Bottom-up Governance after a Natural Disaster: A Temporary Post-Earthquake Community Garden in Central Christchurch, New Zealand

Roy Montgomery, Andreas Wesener, Fran Davies


Creative temporary or transitional use of vacant urban open spaces is seldom foreseen in traditional urban planning and has historically been linked to economic or political disturbances. Christchurch, like most cities, has had a relatively small stock of vacant spaces throughout much of its history. This changed dramatically after an earthquake and several damaging aftershocks hit the city in 2010 and 2011; temporary uses emerged on post-earthquake sites that ran parallel to the official rebuild discourse and programmes of action. The paper examines a post-earthquake transitional community-initiated open space (CIOS) in central Christchurch. CIOS have been established by local community groups as bottom-up initiatives relying on financial sponsorship, agreements with local landowners who leave their land for temporary projects until they are ready to redevelop, and volunteers who build and maintain the spaces. The paper discusses bottom-up governance approaches in depth in a single temporary post-earthquake community garden project using the concepts of community resilience and social capital. The study analyses and highlights the evolution and actions of the facilitating community organisation (Greening the Rubble) and the impact of this on the project. It discusses key actors motivations and values, perceived benefits and challenges, and their current involvement with the garden. The paper concludes with observations and recommendations about the initiation of such projects and the challenges for those wishing to study ephemeral social recovery phenomena.

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