What we've learnt - a way forwardWhen 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?