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!