New Zealand Earthquakes and Disaster Rebuilding

Why should DR stand only for disaster recovery? In the face of the earthquakes that assail parts of New Zealand from time to time, both the short term and the long term implications are being taken into account. Short term is disaster recovery, in a wider context than just IT, but disaster recovery nonetheless to get communities and organisations back to normal as soon as possible. Longer term is disaster rebuilding, involving the restoration of resources in a way that will make them less vulnerable to the earthquakes that sooner or later will inevitably follow. So who does the rebuilding – and how?

A number of players get involved in the process. A top-down model holds that central government must lead and motivate, and coincidentally provide funds. Naturally, local government is also involved, its role growing in importance relative to that of central government as shorter term recovery folds into longer term rebuilding. But, just as important, communities also participate and bring their own particular knowledge and resources to the table.

One of the rebuilding themes coming to the fore is indeed based on the notion of the community at the level of villages or “clusters”. Urban expansion can be redefined and planned in terms of an expanding, connected network of villages. This approach differs from the conventional thinking in terms of agglomerations, and is designed to limit damage from disasters such as earthquakes, as well as to accelerate recovery afterwards.

Organisations and enterprises will then have to take such a new model into account in the way they structure their activity and their services. Funnily enough, it seems like we’re coming back to the “Small is Beautiful” ideas of E.F.Schumacher, who looked for similar “smallness within bigness”. His classic collection of writings on the subject was subtitled “Economics as If People Mattered”, which has a natural parallel with “Disaster Recovery (and Rebuilding) As If People Mattered”.