Rural–urban linkages in sustainability transitions: Challenges for economic geography and disaster recovery

Gordon M. Winder and Sahar Zavareh Hofmann

I Introduction

The United Nations (UN) Habitat’s SDG 11 calls for explicit consideration of rural-urban linkages when planning and researching urban futures. This suggests regional planning and economic modelling will be required along with attention to linkages and flows stretching outside the urban area. The SDG

II thus sets new goals for geographers and requires not only urban-regional economic models but also inclusion of diverse social, environmental and economic parameters plus relation to transition pathways, resilience goals and sustainability transitions thinking. This chapter investigates the recovery process following the 2010-2011 earthquake series in Christchurch, New Zealand with the UN Habitat initiative SDG 11 declaration of the significance of rural-urban linkages within disaster research in focus. It applies Srivastava’s (2017) rural-urban linkage framework identifying implications and challenges arising for economic geographers researching rural-urban linkages in disaster research with transitions and resilience in mind.

Christchurch, located in the Canterbury region of New Zealand, is the largest city on the South Island and second largest city in the country. The earthquakes during the period 2010-2011 are more commonly known as the Canterbury earthquake sequence. The most severe of these earthquakes took place on February 22, 2011, a Richter-Scale Magnitude 6.3 earthquake that killed 181 people and resulted in S40 billion NZ in total damages (Anderson 2014), with additional insured losses of $15 billion US (Parker & Steenkamp 2012). The earthquake sequence is the fifth largest insurance event in the world since the 1980s (Deloitte 2015). At the time of the earthquakes, Christchurch had a population of 425,000 with approximately 7,000 living in the central city. Canterbury had strong agriculture, manufacturing, health, social and education sectors, contributing 23.2 percent of national gross domestic product. Christchurch functions as a gateway to the South Island, has one of the largest deep-water seaports in the South Island and provides interconnected road, rail and coastal sea links necessary for imports and exports. The extensive damage to Christchurch and the port was seen as a great risk and recovery was given high priority (CERA 2016a, 2016b). Over 100,000 residential houses were damaged, requiring repairs or rebuilding, of which 7,000 homes were classified as "red zoned" (requiring total demolition). An estimated 400,000 insurance claims were filed with the Earthquake Commission (EQC). EQC was established in 1945 to provide national disaster insurance for residential properties including contents, dwellings and land. Despite having over 93 percent of the claims settled in late 2015, many homes are left demolished or awaiting repairs, indicating that recovery is far from finished (Hall et al. 2016).

Recovery in Christchurch became focused on resilience building after a shock with stress and involved working towards a sustainability transition. Authorities planned to build a new resilient city and to transform the urban environment. This process would involve many rural-urban as well as globalized linkages, either because of the multiple effects of the earthquake series, the needs, agendas and capabilities of the rebuilders, or the recovery implications for greater New Zealand. This has proven to be a difficult recovery for a city and region of the Global North, testifying to the challenges posed by the Habitat SDG Target 11.

  • 2 Disaster recovery design and conceptual tools
  • 2.1 Urban disasters

Natural disasters and hazards are a part of everyday life, demanding proactive approaches to mitigate risk and damages (Cutter 1993). It has long been recognized that cities and highly populated areas are increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural disasters (Mitchell 1995, 1998, 1999). Over the past decade, the UN placed much emphasis on mitigation of natural disasters in megacities (Mustow 1994). Declining urban infrastructure has exposed cities to severe risks and vulnerabilities throughout the developed world. As risk becomes normalized and accepted in urban settings, communities in urban locations are subjected to additional risk from severe natural disaster events (Pelling 2012). The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the 2010 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are all recent cases in developed countries that emphasize the recent challenges and gaps in hazards research (Hewitt 2013). Rural resources can be used in disaster recovery such as in temporary shelters or housing, emergency services, facilities for displaced or disrupted business services, food banks and other critical disaster recovery services. Managing these resources and the potential ties and connections between urban and rural areas can also support the on-going recovery as well as promote a stronger process (Srivastava & Shaw 2016).

Resilience in systems

The term “resilience” is often and properly understood as a property of a system, and so must be related to an appropriate system model. Within global environmental research, “resilience” relates to the general persistence of ecological system functions, adaptation of humans in nature and societal resilience to ecological transformations but will take on specific meanings. In hazards research the focus is on how societies (considered as systems) deal with environmental risks and hazards (Keck & Sakdapolrak 2013). Recently, economic geographers have proposed conceptual frameworks for regional (Martin & Sunley 2015) and sectoral (Fromhold-Eisebith 2015) economic resilience. Martin and Sunley (2015) argue that there is no theory, agreed definition or accepted methodology for "economic resilience”, little discussion on how it should relate to uneven regional development, regional competitiveness or regional path dependence, and no consensus on what determines it. They acknowledge scepticism among their colleagues about the normative and neoliberal aspects of the use of “resilience", competing terms from within economics and limited conceptualization of environment within economic systems. They highlight other perceived weaknesses in economic resilience thinking: A failure to relate "resilience” to regional evolutionary paths, to regional or sectoral economic performance or. more precisely, to a regional economic system model. We add that rural-urban linkages are rarely featured in "economic resilience” thinking. To remedy these problems, they argue that elements and indicators used in the model need to be subjected to statistical tests of the theorized drivers of resilience. Only then can "resilience" be understood in terms of elements critical or redundant to economic system functioning. In this thinking the SDG 11 call should result in explicit consideration of rural-urban linkages in a regional economic system model.

Resilience in transitions and transition pathways

Frameworks for thinking about “resilience" in the context of sustainability transitions are proliferating, but in them “resilience" does not refer to a property of an ecological, economic or social system. Instead, “resilience” is a continuously redefined, reworked and therefore shifting target and one often understood in terms of vaguely defined transitions, themselves grafted on to existing institutions and governance structures. Here "resilience” thinking is normative: What should be done to effect a transition. These findings are reflected in recent reviews of discussions of "resilience" across the social sciences. Keck and Sakdapolrak (2013) observe a shift in meaning, from persistence of ecological system functions to social transformation in the face of global change. They find that “the search for new approaches to resiliencebuilding is revealed to be not merely a technical question but a contested political one" (Keck & Sakdapolrak 2013, p. 14). Similarly, Davoudi et al. (2012) finds that "social resilience" is conceived of as a dynamic, relational and political process and "vulnerability” is viewed as a counterpart to "resilience” within development studies.

In this context, the "multi-scale framework” for analysing transformation processes based on Grin et al. (2010), and used in the Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveranderungen report (WBGU 2011) is a useful starting point for thinking through the narrative at work. It is assumed that by identifying desirable outcomes, it will be possible to engage governments and other actors to achieve them, often by adopting technical solutions to problems. The result will be local reactions, connected to global processes, entangled in practices, regulations and institutions. Communication problems may emerge when mobilizing for transformation within such a framework. For example, business owners respond to calls to innovate or adopt “pro-environment practices" in diverse ways because they weigh up costs and benefits (North 2016). Questions may arise, such as what does innovation mean, when have we achieved transformation, are agencies promoting conflicting goals or are the effects of policies and projects displacing effects to other subsystems and regions (Winder & Bobar 2018)? In effect, the multi-scale framework legitimizes action but the terms - niche niveau, system mega trends, regimes, abrupt events - as well as the interactions and relationships used are deliberately underspecified. The multi-scale framework is not specified as a model or a system with its related data, factors and tested relationships. When using such a framework, researchers must conceive of resilience as a legitimizing narrative around which actors are enrolled in a common project.

The conceptual framework of Leach et al. (2010) is prominent in the literature on transition pathways. It enables scholars to understand and represent a system while narratives shape problem identification and reactions, drawing together scientific understanding of natural processes and constructivist interpretations of the socio-political world promoted by actors, networks and institutions. It is the narratives that “justify kinds of action, strategy and intervention” (Leach et al. 2010, p. 374). By relating "tempo of change” (“stress” or "shock”) to "response to change” (“responsive, adaptive management” or "control-oriented management”), Leach et al. (2010) define four "styles of action" where "resilience” is only one style of action, and should not be thought of as a property of the system.

Their approach directs attention to the narratives, including those of “resilience", that are being used in policy making. They establish a framework for thinking through policy making: Defining governance arrangements, identifying future challenges, relating goals to assessment, classifying pathways, discussing “shock” and “stress”, and discussing “respond” and "control” styles of action. They recognize that a policy response might be different or have different effects depending on which entity is being examined, at what scale, in which space and in which institutional context, and that there are versions of sustainability each valued by different groups in society or linked to specific goals (Leach et al. 2010). This framework can help to make sense of how "resilience" is being used in the UN Habitat SDG 11 challenge: "resilience” is not defined as a property of a system but as a narrative related to a framework related to a recovery process. In particular, this is the thinking behind a recently proposed “framework" for researching rural-urban linkages in disaster research.

Rural-urban linkages in disaster research

Srivastava (2017) applies an rural-urban linkage framework to disasters in South Asia using a time-scale of pre-disaster, disaster and post-disaster phases. The rural-urban linkage and interdependency structure developed by Srivastava and Shaw (2013) identifies eight key elements and interdependencies in disasters (Table 4.1). They argue that disasters literature emphasizes economic impacts after disasters in urban areas or developed countries but should include comprehensive assessments and analysis assessing demographic and migration patterns. The negative effects on the environment, especially water, land and energy, are of great concern to stakeholders since rural incomes and urban recovery depend upon these resources.

Many markets rely on bidirectional flows between urban and rural areas of products such as raw and unprocessed materials needed for manufacturing and agriculture. After a disaster, money tends to flow from urban to rural areas in the form of remittances with short-term losses for regional economies. Investments made during recovery and rebuilding also provide unique financial gains and can aid in poverty reduction if managed properly. Waste is seen as a physical linkage between urban and rural areas because investments are not often made in waste disposal following a disaster, resulting in the majority of waste being discarded into landfills located in rural landscapes.

Table 4.1 Rural-urban linkage elements and indicators




Population movements and demographic patterns

Natural Resources

Environmental indicators for water, land and energy


Flows of materials and products


Flows of remittances and investments


Waste disposal patterns


Information flows and state of connectivity

Social Interactions

Cultural exchanges and trauma support


Agents formally and informally responsible in community recovery

Source: Srivastava (2017).

The related potential pollution and health hazards pose serious threats to rural and neighbouring areas with indirect long-term economic effects.

The urban and rural are also linked by flows of information relating to resources, opportunities and relief efforts. Consequently, rate and flow of information and the state of connectivity, transportation or sharing of technology are all important components of recovery. Rural residents can play vital roles in recovery, for example by providing support for urban residents suffering from trauma. Governance also involves rural-urban linkages whereby formal governments, informal agents, organizations and NGOs have responsibilities in sharing and administering policies and procedures, as well as having vested interests in the community and recovery.

Srivastava (2017) expanded the rural-urban linkage disasters framework to include "shock" and “stress” scenarios emphasizing the need to apply the framework to urban disasters in developed countries. The framework is in fact a set of narratives about the importance of rural-urban linkages in effecting a “resilient” recovery. Remittances can be redirected to support recovery. Investments can be managed to aid in poverty reduction. The dumping of wastes must be managed so as to avoid potential pollution and health hazards, especially in rural areas. Such narratives carry relational logics that are connected to a framework that helps make sense and meaning of the recovery process. Note that Srivastava does not expect this framework to be supported by a socio-ecological or regional economy system model, and so the interrelations remain unspecified.

Case study approach

In this research the rural-urban disaster linkage framework will be applied to a case of the Christchurch earthquake and recovery process with the aim to build understanding of rural-urban linkages in disaster recovery management lacking in developed countries. We aim to identify linkages and flows in the Christchurch recovery process, and to highlight their relevance for improving disaster recovery with a focus on resilience. Data was collected from initial recovery observations in Christchurch, interviews and secondary data analysis. However, our focus for this chapter will address only elements of governance, people, financial and waste (Table 4.2). In each case, we first identify the geographies, scales and relationalities associated with rural-urban linkages and then discuss their impact on the recovery process. We pay attention to the availability of data, issues of scale, prospects for management of and interactions among flows and linkages and politics of the transition making and responsibilization taking place around them. We demonstrate a narrative of "building back better” in Christchurch was entangled in both rural-urban linkages and national and global linkages. We identify challenges for economic geographers applying the rural-urban disaster linkage framework in developed countries.

Rural-urban linkages in Christchurch earthquake recovery

7.1 Governance

Following the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011, Christchurch, Waimakariri. and Selwyn District Councils of Canterbury declared local states of emergency (Johnson & Olshansky 2017). National and local government agencies fell short in managing recovery, resulting in the establishment of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), a special government agency responsible for recovery and rebuilding of the Canterbury Region. CERA operated for five years and ceased operations in April 2016. Additionally, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act (CER Act) gave extraordinary powers to the Minister of Earthquake Recovery and Cabinet (Brand & Nicholson 2016).

The initial emergency response led by the Christchurch City Council (CCC) established the Infrastructure Rebuild Management Office (IRMO) to begin immediate city infrastructure repairs. IRMO divided the city into four regions, delegating New Zealand construction companies to manage repairs and emergency responses. After multiple earthquake events, CCC developed a new procurement model, the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) to handle increasing workloads and demands. The SCIRT alliance was formed with national and local governments and the New Zealand Transport Agency as owner participants, and five major New Zealand construction companies as non-owner participants. SCIRT assumed responsibility for infrastructure repairs such as roads, utilities, water supply, wastewater, bridges and pump stations (Botha & Scheepbouwer 2016). SCIRT was funded by New Zealand taxpayers, Christchurch ratepayers and a portion of insurance claims. Total rebuild projects were estimated to cost between two and three billion New Zealand dollars limited to five years and S2.1 NZ billion in spending (SCIRT 2017).

Shortly after the February 2011 earthquake, CERA began developing a Christchurch-at-large recovery plan. CCC was asked to provide a draft recovery plan for the central city requiring approval by the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. CCC’s Share an Idea campaign took eight months, resulting in a concept of radical urban planning interpreted as a community-led bottom-up practice focused on public spaces, green projects, sustainability, housing, art, culture and transportation initiatives (Brand & Nicholson 2016).

Concerns as to how recovery would be financed and managed led to contested politics (Miles 2012). CCC's plan was rejected by the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, who deemed it too ambitious for implementation. The Minister directed CERA to rework the plan within 100 days. The result, the Christchurch Recovery Plan, more commonly known as the “Blueprint”, was seen as a top-down structure and plan focused on national government priorities involving reconstruction of

Sustainability transitions 71 critical public and economic infrastructure with a dramatic reduction in the central city core area (Brand & Nicholson 2016).

CERA claimed that the earthquakes resulted in an “unprecedented opportunity” to remake Christchurch into an international city with a unique investment environment open for innovation, enterprise and diversity. "Red tape" would be cut, granting CERA special powers to fast-track recovery, revise building codes and allow cutting-edge construction technologies and a five-day approval process for central city resource consent applications. The Blueprint featured 17 anchor projects (Table 4.2) designed to catalyse investments across the city centre using investment and funding models (CERA 2016a).

Outcomes of the anchor projects were largely viewed as the benchmarks for success or failure of CERA’s legacy. Five years into the recovery many projects were either still under construction, in planning or development stages or left vacant and undeveloped due to expensive demolitions. Only three Blueprint projects were completed at the end of CERA’s programme with only one, the Bus Interchange, completed near the target timeframe, whereas ten projects should have been finished. Despite announcement of expansive rebuild projects, funding and initiatives, many media reports cited slow recovery. Effective April 2016, CERA was disbanded and dissolved into Regenerate Christchurch Otakaro Ltd., and the Greater Christchurch Group (Wright 2016).

A further feature of recovery governance was the rezoning of land containing approximately 7,000 homes unsuitable for repairs as the "red zone”, subject to national government/CERA purchases. The dispute settlement process implemented resulted in some property owners losing equity or being unable to afford to purchase a similar property elsewhere, resulting in a group of “socio-economically disenfranchised individuals” who are unable or unwilling to participate in the rebuild (Miles 2012). Thus the red zone, which cut across the idea of rural-urban linkages and divides, imposed penalties on some would-be rebuilders, constraining options and capacities and forcing some to migrate. For many residents, the housing rebuilding process was often a traumatic experience due to the complications of EQC governance.

Governance of the region’s natural environment remained intact, while recovery transformed governance of the city’s built environment. CERA helped plan a regional-scale initiative coordinated by existing governance structures along with Maori involvement, insuring future natural environment services. In addition, both CERA’s and CCC’s efforts to open rural and edge city land for urban development stalled. No common vision has emerged for the rural-urban boundary in the greater Christchurch region (GCR). Further, the resilience-oriented recovery has interacted with other transition narratives, furthering planning for regional ecosystem services while sidelining an eco-mobility transition.

72 Gordon M. Winder and Sahar Zavareh Hofmann

Table 4.2 Christchurch Central: Anchor projects and precincts



The Frame

Urban design feature for green city core

Convention Centre Precinct

Facility for domestic and international conventions


35.000-seat facility to accommodate sports, concerts and events

Metro Sports Facility

Recreation centre

Bus Interchange

Public transport exchange

Te Papa Otakaro/Avon River Precinct

Urban river park renewal project

Te Puna Ahurea Cultural Centre

Centre to celebrate Ngai Tahu and Maori culture

The Square

Green area

Performing Arts Precinct

Creative and cultural hub for city centre

Health Precinct

Hospital site with education, innovation, and research facility

Cricket Oval

Cricket venue for domestic and international tests

Residential Demonstration Project

Medium-density housing for inner city living

Central Library

Knowledge hub for city centre

Innovation Precinct

Technology-based industry and research project

Retail Precinct

Retail shopping destination

The Earthquake Memorial

To honour and reflect on those affected by the earthquakes

Justice and Emergency Services Precinct

Justice, police, civil defence and emergency services

Source: CERA 2016a

7.2 People

A national census survey was underway when the February 2011 earthquake struck. Much of the census data reporting for 2011 was cancelled, resulting in no data being available for 2006-2013. Results of the 2018 census have not yet been released (Stats NZ 2019). Media reports often cited that between 26,000 and 70,000 people, or perhaps 20 percent of the Christchurch population permanently left the city as a result of the earthquakes and damage in 2011 (Sachdeva & Levy 2011: Binning 2011). However, these figures appear to be invalid. Studies of population movements reveal no more than a 2 percent change in permanent migration patterns leaving or entering either Christchurch or the GCR (Stevenson et al. 2011; Love 2011). Nevertheless, the GCR experienced significant population changes resulting from the earthquake events. CCC (2018) reports GCR population in June 2011 at 454,600. The city's population loss was 14,000 in 2010 and 2011, and additional 7,200

Sustainability transitions 73 between 2011 and 2012, or 6 percent of the city’s pre-earthquake population. The city’s population rebounded once the housing supply increased along with new employment opportunities, on average 1.5 percent growth per annum or 5.600 people per year. The GCR population exceeded pre-earth-quake populations, reaching 500,100 in June 2017 and 511,300 in June 2018. The GCR population is expected to continue to increase, but growth scenarios suggest considerable uncertainty. Migration was the largest contributor to population growth in 2012-2013 due to the demand for skilled workers and labourers. These figures support immediate post-event population transfer from urban to rural areas as urban residents sought available housing, temporary or permanent work places and access to other critical services.

Maori populations (indigenous New Zealanders) largely reside in low socio-economic areas severely impacted by the earthquakes, and were dis-proportionally affected in managing access to resources. This resulted in a Maori tribal disaster response and recovery network (Maori Recovery Network or MRN) based on Maori culture, values and practices and led by the Ngai Tahu tribal council to ensure a coordinated response with other agencies (local and national). Maori residents received direct support from Christchurch-based marae (Maori community centres) such as Rehua and Nga Hau E Wha, which provided resources to rural areas as needed. Tribes based in the North Island also provided hubs to support earthquake support centres for their people in Canterbury (Kenney & Phibbs 2014).

The New Zealand Budget for 2012 issued a S442 million package designed to cope with the anticipated shortfall of skilled workers, especially in engineering. construction and management professions. This resulted in increasing numbers of workers migrating from the United Kingdom, Ireland. United States, Philippines and China (Pickles 2016; Stevenson et al. 2012). This inflow of largely male trade workers was interpreted as a demographic rupture by some residents who additionally cited unfair labour practices (Pickles 2016).

7.3 Financial

The earthquakes resulted in sudden disruptions to many economic sectors including tourism, hospitality, retail, manufacturing, telecommunications and healthcare but did not severely impact overall economic activity (Chang et al. 2014; Parker & Steenkamp 2012; Orchiston et al. 2012; Stevenson et al. 2011, 2012). Economic recovery was slower than predicted for the Canterbury region in part due to a weak global economy and a high level of uncertainty surrounding rebuilding. Businesses were largely seen as resilient to the economic impacts (Parker & Steenkamp 2012).

Firms faced reduced capacity, increased demand, higher administrative costs because of the need to manage insurance claims, relocations and tax deferments, while employees simultaneously dealt with damaged or lost homes and helping family members or loved ones, as well as managing theshock and trauma of experiencing the earthquakes. In these circumstances, workforce support was one of the most important types of help provided for businesses and organizations. Employee wage losses were offset with the Earthquake Support Subsidy provided by the national government for the 2010-2011 earthquakes, allowing employers to continue paying wages during loss of business (Stevenson et al. 2014). Retail, accommodation and food sectors had the largest unemployment (in that order). Female workers had the most job losses and construction had the largest gain of employment (Parker & Steenkamp 2012). Overall. Canterbury had a 17 percent gain in employment with a 23 percent increase in job placement for the period between September 2012 and September 2017. By 2017, retail trade and accommodation added 17,500 more workers, up 46 percent from 2011. Median incomes also rose 26 percent from 2010, nearly 5 percent higher than the national average (18 percent) in New Zealand (Stats NZ 2018).

Businesses and industries assisted one another to bridge ties to other networks and network actors to maintain operations. For example, pharmacies temporarily shared premises or made orders through another pharmacy supplier. They assisted one another with deliveries, and used storage and warehouse facilities in Wellington. Within Canterbury, local economies impacted by the earthquakes obtained 70 percent of this assistance from organizations located in Canterbury (so a high level of rural support), 24 percent from elsewhere in New Zealand, and 4 percent internationally. However, 40 percent of the financial resources used to manage recovery were obtained outside of Canterbury due to the spatial distribution of monetary resources, discounts and credits used by businesses (Stevenson et al. 2012).

Christchurch's Central Business District (CBD) experienced severe damage, resulting in local government and CERA implementing cordons to restrict access. Over 700 of the total of 1,000 commercial buildings initially designated for demolition were demolished. In the short term, CBD businesses were not allowed to operate and had to be temporarily relocated, resulting in a 31 percent permanent business closure. Suburban commercial space charged higher rents with multi-year leases. Business interruption insurance was available for some firms but often faced claim challenges, such as denial-of-access terms to allow businesses denied access to their building to be still be eligible for insurance pay-outs. The CBD's long-term outlook was uncertain because of firm relocations, concerns over insurance pay-outs, total demolitions, total buildings being reconstructed, policies on building standards and treatment of heritage buildings (Chang et al. 2014).

Global-local geographies of financial flows and linkages occurred due to bankruptcies of local insurance companies, liabilities for reinsurance companies and the reorganization of EQC finances. The New Zealand property insurance market has been reregulated, resulting in dramatic increases of insurance premiums for all New Zealand property owners as well as reassessment of risks as evidenced by heritage buildings deemed too expensive to insure or outright uninsurable (Gibson 2013a, 2013b, 2013c). Massive sums of

Sustainability transitions 75 money changed hands but these were not flows from rural to urban areas. Rather, inter-corporate and global transfers occurred, facilitating or constraining local rebuilding capacities. Neither local geographies, linkages or flows produced are necessarily marked by a rural-urban divide. In addition, there were flow-on effects well beyond Canterbury, including the reprioritization and delay of infrastructure projects elsewhere due to either government funding or lack of capacity to manage reconstruction recovery. Thus, the disaster continues to have financial effects, not necessarily in rural Canterbury, but throughout New Zealand.

7.4 Waste

Waste management policies were not considered part of the Christchurch planning process so were managed by local and national government agencies and contractors. CERA adopted a "quick pick and go" method to direct waste to its end-use market (Domingo & Luo 2017). CBD building demolitions created a significant amount of debris and issues for waste management. This resulted in investment in processing facilities at landfills to manage possible reuse of materials and avoid potential drinking water contamination. Since the CBD was cordoned off, a controlled construction zone for presorting and concrete-crushing was possible and allowed building owners to sell salvaged materials (Chang et al. 2014). However, recent findings indicate treatment of waste at debris sites was either mishandled or ignored (Brown et al. 2011; Domingo & Luo 2017).

Approximately 4.25 million tonnes of demolition waste were processed at the Burwood Resource Recovery Park. Land reclamation was used to dispose of “clean" waste but most waste was sent to landfills due to the inadequate separation of waste during removal resulting in more waste. Surcharges were applied at the landfills to cover the handling of asbestos waste from demolitions. However, levies usually assessed on waste disposal in order to reduce waste transferred to landfills were eliminated to encourage recovery (Domingo & Luo 2017).

Despite numerous damage reports, the potable water system proved to be much more resilient than expected and services were quickly restored. Maori Wardens and community volunteers assisted the New Zealand Armed Forces in distributing chemical toilets and often responded to issues with sanitation services (Kenney & Phibbs 2014). Approximately 780 port-a-loos were distributed around the Christchurch region with an additional 250 in transit from other regions in New Zealand and 963 from the United States, as well as another 30,000 requested by CCC (Potangaroa et al. 2011).


This investigation of the centralized approach to the Christchurch earthquake recovery programmes and economic impacts of the disaster reveals therecovery process as an example of an abrupt event with unexpected consequences despite extensive planning and potential risk reduction. Government responded to "shocks" with "responsive action" as a “resilience" style under the Leach et al. (2010) framework. Fundamental, long-term and wide-ranging socio-economic system transformations were planned. For example, part of the city will never be rebuilt: It was located in the wrong place due to environmental and geotechnical factors. Significant funds were available for recovery, since nearly all property and infrastructure was fully insured. New governance shaped geographies of recovery stories inside the Canterbury region but these do not adhere to rural-urban divides, linkages and flows.

The "drawn-out” rebuilding of the city centre contrasts with both the quick resumption of business-as-usual in many rural and suburban areas and the long-term paralysis associated with red zone property futures. Miles (2012) contends that CERA’s role became politicized, seen as a vehicle for the top-down decisions, obstructing opportunities for the affected community to be active in the creation of the recovery plan, while emphasizing residents’ roles as taxpayers, ratepayers and consumers of services rather than as citizens. New governance relations reclassified some property rights. This perception is not shared by all commentators, but certainly the chosen leadership and governance styles influenced by planners, engineers, designers, disaster specialists, NGOs, and the local and national government were all, one way or another, shocks to the community. More importantly, they were shocks to the adaptive capacities of residents across the region, favouring some and penalizing others. Yet, the new political climate did not clearly divide the region on urban versus rural lines. Rather, the new governance relations involved the temporary dissolution of local governance and the promotion of experts and corporations from outside the region.

New mobility patterns, including migration to rural areas, occurred as a result of the February earthquake events as residents resorted to their extended support networks. The flows proved difficult to discern because of the multiple earthquake series and disruption of normal data gathering, but movements went well beyond migration to adjacent rural areas to include migration to greater New Zealand and emigration. For residents, such as many Maori, who were unwilling or unable to move, national and regional support began to be delivered through Christchurch-based service providers, and notably the city’s maraes also supported affected rural communities. Further, these responses were soon overridden by a wave of immigration of construction workers from overseas. Thus, the framework's narrative of mobilizing rural support for urban recovery is less relevant in the Christchurch recovery than the use of global, national and regional resources, many of which could be brought to Christchurch.

The earthquakes disrupted Christchurch CBD businesses, forcing relocation of operations and acceptance of assistance from the national government or other Canterbury firms or networks to stay in business. Rural to urban support did occur, but the precise geography of these flows of finance and assistance varied

Sustainability transitions 77 by business networks and access. In addition, the earthquake recovery induced massive financial flows from the global insurance industry into New Zealand. While these flows were delayed in reaching Christchurch, they had profound effects including facilitating strategic investments in the Canterbury economy that would not otherwise have occurred and channelling construction capabilities away from other New Zealand regions to Christchurch. Operations at Christchurch's vital South Island transport infrastructure, the port and airport, were only partially disrupted by the earthquake events, but recovery has enabled large-scale reinvestment in transport and tourism-related infrastructure, facilitating increased agricultural export and tourism activity. Such flows were not expected in existing regional economic models whose parameters and trends have been transformed by the earthquakes and recovery.


The analysis and discussion makes it evident that: (1) The elements in the rural-urban linkages framework are interconnected; (2) the relationalities assumed in Srivastava and Shaw’s (2013, 2016) framework do not always hold; and (3) emphasis on rural-urban linkages may obscure other geographies of the recovery. This recovery involves rural transformation where rural infrastructure is repaired, semi-periphery housing is needed, and agricultural intensification is planned. Simultaneously, it requires urban transformation: A new, smaller CBD is built and the red zone is demolished to allow restoration of vital ecosystem services. It also involves global flows and linkages: Insurance funds and construction workers flow in from overseas; there is some outmigration to other regions and countries as well as the urban periphery; international insurance companies suffer losses; New Zealand earthquake risks are reset; there are flow-on effects to other New Zealand regions. Ultimately, “the long series of physical aftershocks carries on and the local, national and global implications of Canterbury's loss continue to reverberate" (Pickles 2016, p. 6).

The disaster and recovery involved tele-coupling between regions, and between physical systems (atmosphere, land and ocean), but also among economic and social systems and at all scales: The global, national, inter-regional, urban, peri-urban and rural are entangled. With such surprise events as these, the idea that economic geographers can be prepared to deploy their carefully researched models of (socio-ecological or regional economic) systems at the right regional scale to advise on building back better is a highly questionable endeavour. Such an abrupt event transforms research questions, governance structures, ideas about resilience and framings of economic systems that do refer to the environment. Instead, economic geographers can understand "resilience" as a narrative of recovery within a transition framework and therefore as a specific and shifting politics of recovery with contested terms of reference. The challenge for economic geographers is to come to terms with "resilience” as a narrative within a transition framework.

78 Gordon M. Winder and Sahar Zavareh Hofmann


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