On Thursday it will be four years since the Darfield Fault erupted and threw Canterbury into disarray. It will also be four years since neighbours who were so badly affected joined together to discuss the event, questions, concerns and most importantly of all, solutions.
As awful as the experience of the quake was, the collective thinking was powerful and positive. CanCERN’s roots are in this collective solutions-focused approach, and although it is now much more of a struggle to convince affected residents that a solutions-focused approach is still a valuable one, we stick to what we know, what we are good at, and we capitalise on the relationships we have formed.
A convivial coffee conversation with a resident this week made us reflect on our role, our purpose and our operational work. In some ways we have also become a little jaded about just how much we can change at the very high level. We have better access than ever to the right level of person and planning to have an influence and we take every opportunity we get. However, we also admit we have lowered our expectations in some areas and tend to focus on what we can do for residents with what they have been given in terms of recovery decisions. We are happy now if we can help to unstick residents one at a time. We have lost some of the energy we had for whole cultural and organisational change.
We do see some great examples of people turning to neighbours, friends and social media for advice and receiving just the kind of help they need to make a confident decision about some element of their recovery process.
But over time (too much time), generally the collective community response has very much dismantled into an individual response – just fix my house please. The times when we are most likely to see a collective response is when people have connected over the negatives of their situations and although it is hugely important to be supported by those who understand you, it is not often a place where solutions are the focus of conversation.
John Campbell is heading to Christchurch on September 4th to film his show live from the east. He has invited ICNZ, EQC and Minister Gerry Brownlee to front up and answer some questions, and he has invited residents who are not yet settled to come and be the audience. Mr Brownleee is not attending. According to John, the purpose of the live show is to help people make progress.
We support making progress and we generally support the role that Campbell Live has played in keeping the reality of the resident’s experience in the news. However, at great risk of getting hate mail, we have to say that we just don’t think this is at all helpful or a healthy vehicle for making progress.
At best, Tim Grafton from ICNZ and Ian Simpson from EQC will be able to explain some of the challenges and roadblocks – it would be in their best interests to tell the good, the bad and the ugly instead of just throwing out the word ‘complex’.
At worst, they will talk about progress statistics to an audience that probably isn’t a part of them.
Residents will be mistrusting and angry (understandably so) and probably won’t hear anything other than spin and defence. John Campbell will be left trying to get the crowd quiet enough to get a question in.
Where is the solution in this?
There were some daunting examples of lateral spread after the September 2010 quake and we were amazed at the size of the gaps left in our city. There is an even more daunting gap now – the gap between resident and recovery. To stand on opposite sides of the gap is useless because we can only shout across the cavern. Perhaps it is time we all tried jumping into the gap together and figuring out a way to get the last man out.