Last week I received an impassioned email from Christchurch lawyer Grant Cameron about getting business moving again in Christchurch. Grant was NBR’s New Zealander of the Year in 1996 for his work representing the families and victims of the Cave Creek tragedy, among other notable cases he has handled. He has taken on a variety of institutions on behalf of people and groups seeking fair and just outcomes. In the February Christchurch quake Grant and his team had a dramatic escape from their office, abseiling down six floors – and then attempted to get their computers and servers down the same way.
Grant has a keen interest in Canterbury business, and agitated to get action for business owners to get access to their premises to recover computers and stock. After some heated scenes there was a meeting with Civil Defence which seemed to get some action. Grant’s broader plea though is to get a massive injection of “Canterbury Can” into the national psyche. He makes the good point that the focus should be on “rebuilding the economy” rather than “rebuilding buildings”.
Indeed, the language needs to shift from rescue and recovery to revival (and avoid passing through rage). Christchurch is the international gateway to the magnificent South Island; a vigorous export hub for agriculture, technology, and education; a strategic global entry point to Antarctica. Christchurch needs the world, and in a variety of ways, the world needs Christchurch. Let’s make sure that the term “revival” stays in the headlines, and that the decision-making is intelligently fast.
Concurrently, there is a TEDx coming up on May 21 specifically focused on the revival of Christchurch. I was invited to contribute but I am elsewhere in the world at this time. My input would be to devote a segment of the planning process to re-imagining Christchurch around the three elements of Lovemarks, Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy: how to communicate stories; what the symbols and icons of the revival are; how to get the right balance between past, present, and future; how to activate the five senses; how to do it all with empathy, passion and commitment. It would be a lateral and emotional approach to urban planning, and a way to generate revelations rather than mere insights about what to do.
Also check out the presentation at the recent TED by Christchurch innovator Kalia Colbin who has a vision of a 100% sustainable revival; in nature, not against nature.
The opportunity exists to do something extraordinary in city planning. New Zealand has world-quality architects and engineers; and it will take bold leadership to unify all the agendas and priorities. The first step is to get the language right. “Canterbury Can?” You betcha.