A Decade of Disasters in Ōtautahi Christchurch

Towards Critical Disaster Planning

SESSION: Friday 21st April
Bruce Glavovic

The historical focus on physical perils, and reliance on risk quantification and policy prescriptions, does not prepare communities for disasters. It does not facilitate recovery. Disaster planning and governance need to focus attention on the drivers and root causes of vulnerability and risk that predispose people to disaster. It is time to institutionalise a Critical Disaster Planning perspective in Aotearoa. I draw insights from the 2010-2020 decade of disaster experiences in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Traditional disaster scholarship fails to expose the root causes and drivers of disaster risk. Traditional planning practice neither reduces disaster risk nor builds enduring community resilience.

I distil insights from a recent co-edited book: A Decade of Disaster Experiences in Ōtautahi Christchurch: Critical Disaster Studies Perspectives. I argue that Critical Disaster Studies are foundational for understanding how to reduce vulnerability. A Critical Disaster Planning perspective is key to future-proofing our communities. Ōtautahi disaster experiences demonstrate that navigating waves of disaster depends on how societal choices are made before, during and after disasters. These experiences testify to the dire consequences of governance and planning practices that close down opportunities for authentic public engagement, deliberation and reflexivity. I map bright and dark spots in the societal choices made through the decade. The central lesson for planners is the imperative to open-up opportunities for local communities to make societal choices with the support of governing authorities.

A critical praxis of disaster planning and governance has a strong ethical foundation and is geared towards averting dangerous climate change, environmental destruction, and confronting inequitable and unjust development in a Covid world. It is Te Tiriti o Waitangi-led. It is founded on visionary thinking, inclusive and robust deliberation, and underpinned by public trust and legitimacy. It fosters reflexivity and adaptative capacity. It unlocks agonistic potential by mediating divergent perspectives for the common good and confronts the drivers and root causes of vulnerability. It is human-scaled, embraces diversity and difference, and celebrates Mātauranga Māori, the human spirit, and the intrinsic value of non-human species and ecosystems.

Presented By

Bruce Glavovic