Learning from the rubble: the case of Christchurch, New Zealand, after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes

Disasters. 2019 Apr;43(2):431-455. doi: 10.1111/disa.12322. Epub 2018 Dec 18.


Learning after a disaster is crucial in creating more resilient places. However, many societies are repeatedly overwhelmed by disasters. This can be because of missed opportunities to learn in post-disaster settings or because of actions implemented that seem to be highly relevant to recovery in the short term, but potentially constrain aspirations in the longer term. This paper assesses learning processes among state and non-state actors and the ways in which these are bridged and scaled up to wider improvements in governance. Aiming to enrich understanding of post-disaster learning, it explores different actors' response actions after the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2010 and 2011. On the one hand, 'learning by doing' is occurring, yet, on the other hand, systemic learning is hindered by mismatches between top-down steering and bottom-up initiatives. The study concludes that better linking and synergising of learning processes among different levels is vital for enhancing resilience in post-disaster societies.

Keywords: Christchurch; New Zealand; bottom-up initiatives; governance; learning; post-disaster recovery; resilience.

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Earthquakes*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • New Zealand