Neighbourhood Recovery and Community Wellbeing in Cities Following Natural Disasters

Findings from Christchurch, New Zealand

Authored by: Vivienne Ivory , Chris Bowie , Clare Robertson , Amber L. Pearson

Handbook of Global Urban Health

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138206250
eBook ISBN: 9781315465456
Adobe ISBN:


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Neighbourhood settings provide a critical foundation for community wellbeing and social cohesion. When faced with shocks, for example from natural disasters such as earthquakes, neighbourhood environments can undergo substantial change from the event itself and over the course of recovery. How decision-makers plan for and respond to such changes can have long term implications for the health of residents and overall community wellbeing. Neighbourhoods include the businesses, organizations and built environment in which people live and work. Intrinsically linked to the social and economic wellbeing outcomes of communities, they become the backbone for recovery following a disaster. To foster a resilient recovery trajectory, it is therefore important to measure and understand how neighbourhoods change during the post-disaster months and years. This chapter examines neighbourhood recovery trajectories following the devastating Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, which destroyed large parts of the infrastructure of Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand. It describes a method for measuring variations in these recovery trajectories at the neighbourhood level and explains techniques for overcoming measurement methodological challenges, particularly in relation to data sourcing. Here, businesses are seen as central indicators of neighbourhood economic activity and infrastructural recovery, but also as opportunities for engagement and socialization and for meeting important health needs and services. The chapter then outlines what these recovery trajectories imply for community wellbeing and health, including mental health, outcomes.

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