Urban disaster recovery in Christchurch: The central business district cordon and other critical decisions

Stephanie E. Chang, Josh E. Taylor, Kenneth J. Elwood, Erica Seville, Dave Brunsdon, Mikaël Gartner, 2014

Earthquake Spectra. DOI: 10.1193/022413EQS050M


The Canterbury earthquakes, which involved widespread damage in the February 2011 event and ongoing aftershocks near the Christchurch central business district (CBD), presented decision-makers with many recovery challenges. This paper identifies major government decisions, challenges, and lessons in the early recovery of Christchurch based on 23 key-informant interviews conducted 15 months after the February 2011 earthquake. It then focuses on one of the most important decisions – maintaining the cordon around the heavily damaged CBD – and investigates its impacts. The cordon displaced 50,000 central city jobs, raised questions about (and provided new opportunities for) the long-term viability of downtown, influenced the number and practice of building demolitions, and affected debris management; despite being associated with substantial losses, the cordon was commonly viewed as necessary, and provided some benefits in facilitating recovery. Management of the cordon poses important lessons for planning for catastrophic urban earthquakes around the world.

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