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Lyttelton, portal to Canterbury’s historic past, a vibrant sustainable community creating a living future

What we've learnt - a way forward

When the big one shook us, we were not prepared. We had no Civil Defence functioning in Lyttelton. Those systems failed. Fortunately other community based systems coped admirably.

"The spirit of Lyttelton shone through. You were lucky to have Project Lyttelton, the volunteer fire brigade and people who cared a lot. I am proud of how we responded," said Ruth Dyson in her opening comments at a public meeting to discuss earthquake related issues.

But why didn't Civil Defence respond as you might have expected?

Civil Defence is "us" not "them". Civil Defence organisers for years have been encouraging people to get involved. We didn't.

They had warned that in any major disaster Lyttelton could be cut off and be on its own, without support from the city. This became our experience.

There may be reasons for this lack of involvement. One group, Civil Defence, struggles to get volunteers; other groups, Project Lyttelton and the Information Centre, have 100s of volunteers. The reason for this disparity - different cultures. Civil Defence is hierarchical, run on a military model - directive. Project Lyttelton structurally is a much flatter organisation - it consciously values all the skills that everyone can contribute - this releases creativity in people. Similarly the Information Centre. As a model this style attracts volunteers.

An outcome of Thursday's public meeting discussing earthquake related issues was an invitation from Council.

This invitation was for this community to help the Council create a Civil Defence plan for Lyttelton. This shows a desire from Council for our community to be involved in creating such a plan.

We, however, need to take the initiative, take the leadership role in this. Here is this community's opportunity to come together and work out a plan for any future occurrence based on our experience and set of skills supported by Council. A community driven and hence owned plan.

This needs to happen sooner rather than later while we are close in time to our recent experiences.

Wishful thinkers may believe that our recent earthquake was "it" for hundreds of years now, so the need is gone. But there are other scenarios.

We could look at these earthquakes as a shake up - a call for us to get to know our neighbours and our community better - to look at our resilience. We experienced the tunnel and Evans Pass being closed, our community being isolated. How do we improve our resilience?

Last year a large team of scientific writers and reviewers under Sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand (SANZ) writing about Strong Sustainability said...

Complex global changes have already begun that will take human civilisation outside the range of prior experience in terms of magnitude, speed of arrival and simultaneity. These changes will cause abrupt and radical shifts in human living, work and recreation. If the responses to these changes are sensible they will mark the early steps on the path to a sustainable New Zealand.

Looking at the global issues of climate change and peak oil and how they are now playing out on the planet, we realise there are other challenges that will occur apart from earthquakes. We need to plan for those as well.

Planning both for the immediate needs brought about by a disaster and for the longer time period that follows the initial "hit".

Project Lyttelton with "sustainable" in its vision statement has been addressing some of the needs that could arise out of these situations. It is trying to establish local food production, to build up an asset map of the area, it has set up a Time Bank to facilitate the sharing of skills, systems to encourage clear communication, it has explored power generation from our green waste, sparked off a collective savings pool to access interest free loans...

The Information Centre acts as a natural hub, co-ordinating information as it comes to hand, responding and directing.

Marry all this together with the skills and technology that exist within the community that have not yet come together in a co-ordinated way, we in the Harbour Basin have the potential of becoming quite resilient.

Who wants to be involved?

Margaret Jefferies

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328 9260


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South Korea learns from Lyttelton

Marg Korea

When time bank organisers in South Korea heard of a conference being organised to talk about empowering communities in the wake of disaster they suggested Margaret Jefferies be invited to speak on the experiences with disaster in Lyttelton/Christchurch.

The host of the forum was looking for a case where victims actively participated as agents of social reconstruction and healing.
Margaret travelled with Project Lyttelton board member Anne Mackay in November to attend the conference and visit time banks in South Korea.

The conference was hosted by the 4.16 Foundation, and it addressed “Contemplating Victims Rights in a Risk Society”

“The 4.16 Foundation has formed around the Seawol,” Margaret said.

“They wanted to look at “How can we prevent disasters, how can we manage them better?’,” she said.

Many in the audience were families of the children killed in the 2014 Sewol tragedy and were new to the concept and practice of time banking.
The first day was visits to the memorial sites, the second day was the presentations and the third day was questions and answers.
The overloaded South Korean ferry MV Seawol capsized on April 16, 2014 with 476 passengers on board. Three hundred and four people died including 250 children who were out on a school trip.
Many families of victims still feel angry at the inadequate response and lack of accountability on all levels.
Margaret presented a talk, ‘Recent disasters in New Zealand and how we are coping in a humane way’, on the role the Time Bank played in the aftermath of the earthquakes. She also spoke on her work with the Christchurch Muslim community about moving forward together in an empowered way after the March 15 terrorist attack. Read Margaret’s talk here
Margaret said the the people were beautiful and the memorials were very moving.
“There were people from other disasters there too. It sounds heavy but it wasn’t really. It was about seeing patterns and overcoming them,” Margaret said.
Margaret welcomed the interest shown in time banking at the conference.
“It was really good having Anne there too with her legal background, particularly with questions around some of the legal aspects of the disasters,” Margaret said.
The rest of the trip was meeting with people from time banks in Seoul and Gumi.
The time banks in South Korea have been set up to work with specific communities.
In Seoul the church based time bank focuses a lot of its efforts around people with special needs, the church community has also pooled money to buy a house for youth accommodation.
“It’s very practical, big stuff really,” Margaret said.
The time bank in Gumi is associated with a senior club. It’s very active with around 1800 members.
“A scheme in South Korea sees seniors paid for up to 15 hours a month if they want to continue work, and if they do more they can do it through the time bank,” Margaret said.
“It’s really interesting seeing different time banks using the same tools different ways.”