Once again I draw on the experience in Christchurch NZ, still recovering from earthquake five or so years ago, to start a discussion of the role of citizens and non-governmental organizations after a major disaster i.e., civil society.
From an Australian news source and writer, this article about the recovery in Christchurch, NZ: Comment: Christchurch five years on – have politicians helped or hindered the earthquake recovery?
Since I wanted the perspective of a native Kiwi, who in fact was involved in assessing the response to the CHCH earthquakes, I asked Ian McLean to comment. He said:
It is unfortunately a partisan viewpoint. One factual error was to call the Ministerial powers ‘unprecedented’. The powers provided by special legislation after the Napier 1931 EQ were in some respects even wider.
There was considerable political debate over the appointment of commissioners to control Environment Canterbury. The issue was whether or not it had done its legal duty of developing a Regional Water Plan. The only linkage to the earthquake was that cooperation between some local authorities in civil defence emergency management before the 2010 event was poor – as you know.
On the other hand, the role of civic society in response and recovery is vastly underestimated, as the article points out.
At the same time it was far beyond the capacity of any local organisation to lead, plan and direct (where necessary) the response and recovery. Something like CERA was essential because neither central nor local government nor the community, had the organisation to do what is needed. The extent to which CERA adequately involved the local community remains an issue worthy of examination and debate.