For the first few weeks, it was shovelling. Then it was door-knocking. Then it was fund-raising to buy food and deliver it to welfare centres, attending memorial services, participating in MP briefings, and travelling into the suburbs and Lyttelton for meetings with Green members and others.
Now it is time to refocus and plan for our rebuild. For that I’m convening a series of public forums across Christchurch designed to engage the public in developing a collective vision of a future new city. The link to our website on these forums is here.
The first meeting was last week, on 20 April, just before Easter. It was a tremendous success – with about 200 people attending on a cold night in the Netball Centre Hall at Hagley Park. Five experts gave spell-binding presentations on their vision of a 21st-century eco-city that would be Christchurch.
- Di Lucas conveyed her insights on how the land should be respected, to mould the shape and nature of the city.
- Suzanne Vallance asked us to consider what it is to be a community, either during times of normalcy or times of crisis.
- Jasper van der Lingen showed us, through beautiful slides, how green spaces might bring a city together.
- Andy Buchanan explained how wood can be utilised as the most environmentally harmonious and resilient structure for buildings – whether residential or commercial.
- Chris Kissling offered a vision of how public and private transport can complement rather than compete to the common good.
- John Peet, summing up, made it clear that we must, above all, attain strong sustainability, sooner rather than later, if our communities are to survive over the long-term, rather than simply the short-term.
Following the presentations, participants broke into five discussion groups reflecting the themes of the evening – landscape, city, architecture, building, and transport. Facilitators reported back to the plenary session. A lively general discussion ensued.
For my own part, I sensed six related thoughts emerging in support of a common vision. They were: green spaces, social harmony, architectural beauty, environmental sustainability, community resilience and risk management. How these gel into one strategic vision remains to be thought through.
We are not there yet. There is a variety of ideas, not all entirely compatible. But that is a good sign. It means that civic engagement is kicking in. If we can achieve the optimal balance between expertise and public insight in developing our collective ideas of how to rebuild a city for our descendants – fifty, a hundred years from now – we shall have met our responsibility to posterity.
Next meetings are in Lyttelton and then New Brighton. Programmes will appear on the website shortly.