2014 Reflection

Recently I was invited onto a panel to reflect on the earthquake research we have been doing since, well,m the earthquake started!

I mentioned three things.

The first is the spontaneous attention given to disaster in our work as our attention on this began with the event, right? Without the February 20122 earthquake, I wouldn’t be doing disaster research. And my own work previous to the disaster was on cultural resilience, originally in the context of small-scale Maori horticulture, primarily potatoes. And I’d be much better at researching the next disaster, which I hope of course doesn’t happen but which we all know will, somewhere. Whether I’m able to rese4arch it or not is another thing. And so I suspect we are all somewhat disadvantaged as researchers by our relative inexperience to the nature of the topic itself.

But this brings me on to my second point and that is that we mainly just keep researching what we always have, mutatis mutandis. And for Maori researchers that is essentially a development paradigm. By that I mean we are trying to help our communities improve their situations – that is certainly how much of the Vision Mātauranga funding is framed (although it is intended to benefit the wider economy ultimately, otherwise let’s face it, that funding wouldn’t exist).

My third and final point is that when we talk about ‘research’ with Maori, we almost always mean, somewhere/somehow, development in that we want to see our communities become better off whether in an economic, environmental, social or cultural sense. And of course the cultural component of development is always there for us.

I have to say that from my perspective, the opportunity to transform Maori communities in the post-disaster arena has been missed. Yes Ngai Tahu have been formally drawn into the rebuild as a key stakeholder – as is their right! However, for most Maori (including many Ngai Tahu), things are no better than before the disaster and in many respects things are much worse. The city is certainly a hive of activity but commuting across the still damaged roads is difficult, and services are struggling even in districts not directly impacted – such as  Selwyn – due to the influx of ‘disaster migrants’.

The psycho-social issues remain and will only slowly dissolve, if at all.

Heoi ano, we fight on. Meri Kirihimete ki a koutou katoa!

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New website

I’ve built a new website as a location for our work on Maori Resilience. It includes all our work on the Christchurch earthquakes, plus the work of peers and colleagues, updates on the National Science Challenges (particularly the Resilience to Natures Risks theme), and international projects that are connected to wider Indigenous development.

Link to new site here

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Special MAI Journal issue on Maori Resilience

Just published free and online by Nga Pae o te Maramatanga’s MAI (Maori and Indigenous) Journal along with five other teams researching the concept of resilience for Maori.

In my article, titled “Maori and the Christchurch Earthquakes: the interplay between Indigenous endurance and resilience through urban disaster” – I discuss the challenges for urban Indigenous communities – Maori are 85% urban – and analyse survey data that shows whanau size and pre-disaster economic security are key causal components for those Maori who have maintained or even improved their well-being in a post-disaster landscape.

The lead article is by Mera Penehira, Alison Green, Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Clive Aspin - “Māori and Indigenous Views on R & R: Resistance and Resilience” – and explores resilience discourse through the development of Māori and Indigenous frameworks. Is the concept of resilience is simply the most current means by which the State encourages Māori to reframe the experience of colonisation as one of successful “adaption” to adversity?

Conceptualising the Link Between Resilience and Whānau Ora: Results From a Case Study” by Amohia Boulton and Heather Gifford presents a qualitative case study undertaken with a Māori health provider and discusses the link between resilience and the concept of whānau ora.

Jordan Waiti and Te Kani Kingi’s contribution titled “Whakaoranga Whānau: Whānau Resilience” explores “resilience strategies” and the multiple ways in which whānau contribute to the development of their members and the various mechanisms employed to foster growth and security. It is argued that understanding how whānau operate has implications for service delivery and policy design.

In “End-of-Life Care and Māori Whānau Resilience”, Tess Moeke-Maxwell, Linda Nikora and Ngahuia Te Aweokotuku discuss the cultural resources which assist Māori whānau in being resilient when caring for a family member at the end of life. The study illustrates that the economic and material ramifications of colonialism significantly impact on Māori at the end of life, influencing the ability of whānau to identify and access much needed resources and palliative care support.

In their second contribution to this issue, titled “Community-Based Responses to High Rates of HIV among Indigenous Peoples”, Clive Aspin, Mera Penehira, Alison Green and Linda Tuhiwai Smith compare findings from Australia, Canada and New Zealand and explore how community-based initiatives play a vital role in overcoming the challenges Indigenous people face in dealing with HIV and other chronic conditions.

Many thanks to reviewers and the editorial team, and especially to Amoia Boulton and Heather Gifford who have shepherded us through a long and tortuous process!

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Japanese architects’ respond to the Great East Japan Earthquake

Enjoyed visiting an exhibition of work done by Japanese architects to ‘re-clothe’ the post-disaster landscape of East Japan after its tragic earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011.

I have always admired the Japanese sense of space and place, their respect for the natural environment – especially tress – and the sheer cleverness of their designs. ION particular the foldout cardboard boxes for personal sleeping space and accompanying shelves and seats for mass evacuation centres like school halls and gymnasiums…

I thought there was a lot we could learn from these examples and the strategy of bringing together so many experts in such a concentrated effort to make a difference.

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Webinar: Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction Network, World Social Science Fellows, Risk Interpretation and Action:

It was my pleasure and privilege to deliver the first of a series of Webinars from the Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk Reduction Network, supported by the World Social Science Fellows, Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA) programme.

I presented an overview of our Otautahi/Christchurch research which looks at the impacts of a major disaster on an urban population and affecting diverse tribal and pan-tribal

How do urban Indigenous communities respond to a disaster and what are the implications of these responses to DRR? I argue that as Indigenous Peoples increasingly urbanise, the risk profiles of their communities will change as will the strategies of DRR they will need to

We now have three interlinked projects comprising semi-structured interviews (n=62), an email survey (n=43) and the collation of available statistics and reports. Findings show that Indigenous Peoples who have urbanised and are distant or otherwise disconnected from their traditional territories, possess little or only fragmented IK and have no or limited access to cultural institutions are vulnerable in the event of a disaster even in a highly developed country like New Zealand.

A link to the Webinar is here.

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Rare Bravery Award for Maori Fireman

One of the supporters of our research has been Scott Shadbolt, a Ngai Tahu Urban Search and Rescue who performed a double amputation with a hacksaw and a Leatherman knife on Brian Coker inside the Pyne Gould Corporation building. The Valour Medal, the firefighters equivalent of the Victoria Cross, has only been given out three previous times and was last awarded over a century ago.

Scott is married to my colleague Melanie Mark-Shadbolt and is father to four great tamariki.

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Post-disaster housing for whanau in Christchurch

A report by Te Puawaitangi ki Otautahi reveals the struggle to find accommodation in the city after the earthquakes. Their survey found that housing has ‘declined dramatically’ with the standard of most housing deteriorating and the high costs of private rental meaning many whanau have to share their home with extended family, sometimes having to relocate outside of the city.

A key challenge is finding warm dry affordable housing.

As a result of poor housing, health risks have increased, particularly skin infections and respiratory problems, anxiety and stress.

Babies are at higher risk to SIDS.

Difficult to see this situation improving quickly. Many of us recall the Minister of Earthquake Recovery saying ‘the market’ will provide solutions for the post-disaster landscape.

He’s dead right. This is what a market solution looks like.

Full report available here

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Research, reportage, and debate

A recent Press article which I and others were interviewed for has revealed a certain dis-ease in the research arena when the article was mentioned in the recent 7th Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference in Wellington.

Seems our work has been interpreted as a deliberate slur on Ngai Tahu.

Now I know who’s involved (’tis a small world after all…) and I submitted an abstract (not accepted, asked to present a poster which doesn’t justify the cost and time for me).

Pity we’re not asked in directly, but our work is increasingly out there for critique and debate. I’ve mentioned the latest article in a previous post, published in the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies, and another has just been accepted for the MAI Journal in a Special Issue on Indigenous Resilience (to be launched at this year’s Nga Pae conference).

For the record, I think the response was generally very good from all concerned, Maori katoa, Pakeha katoa, Tauiwi katoa. (Others don’t, and I have recorded their views in interviews and presented them to inform the debate).

What I am talking about now (three and a half years after the main event) is recovery, the fourth of the 4 R’s in disaster speak…

I interpret resilience as the ability of an individual or collective to absorb the shock of a disaster and then recover; to merely exist in a post-disaster landscape which is still a hell of an achievement is, for me, endurance.

Endurance will precede resilience but I do not yet see an bounce back in how Maori communities are living in Christchurch (And this position is reinforced by CERA’s ongoing ‘Wellbeing Survey‘, now into its fourth wave…

We are struggling as a society to address the concerns of, among others, Maori and I make no bones about it, I think this sucks and it doesn’t need to be this way.

One of the causal factors for me (and others, the Press article cited the very good Masters thesis by Hauauru Rae from Otago) is that the Crown and its agencies are increasingly focused on Iwi (via iwi authorities) as ‘taking care’ of Maori katoa or nga maata waka/taura here like myself who comprise the majority of Maori in Otautahi/Christchurch…

Yes there is a community forum for non-local Maori to be represented but this is too often peripheral in the power brokerage…the one thing a disaster does is strip away the smoke and mirrors. Too many people exist in a state of permanent emergency, a disaster merely ‘bring[s] to the surface the poverty which characterises the lives of so many inhabitants” (Hardoy and Satterthwaite 1989, p. 203).

Hard rain’s gonna fall…

We will continue our research and publish through the academic channels – that’s important – but we will also post and present at conferences and community meetings, and we will talk and laugh face-to-face, if we get the invite ;)

Hardoy, J.E. and D. Satterthwaite (1989), Squatter Citizen: Life in the Urban Third World, Earthscan, London

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Maori Disaster and Emergency Management: Taking Maori from the edge of disasters to the centre of influence

Pleased to announce we have been successful in this years Vision Matauranga round. We know Maori institutions and cultural practices played an integral part in the disaster response to the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-12. This response from Maori was spontaneously extended to include non-Maori support through well-established but dynamic and evolving Maori cultural networks. Local Maori insights (both Ngāi Tahu and Ngā Maata Waka/Taura Here) were particularly valuable in supporting the vulnerable city residents including the elderly and mental health clients. Maori, both individually and collectively, operated alongside first responder organisations such as the Fire Service and Police, government and NGO officials, iwi authorities, international emergency workers, churches and volunteers.

This project aims to improve engagement between Maori and mainstream disaster and emergency organisations to enable Maori to engage as Citizen Scientists and in turn enable more efficient responses to future disasters, whether that be in the rescue of survivors, the provision of emergency supplies, medical care, emergency repairs or the very important and ongoing pastoral support.

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Latest journal article just published

Hot off the academic press is our latest journal article, published in the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies. I argue that Indigenous Peoples retain traditional coping strategies for disasters despite the marginalisation of many Indigenous communities. The article describes the response of Māori to the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2012 through analyses of available statistical data and reports, and interviews done three months and one year after the most damaging event. A significant difference between Māori and ‘mainstream’ New Zealand was the greater mobility enacted by Māori throughout this period, with organisations having roles beyond their traditional catchments throughout the disaster, including important support for non-Māori. Informed engagement with Indigenous communities, acknowledging their internal diversity and culturally nuanced support networks, would enable more efficient disaster responses in many countries.


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