Abstract

In March 2014, an interdisciplinary research team travelled to New Zealand to study issues related to Canterbury’s recovery from the 2010-2011 earthquake sequence. One goal of the overall project is to evolve the practice of earthquake reconnaissance from immediate post-disaster investigations to learning about community recovery from earthquakes over the long-term. Towards this end, the aim of the New Zealand case study described here is to understand how stakeholders in New Zealand are measuring, monitoring, and acting upon data-driven indicators of recovery after the Canterbury earthquakes. The research team interviewed a wide range of decision-makers and researchers in the Christchurch region. A broad cross-section of organizations is represented in the qualitative data collected for the study, including Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, Christchurch City Council, and Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, as well as 22 other organizations. Initial evaluation of the study data shows that a large variety of data are being collected as part of the recovery, for example, a region-wide survey of wellbeing, but it does not appear the available data contributed significantly to ongoing decision making. The large volume of data made it challenging for organizations to analyze and interpret it for decision-making. The public health sector, however, seems to be an exemplar for using data for recovery decision-making. Data describing social vulnerability, homelessness, out-migration, business recovery, and the rental market were found to be less well documented. And while the disaster motivated unprecedented levels of data sharing within and between public and private organizations, privacy concerns and siloes still presented challenges. For future disasters, a possible role for outside experts typically involved in earthquake reconnaissance could be the facilitation of analysis of existing data, promoting access to data that can be compared across disasters, and specific guidance on what data should be collected by researchers to be archived for future cross-case study comparison.