Hamish Keith: After disaster comes opportunity

The character of Christchurch was more than the bricks and stones of the buildings it has lost – it was also the people who were able and happy to live and trade in them. After disaster there is always opportunity. The real opportunities are about people. The risk is that the rebuilt city could be bland, beautiful and empty. This is not a chance for developers – it is a great chance for a fine and elegant city.

Former Mayor Garry Moore urges Christchurch to take a deep breath before we rush into things:

Who knows whether this policy is right or wrong? It possibly makes sense. However, what was the urgency for council to rush and to adopt this report? The council devoted 38 minutes to the meeting, which included time for the mayor to give a speech. Did anybody go out and canvass what property owners and insurance companies were thinking before the meeting? Did anybody know how many properties are affected by this policy and what ramifications it might have?

Diane Brand cites the example of how an earthquake in Lisbon led to a reconstruction which is still largely in place 250 years later:

Unlike Lisbon, the demolished buildings in Christchurch are pepper-potted through the centre and thus provide a network of possible new sites for development of an urban alternative to suburban dwelling-new residental projects which will breathe life into the rebuilt city.

Heritage buildings have been lost, but that will strenghten the resolve of those who value history to prioritise their integrity and recyle them for contemporary use. Both of these initiatives improve urban sustainability because they use existing resources to create a new, resilient and compact city. These objectives may mean tempering a market-driven approach with design-driven stategies that project a long-term view of urban renewal.

Here is a piece from some people who are clearly of the business-is-business school of thinking, who seem to think things need to be done as fast as possible, with little time to stop and think.

I strongly recommend reading them all – if you have time. The legislation for reconstruction will be rushed through parliament today, and given the interviews I heard with Gerry Brownlee and Bob Parker that I heard on this morning’s Morning Report, it would seem that community and public consultation doesn’t really fit into these plans. If there was one thing to come out of last night’s meeting at the Dux, it was that we need to take out time (as Garry Moore says). We need to think about how we are going to do this, and I’d like to think that the process is transparent and open. We shall see.

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