Business resilience and quake response were the hot topics of TelstraClear’s ‘Seismics in the City’ forum, held on 22 March 2012. SmartNet, in collaboration with various sponsors and supporters, organised this special one-day event of Christchurch-based and international business leaders and WOR researcher Hannah Dunn was there to learn from its influential speakers. The forum was a unique opportunity for Christchurch public and private sector businesses to share their earthquake experiences with other local and further-afield organisations. Eighteen months have passed since Christchurch’s largest earthquake on record, yet demolition continues in the city’s cordoned-off central business district but nevertheless, Christchurch businesses have proven themselves quake resilient, with many revitalised and thriving in the post-earthquake environment.


Roger Sutton, keynote speaker of ‘Seismics and the City’, delivered an energetic perspective of Christchurch’s upcoming rebuild, advising people to be patient because there was only “once chance to do this [rebuild] property.” Sutton described Oricon’s can-do attitude towards the earthquake, installing new cabling to restore power across the city. Sutton became the public face of Christchurch’s emergency response in those critical first months, now regarded as one of the city’s most influential people as CEO of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). He highlighted the importance of community and developing strong business relationship, even with competitors. This viewpoint was shared by the enigmatic leader of University of Canterbury’s Student Army, Sam Johnson. He described the importance of social media to organise his 10,000-strong volunteer team to the areas where help was most needed.


Jim Boult, CE of Christchurch International Airport Ltd, highlighted his team’s quake response after 4 September 2010, with emergency flights in and out of the airport operating just one-and-a-half hours after the earthquake. Boult suggested the importance of tailored emergency procedures for earthquakes, to include necessities like satellite phones, the stockpiling of food and water, and independent power and water sources.


“Be an opportunist” were the words of inspiration from CE of Lyttelton Port Company Peter Davie. He revealed that his team has used materials from earthquake-damaged and now-demolished buildings to reclaim land. Davie demonstrated his team’s earthquake preparedness, discussing how the Port of Lyttelton had organised seismic simulations as part of its long term development plan.


CEO of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Peter Townsend looked forward to the future of Christchurch, hoping that its rebuild will be the “recreating [of] a new, and, I hope, an iconic city.” Townsend estimated a population rise in Christchurch over the coming years, stating that over 30,000 more people will be needed to help with the rebuild; furthermore, while quake-related residential activity will last 3-5 years, the commercial side of the rebuild will benefit from 15-20 years to restore the city’s CBD. WOR is already seeing indications of long-term construction activity in Christchurch, following projects with a 2018 construction start.


Lyall Lukey from SmartNet is anticipating this will be the first of many quake-focused forums held in Christchurch, hoping it will draw together more and more business leaders to share ideas as the rebuild progresses. The next upcoming event organised by SmartNet will be the 6th Annual Education Leaders Forum, which will be held on 29-30 August 2012, featuring various speakers from the across the spectrum of education. Keep an eye out for further details on their website: www.smartnet.co.nz

Reporter: Hannah Dunn, 22 March 2012
Photos: Courtesy of Ross Becker, BeckerFraserPhotos.



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