Monday, May 23, 2011


If you haven't heard of TED - Ideas Worth Spreading, then you should have - - the talks are truly inspiring, like reading a good book and having watched a few, when the chance came to able to go to TEDxEQCHCH I signed up.
Warning Rant to follow:
It was a marvellous, head overflowing with ideas and thoughts, day.
I loved Cameron Sinclair and his on the ground actual experience, in rebuilding after disasters. It was amazing and practical. I also loved him because he said the real work starts later when work is actually done. Having ideas is the easy part - actually doing something about it is the hard part. I couldn't agree more. Anyone who can show eight slides of eight weeks to completely build a new house - is also just most awesome.
I loved Coralie Winn for her wonderful approach to temporarily making newly flattened buildings beautiful. I'm signing up for that mailing list.
I loved Karen Blincoe for her quiet and understated presentation that slapped me full on in the face with what building a sustainable city actually means. I think we need to be careful what words we bandy about and what we really want. Even in the room there seemed to be a hum of agreement when the words sustainable city was put up but I knew - since I did bike, that the majority of people had come in cars to hear these talks and probably not full cars either. Actually doing things, is so much harder than talking about them.
I loved Dan Cullum for bringing renewal back to individual sized portions of offering a few hours a week to community things. Hugh Morrison from Arrow was practical and laid it all out in steps - which was relieving and also eye opening on the scale of what we are facing. If I remember right he had a deadline for July 2012 (a whole year away!) for completion of all demolitions.
So many ideas and that was all before a tasty lunch.
It was exciting and energizing and yet also strangely, deeply frustrating.
Because really what could I do about it?
How much say would I have in the rebuilding of the city?
Most of the buildings are privately owned in the CBD. I can't vote in the person who is head of traffic. I didn't vote in the urban planner dude - though he impressed me with his talk and down-to-earth manner. He already had preliminary findings from the share an idea event last weekend (what people wanted more of and what they wanted to see less of in the CBD), which was pretty cool and speedy work. He does have to work fast though, he has to produce a plan in nine months.
Another thing that annoyed me was - looking around me most people looked a little like me! We were all educated, middle class and probably mostly from the lesser damaged areas of the city or with at least enough in the emotional and financial tank to be able to deal with bad damage. Probably they were preaching to the converted, which is why we all loved it but what can we all do? How many of us owned buildings in the CBD?
Were we a suitable cross section to have heard these fabulous inspiring talks? A recording of Majora Carter talk from TED left me wondering - what voices would miss out on input into the rebuilding of this city?
I could try to listen for them, but would that help if I was listening?
And another thing - in the last eighteen months or so we learnt some very fascinating lessons about what people say and what people actually do. People are happy to share ideas on how they want the central city to look like in the future but unless we all make a commitment to go there and shop there and work there - it will be a dead red zone just like it was heading for even before Sept 4th. I hope there is enough people and companies with guts to go back to the central city and I really, really hope Christchurch has the guts to actually turn up and support them.
Hugh said he can make his plan but it will need people. It is so true. I have watched in recent years just how quickly seemingly committed people will walk away - often with seemingly good reasons. It is really tough, if you are one that says - "No I will not walk away. It will be hard but I will see it through." I can say from experience, there is no thanks for you and often there is only surprise and even ridicule from others.
I really don't want to be disappointed when our city centre reopens. I hope at least the 700 who had the privilege to hear such amazing speakers on Saturday support it and make it better by turning up and not just once but again and again as only then will businesses remain viable there. Only then will we have a beating heart of the city again.
Though perhaps, if they really were all a little like me - they will.


Unknown said...

Hi Fiona,

Great post. I'm glad you enjoyed the day and appreciate your comments. One of the key things we talked about as we put the event together was how we could make sure it wasn't just a one off day of ideas but a chance to make things happen. To that end we set aside 100 tickets for youth and we had a great cross section of representation there from all schools across the city. We also set aside another 200 tickets free to the public so that cost wasn't a barrier. We also made sure we invited representatives from local community groups, iwi and NGOs. We wanted to make it as inclusive as possible as well as providing the live streaming option. We will have the videos online shortly and there are plans for a DVD to distribute to households.

So what now you may ask? Well there are many concrete outcomes from the day. These are still being fleshed out but they are real and executable. Just stay tuned to the twitter/FB stream for further information. In the meantime people are getting together themselves and looking to put ideas into action. I agree we do need engagement and participation. At the same time we are all held back from a lack of action around demolition. It's hard to plan when we don't have a clear idea of the new spaces that will be created. Property wrangles are another potential block but I am hopeful CERA will speed up that process.

So don't lose heart, we will make things happen :-)

Kaila Colbin said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your feelings about the speakers as well as your concerns about what happens next.

Just to add to what Raf is saying, I would like to encourage you to step up! As you said, what our city needs more than ever right now is leaders, and leaders come in all shapes and sizes. We need people like Coralie, who just had an idea and spoke to people and made it happen. She doesn't own any buildings and nobody gave her the job of filling gaps, but she is affecting outcomes in a big way and making our city the kind of place people want to live.

You have an incredible amount of power, perhaps far more than you realise, as a passionate citizen of Christchurch. You can impact the future of the city. Please don't underestimate yourself!

And please also let us know what you are up to and if you do get involved in any initiatives; we would love to share these via Twitter and Facebook.

All the best,

Fiona S said...

That is awesome guys and very encouraging. Yeah Coralie was so definitely an inspiration in that area of making a difference - fantastic effort, especially after the downer of being made redundant. Not sure what I can do but am thinking on it. :)

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.