Post-disaster reconstruction in Christchurch: a “Build Back Better” perspective

Purpose – The 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes were one of the most devastating events in New Zealand’s history. Due to the large scale of disruption and losses, the central government created a separate body, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), to manage and oversee recovery activities. Working with local authorities and stakeholders, CERA plays a major role in driving the recovery in Christchurch. This paper aims to analyse CERA’s decision-making process and the effects of some of its critical decisions on the recovery outcomes. The paper takes a “build back better” (BBB) perspective to understand the decisions taken and processes used.

Design/methodology/approach – The case study adopted a mixed-methods research design (Creswell, 2013) and was conducted by reviewing official CERA documents and publications related to its recovery assessments and by conducting interviews with key officials from CERA. Collecting data from both qualitative and quantitative data sources enabled the process of triangulation.
Findings – Lessons learned from the Canterbury experience in terms of recovery best practices are reported. CERA’s recovery policy aimed to give confidence to the community and renew and revitalise the damaged
city. Compared with the BBB theory, the community-driven recovery strategy and the multi-stakeholder approach worked well. Other critical decisions aligned with the BBB theory include land zoning, empowering
community and integration with existing developmental plans. Originality/value – BBB can be used as a tool for the implementation of recovery and restorationmeasures following a large disaster. However, a set of practical indicators tomeasure the level of BBB is needed.

Keywords – Best practice, Recovery, Resilience, Post-disaster reconstruction, Build back better, Reconstruction, Rebuild

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