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The limits of resilience

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, January 26th, 2012 - 25 comments
Categories: disaster, Social issues - Tags: ,

Christchurch has been back in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. First we had the renewed sequence of aftershocks that hit us all from the 23rd of December last year.

One consistent thread that has been running through the public narrative has been the story we like to tell ourselves of a tough and resilient populace soldiering on in the face of all these obstacles. Not exactly cheerful, but coping despite the latest set of knock backs.

Sure, some cracks are beginning to show. The public reaction to the obscene pay rise given to the Christchurch City Council’s chief executive Tony Marryatt, the resulting witch hunt initiated by Mayor Bob Parker. The very public meltdown of our elected city council and the threat of “independent” commissioners, being cases in point.

But overall the message you see in the media is one of rebuilding and renewal, on the way. A reward for all that resilience and toughness that we have displayed.

An article by Lara-Strongman in the Australian Design Review provides a different perspective:

If resilience is a measure of the amount of strain that can be absorbed before breaking point is reached, Christchurch people are at the limit of their elasticity. Doctor friends have told me quietly about the large volume of antidepressants they’re prescribing and, despite many outlets having closed, alcohol consumption is up across the city. The Problem Gambling Foundation reports that the use of pokie machines has tripled since February’s quake. I’m not surprised by any of this. Some days it’s not easy to find reasons to be cheerful. But to admit that the task ahead seems, at times, overwhelming – that one is not as resilient as one might be – is to admit to personal weakness. That’s what it feels like for many people, anyway.

This article really resonated with me, and I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in what people in quake effected Christchurch are going through, go and read it.

— Andy-Roo


25 comments on “The limits of resilience”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    What happens next is going to be interesting.

    Here is an excellent site for anyone interested in following the aftershock sequence in Canterbury.

    I suggest anyone interested have a look at “swarm” and “top 100” to get an idea of the progression of the aftershocks and what might happen next:

    1. The worst might be over and the quakes might subside.

    Kelvin Berryman of GNS suggested a few weeks ago that there had been a deficit in expected aftershocks, and the December sequence brought that back into line with what was expected. He also thought that the system might be running out of energy. This would obviously be very good news.

    2. The quake sequence might move further out to sea.

    If you look at the link I gave, you will notice on the map that there is the beginning of what looks like another fault line heading at right angles away from Canterbury. It is right at the tip of the progression of the large quakes. If this is the line of least resistance, then future quakes might move further out to sea, away from Canterbury. This is also reasonably positive. There view of Geotechs is there isn’t a risk of large tsunamis, so that possibility isn’t a major concern.

    3. The quake sequence might continue along its linear direction.

    That is not such good news because there are some rather large faultlines in that direction capable of producing 7+ magnitude quakes which obviously would not be ideal. A lot depends on whether the quakes to date have been reducing stress on those faults or increasing it. I am not qualified to answer that question. Someone with a bit more expertise in this area might be able to shed some more light on this aspect.

    • Good summary, tsmithfield.

      Then, of course, there’s ‘The Gap‘. 

      • tsmithfield 1.1.1

        Not too sure that there is much to worry about with “the gap”.

        The worry has been that the greendale and port hills faults will join up, creating a very large fault.
        Even if that did happen, both faults have relinquished a lot of energy, so even if both did link up doesn’t mean there will suddenly be a huge earthquake.

        Anyway, from what I have read, the current thinking is that “the gap” is characterised by a number of smaller faults running perpendicular to the main ones. I Thus, the two main ones can connect is not very high. This area is still under investigation. However, from what is known to date, it seems that the energy is likely to be released in numerous smaller quakes rather than one large one. I certainly wouldn’t preclude some more 5s in that zone, but hopefully 6s and 7s are unlikely over there.

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    There are a huge number of Christchurch people who are psychologically lost now, suffering from the earthquake equivalent of shell shock, walking wounded amongst us who might look and sound healthy from the outside but inside their marriages, personal lives, businesses, careers are all falling apart.

    Of course the stoic narrative of resiliency suits our convenience more than examining things more closely.

    The anti-depressants/sleeping pills thing is a well known amongst the Christchurch crowd, and I wonder what the suicide and domestic violence rate is like these days.

    • Andy-Roo 2.1

      “Of course the stoic narrative of resiliency suits our convenience more than examining things more closely.”

      I think that this is exactly the point that Lara Strongman is making.

      Over Christmas I caught up with friends from out of town on a couple of occasions. Even though the quake on the 23rd had put CHCH back in peoples mind there was still an initial surprise that when doing the inevitable “How’s it going” catchup, it was impossible to describe 2011 as anything but a ratshit year that broke people and left them bleeding.

      Also the subtle undercurrent of “Yes it was bad, but surely things are getting better now…” which they are not. You sound like such a whiny ass when you attempt to explain that the events are ongoing, that for most people repair and recovery is still a fanciful dream that is years off. That on top of all the other shit you are dealing with, you have to deal with constant bloody paper shuffling, endless telephone calls to isurance and the EQC, mixed and varying messages about where you stand etc.

      Far easier just to drag out some platitudes and shut the damn conversation down as soon as possible.

  3. I am astounded at the insensitivity/stupidity of Marryatt receiving a $68k salary increase and for Parker and his cronies thinking it is a failure of PR rather than a really stupid insensitive thing to do.
    It is bad enough this self viewed Atlas thinking he is worth so much.  When you add the background provided by the earthquakes and the disasters so many people have had to endure the increase is obscene.
    The angst being shown by some Councillors is a bit silly.  They need to get on with the job and make sure that at the next election a better mayor and councillors are elected.

    • Andy-Roo 3.1

      There are other issues as well, such as a limited number of properties on the port hills getting 100% rates relief, while people in Avonside struggle to meet a very high bar for 40%.

      I think one of the issues is that even for people in the city, there is still a low level of awareness about issues like this. Most of us have our energy focussed on the day to day – (such as constantly ringing the EQC to give them information that they already have, or get them to correct errors we first told them about six months ago).

      And it is easy to marginalise the people who are complaining, and pushing back. I heard Nick Smith telling me this morning that “Some new CHCH city councillors did not understand how democracy worked” because they were leaking facts about decisions made behind closed door by the vile cabal that Parker has assembled around himself, to the media.

      The irony of this statement has not escaped me.

      When did we become a nation of people who would accept a statement like that lying down?

  4. vto 4

    Ok, here’s a positive …. the first to leave after the quakes were the recent English immigrants.

    ha ha. sorry. black humuor. of a kind. naughty.

    Here are some negatives. The central city is going to be full of empty sites for years. Many owners are taking the money and running. The population, particularly in the east, is down and dropping. The streets are definitely emptier. There is going to be a glut of residential sites around the region, which combined with the central city vacancies is going to cause a substantial drop in values. The red zone burbs are like something out of a movie with tumble weed tumbling. And people are definitely mostly stressed and as the post says the elasticity of people is maxed out.

    Further – tsunamis are a far higher risk than most everyone thinks imo. Perhaps not a Japan-style one but most definitely a solid swamping of the east, particularly if the large fault in Pegasus Bay capable of producing a 7+ goes, and more particularly given that NIWA’s post-Feb assessment of low risk was based on mostly the horizontal fault movement of pre-Dec 23 quakes and that the recent Dec 23 quakes just off Brighton are vertical movement. Tried lifting a wide flat plate out of a puddle without upsetting the puddle??

    Fuck yeah – negativity.

    Hopefully within 1-2 years from now the rubble and half collapsed buildings will finally be cleared, the roads will be smooth, and the city given a scrub clean. Then it will begin to get exciting – love to build a whole city from scatch. But until then ………..

    • Andy-Roo 4.1

      Think you might be a bit optimistic about the roads!

      I was down south over Christmas, and was really struck by just how bad the roads in CHCH are when I got back.

      As for the Tsunami risk – like you I look at the Kaiapoi fault and I go “That cannot be good news” – but what the hell can you do about something like that?

      Still rather live in the east in CHCHC than on the flat in Miramar…

      • vto 4.1.1

        “what the hell can you do about something like that?” Simple. Have a plan and practice it. Plan for tsunami? RUUUNN !!!

        Many people unnecessarily died because of a lack of knowledge of what to do (like, don’t run outside during a quake lest you get killed by the falling buildiing).

        • Andy-Roo

          Actually, I think in the case of Tsunami, I would probably BIIKKEE rather than RUUUN. Ifinally gave in over Christmas and bought mountain bikes – my lightweight carbon fibre road bike is not really coping right now.

  5. vto 5

    But aint it amazing how a piece of positive attitude and a smile can change your morning. Just after that post above I got emailed this classic …………….. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHPOzQzk9Qo

  6. gingercrush 6

    The chance of a 7+ quake causing a tsunami is so small it is a waste of time worrying about it. The above two posters simply demonstrate the absurd stupidity of some Christchurch residents. I can just imagine the stupid conspiracy theories you two have believed. And while the weak will turn to drugs or alcohol or worry themselves pathetically. Most of us Christchurch people are actually coping fine. Sure our homes may be broken and some people’s homes are fucked. But we’re coping.

    • vto 6.1

      “The chance of a 7+ quake causing a tsunami is so small it is a waste of time worrying about it. The above two posters simply demonstrate the absurd stupidity of some Christchurch residents. I can just imagine the stupid conspiracy theories you two have believed”

      Oh you’re a clever one aren’t you. Perhaps instead of abuse you could provide some reason, or even amazingly, some evidence, to support your bare-faced hollow statement? Go on. Why do you think the risk of a tsunami is so small? Reasons and evidence, lest you be cast into the pool of fools with the others around here who do nothing but abuse.

      • insider 6.1.1

        Aren’t tsunamis due to massive underwater quakes larger than that experienced in Chch and involving sudden large displacements of submarine land and then water? These are likely to be rare events even now aren’t they? Eg There was a very large submarine quake off Southland last week but no tsunami effect

        • vto

          insider, sure th massive tsunamis are. I have to fly, but jusy quickly… we don’t need a big one to swamp east Chch. NIWA, prior to Dec 23 predicts one up to 2m. Now, if you know east Chch you will realise that the sea level of Pegasus Bay lifting by 2m, particularly at high tide, will cause a massive volume of seawater to pour off the lifted seabed and into these low-lying areas. Shit man, some of the areas are now pretty much at sea level. We can hear seawater sloshing at some ghigh tides in drains around us. Many parts have road gutters which flood simply on a big tide – no rain or nuffink.

          The risk is real. It wont take much.

          If the tsunami back in Jan 2010 had been at high tide many parts of Chch would have been swamped. It was lucky it was low tide. And that was a 20cm tsunami. NIWA predicts one up to 10x that size.

          If there is an issue that people in Chch have blinkers on over it is this one.


          • gingercrush

            Where does Niwa predict a tsunami of 2 metres? Are you sure you’re not mixing up climate change and earthquakes?

            Besides for a tsunami to be trigger you need a certain type of shaking. It needs to be deep (deeper than all the Christchurch quakes have been) and they need to be at least a 7.0 but more likely 7.5+.

            We’re at far more risk of a deep quake near Chile hitting than we are anything in Pegasus Bay. But you’ve been smoking tea leaves. After all, you’re the idiot that first noticed that pathetic “The government owns fletcher building bullshit” that spread half-way thru last year.

            • vto

              piss off ginger.

              NIWA did presentations post-Feb quakes last year at suburbs in east Chch on specifically tsunami risk. At those presentations is where the 2m risk was outlined. If you had gone you would have heard.

              And yes, you do need a certain type of shaking. Not deep. Fuck, idiot, some tsunamis are triggered by undersea landslips, which are on the surface. You need vertical uplift. NIWA, at these presentations sais the reason they assessed the risk of tsunami from locally generated earthquakes as low was because the fault movements had been mostly horizontal, not vertical. But these current faults off Brighton which have sprung into action have been described as vertical, by seismologists.

              Further, the Kaiapoi fault has been geophysically mapped, again, after the Feb quakes. You could see the ship at sea, and the chopper doing to airborne surveys. And the results are widely available to the public.

              Another thing NIWA said is that you generally need a 7+ magnitude quake. And the seismologists have been very clear that the Kaiapoi fault in Pegasus Bay is the size of the Greendale (which produced the 7 mag in Sept 4 2010) and quite capable of producing a 7+. These are all their facts, not mine.

              One more thing for your small brain – you may have noticed that after eacha and every event the seismologists have said things like “we predict that there is a 1 in 4 (or 1 in 10 or 1 in whatever) chance of a further 6.0, 5.0, etc quake” Do you know what? Those chances have come true on every single occasion i.e. it has not been a 1 in 4 chance for example, the reality has been a 1 in 1 chance. Their modelling has not been correct and they openly admit this.

              Now put all that together (if you can) and what do you get?

              Happy to be proved wrong, but don’t hold out much chance of reasons or facts or evidence coming forward from you, Go on though give it a go.

              And take your abuse and shove it up your arse cocksucker.

    • Andy-Roo 6.2

      Hi Ginger,

      You live in an odd world.

      Where do you get “absurd stupidity” out of a discussion about the hypothetical possibility of the Kaiapoi fault generating a Tsunami?

      And there you go again, bagging your fellow Christchurch residents.

      What spins your wheels about that Mr Crush?



      • gingercrush 6.2.1

        I would like to know where this Kaiapoi fault exists or is this simply more bullshit from Christchurch idiots who keep reading crap from conspiracy theorists. There is a fault believed to be in Pegasus Bay but the scientists said a tsunami was extremely unlikely. Because the Christchurch quakes have been shallow and for that reason why the intensity is a lot bigger despite how small some of our quakes are. They have not been long enough to trigger a tsunami either.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    Here is a quote from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) analysing the impact of bombing on the German population in WW2:

    “…As has been seen, armaments production continued to mount till mid-1944, in spite of declining morale, but from that point on, arms production began to decline and dropped every month thereafter at an increasing rate. A minor, but not negligible, portion of this drop was the result of the cumulative effects of lowered morale.
    Bombing thus succeeded in lowering psychological morale but its effect upon behaviour was less decisive. The German controls remained relatively untouched, and thus repression and coercion kept an increasingly defeatist population from overt acts of opposition to the conduct of the war…”

    Now, I am not saying that the physical impact of the Christchurch earthquakes is comparable to a massed aerial assault. But they might be comparable in the sort of long term psychological stress they subject the target population to. 91% of German civilians reported the stress of the threat of nightly attacks was the most difficult aspect of the whole war. British authorities noted that the attacks by the V-2 intermediate range ballistic missiles, which occurred without air-raid warnings and were random in their timing, profoundly depressed the population in a way conventional air attacks did not. Also, the splitting up of families due to long term evacuation had a profound impact on morale in both the U.K. and Germany. Earthquakes also occur randomly and without warning and can happen at any time, day or night. Christchurch families have also been split up and disrupted by evacuation and loss of housing stock. So to my mind the psychological stress can be directly compared.

    In addition, while the impact pf the earthquakes is much less in terms of total damage and loss of life than the bombing offensive on Germany, the New Zealand government also has access to far fewer levers of coercive power to control the population than were available to Nazi Germany’s leaders – so societal and psychological issues will manifest themselves much more readily in NZ in 2011-12 than in a WW2 population subject to repressive government controls.

    There is a myth that air attack on civilian populations was a bit of an own goal in WWII, hardening civilian resolve and stiffening morale. In fact, bombing did not stiffen morale in the long run but seriously depressed it. High absenteeism, fatalism, apathy, depression and defeatism were apparent in bombed areas of Germany (and, according to civilian observer surveys, also in those parts of the UK subjected to continuous attack).

    The point of all the above is that the myth of the “spirit of the blitz”, of carrying on regardless with a stiff upper lip and steely resolve, is exactly that – a complete myth. Like any population anywhere subjected to random life threatening events that can occur at any time without warning over an extended period, the people of Christchurch are suffering from depression, fatalism, apathy, defeatism and stress. We need to be realistic in recognising this, and realistic in telling our fellow citizens that these feelings are perfectly normal. After all, proper diagnosis is half the cure.

    • vto 7.1

      Mr or Ms Sanctuary, I have been meaning to read this all day and have finally done so. What you write resonates. It shoud be more widely written. Thanks and thanks.

  8. Rich 9

    Having spent some time in CHC over the holidays, I think the media, including social media are a reinforcing factor in people’s negative reactions to the quakes.

    The Dec 23 quakes caused but minor inconvenience for the vast majority of people (I had to try 3 bottle stores before finding one open, and needed to put stuff back on the shelves at home. That was it). But listening to the media, we had another disaster in progress – we were told to stay off the roads, which were in fact undamaged and no more congested than you’d expect two days before Christmas.

    My advice to anyone in Christchurch when a quake happens is to switch off your radio and TV, don’t use the internet and carry on with what you were planning to do with as little adaptation as possible. Remember, more people died last year in road accidents than earthquakes.

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