len Hughes is Harrison Grierson’s southern regional manager. In 2011, he was part of a group of
Christchurch business leaders and Councillors that visited San Francisco to
learn about its recovery from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Glen says there are five
key lessons to learn from San Francisco and the wider Bay area’s recovery and rebuild.
Lesson 1: Build it back better. Recovery provides the opportunity to build better
quality infrastructure and community assets. Grasp the potential to add better
value and amenity, and be bold and visionary in its execution. The redesign of
the waterfront and the old Ferry Terminal building in San Francisco represented
a significant improvement on the quality of that space, urban amenity and
Lesson 2: Collaborate. Authorities must not act in isolation of the
stakeholders. The rebuild of Santa Cruz was characterised by a collaborative
group termed the ‘Gang of 36’ made up of council, business and community
representatives. The group was co-chaired by council and business
representatives and was empowered to make recommendations on the recovery and
rebuild of the CBD to the council. All decisions made by the group required
consensus, and all decisions were ratified by the council on the basis of that
Lesson 3: Business must be involved. A large portion of rebuild activity is funded via the
private sector. Confidence will deliver capital, and confidence comes from
early and inclusive involvement. Research from the recovery of New Orleans
showed that due to a lack of clarity on rebuild plans and timing, investors
sought lower risk alternative locations to invest capital.
Lesson 4: The advantage of insurance. Given there is no comparable EQC insurance, a large
proportion of the population in San Francisco has no earthquake insurance, as
on the whole, the costs outweigh the benefits. The Loma Prieta earthquake resulted
in huge shortfalls between the cost of damage and available insurance cover. In
contrast, the insurance funding we have available in New Zealand provides
significant opportunity despite the difficulties and challenges posed over its
Lesson 5: Transparent and permissive. Authorities must act as facilitators and enablers.
The ‘Gang of 36’ adopted a transparency about its operation, such that meetings
were open to the public so that the stakeholders had confidence in their
decision-making. Further, the Council sought to be permissive by releasing
vision and design theme principles early, and provided broad permitted activity
rules to enable property owners to make early starts to their rebuilding.
What is the overarching key learning/message for New
response to disaster recovery in New Zealand has been to implement a top-down
model led by the Crown. This is not unreasonable, given the Crown provides a
significant proportion of rebuild funding and would want to manage recovery
activity to ensure best value from that investment. The lessons from San
Francisco and other disaster recoveries, including New Orleans, show that a
balance between the Crown, business and the community can potentially deliver
better outcomes. Achieving that balance through collaborative and transparent
engagement is a real challenge. While the ‘Gang of 36’ was ultimately successful;
it had to overcome a history of tension between the Council and business, which
required very strong and effective leadership.
Are we doing any of this in Christchurch?
celebrate the fact that the rebuilt city will be a better place than it was
pre-quake. At a minimum, it will have modern and resilient infrastructure,
which will provide confidence for further commercial development. At a maximum,
it will boast high quality amenities if the current rebuild plans are achieved.
A lost opportunity is perhaps where collaboration and transparency may have
resulted in more engagement and ownership of the rebuild outcomes; however, the
development of Regenerate Christchurch is a positive step in this regard.
Arguably, the top-down
approach has achieved much, but there remains an imbalance between
the community, business sector and Government stakeholder
groups; most significantly with
the community, which potentially could provide the organic elements that would
bring the rebuilt city to life.
This thought leadership article by Glen Hughes, Regional Manager - Southern, is intended to provide you with insights and relevant information on lessons learned from San Francisco. Our thought leadership articles on topical and specialist issues are designed to present the key points in an easy to digest and interesting manner.
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