone else’s expense? While meeting people who were involved, who helped co-ordinate the recovery is no doubt a valuable exercise, sitting down and reading some reports, some books, watching the news from ’89 would be just as valuable, if not more so. Why? Well, books and reports tend to come under slightly more scrutiny than taking the opinions of one person, 20 years after the fact, as gospel.

So go. I have no problem with that. But a trip to San Francisco should be seen as a learning aid, rather than the lesson in itself. I would like to think you’ll be getting around the local libraries and trying to find some further material on disaster response, something that might push you further than riding on a tram or visiting the Full House house.

*someone from the Government might want to explain why there is no mention of San Francisco in the document that led to CERA being set up.

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