Post-Disaster Organisational Recovery in a Central Business District Context:The 2010 & 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes

Joanne Stevenson, Erica Seville, Hlekiwe Kachali, John Vargo, Zachary Whitman
Resilient Organisations Research Report 2011/03

Executive Summary

This report presents the findings from two studies on organisational resilience following the 4 September 2010 earthquake in Canterbury, New Zealand to answer three core research questions related to the recovery of organisations within the context of a Central Business District:
• How did the damage to and decisions of organisations and their neighbours within a Central Business District influence the recovery of an individual business?
• To what extent did pre-event characteristics of the CBD, and pre-existing plans for how the CBD would evolve into the future, influence the individual organisations’ resilience and the recovery process within the CBD as a whole?
• How do policies and plans implemented to manage recovery at the CBD level influence individual organisations’ recovery?

The first study surveyed organisations from across Canterbury in the aftermath of the 4 September earthquake, collecting data from 366 organisations about initial impacts, disruptions, and challenges faced by organisations, as well as information about organisational attributes, relationships and strategies that may have helped mitigate the impacts of the earthquake. A cross-section of geographic areas and industry sectors were strategically selected to take part in this survey to reflect various elements of the Canterbury economy. The results from this survey showed that organisations located in the Christchurch and Kaiapoi CBDs were more likely to close for a period of time following the disaster and stay closed for more days than organisations in other sectors. CBD organisations were also more likely to be disrupted by structural damage and more likely to relocate all or part of their organisations than most other sectors. Similarly, organisations in the two CBDs were more likely to experience revenue decreases following disasters. These findings suggest that CBD organisations face a different set of risks and may require additional support during the response and recovery phase and better mitigation and planning prior to an event. For example, CBD organisations had more issues with site access following a disaster, therefore they should emphasize backing up critical information in multiple locations and where possible plan for and facilitate staff relocation or the ability to work from home. The second study focused particularly on the progress of recovery for the Kaiapoi CBD since the earthquake. Although Kaiapoi suffered significantly from the 4 September earthquake, it did not experience a large amount of additional damage as a result of the 22 February 2011 earthquake. As a result, Kaiapoi is an interesting example of a recovering community in a unique position to revitalise and develop economic and organisational capacity. While recovery progress is difficult to quantify precisely, at the time of writing Kaiapoi was clearly further along in the recovery process than Christchurch. As such, Kaiapoi can potentially provide useful lessons to guide the recovery of Christchurch and other disaster-affected areas.

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