Dynamics of Urban & Regional Recovery

This research strand investigates aspects of economic recovery at different spatial scales to understand the impacts of natural hazard events on the urban fabric and the types of interventions that can enhance urban and regional recovery.

The studies we are working on in this area include:


Spatial Temporal Economic Analysis of Recovery (STEAR)

Recovery from significant natural hazard events is known to be a lengthy and slow process, affecting a wider geographic area than that which sustains the most destructive damage. The February 2011 earthquake, caused extensive damage throughout the Christchurch central business district (CBD), resulting in businesses previously located there either shifting elsewhere in the city, relocating to other parts of New Zealand, or closing down. This on-going study will investigate the transformations of Christchurch's business locations over the next 10 years, including its CBD, suburban centres, and the city fringe. We will examine what urban economic recovery looks like, measuring the changes using quantitative data collected over the term of the research. This will be augmented by a rich source of qualitative data collected from research participants, including businesses and expert informants, to provide a detailed picture of the city's recovery and an understanding of the dynamics that shape its business locations.

Key research questions:

  1. What are the impacts of the earthquake on the long-term spatial dynamics of economic activity of Christchurch?
  2. How do business locations contribute to individual and city-wide business recovery?
  3. What are the consequences of economic flows between the CBD and suburban settings throughout the reconstruction process?

Methods:

Our study is both multilevel (how business locations are embedded within wider contexts) and longitudinal (what happens over time). We will use multiple methods to collect and analyze data, repeated over time. This will allow us to observe the influence of previous trends such as gentrification and economic cycles on post-earthquake trends, the impact of changes in the immediate recovery and the following reconstruction periods, and the long-term consequences for the city.

Project Team:

  • Dr Vivienne Ivory
  • Dr Felicity Powell
Destinations (red dots) of businesses who re-directed mail from their central business district address in the three months after the 22nd February 2011 earthquake. Secondary data sources can be used to observe changes in business locations when official data is not available. Using mail redirection data, we could show that many mail redirections from the CBD to the wider Christchurch city were to residential as well as commercial areas across the city.

Post-Disaster Retail Recovery: Factors Influencing Customers' Patronage of CBD Retailers

The Christchurch Central Plan outlines the plan for a destination-shopping retail precinct in the CBD that will provide an alternative to suburban shopping malls. Once new retail premises are built, it is vital that shoppers and workers return to the CBD for the retail precinct to be a success. If they don't return, it is likely retailers will struggle and the precinct may consequently fail. In different ways, the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes were catalysts for sudden and significant changes in shopping behaviour in the city. Anecdotal evidence from retailers after the 2010 earthquake suggests that while the CBD remained mainly open, retail turnover declined as shoppers avoided the CBD, and office workers were temporarily displaced from potentially unsafe buildings. The more devastating 2011 earthquake led to authorities shutting down the CBD for up to 28 months in some places. Since February 2011, with the exception of the Re:START Mall, retail facilities in the CBD have been sparse and this has encouraged new shopping patterns to emerge in the wider city. The reasons behind shoppers' behaviour after each earthquake have the potential to offer useful insights into the future patronage of the retail precinct. Understanding the new patterns of shopping behaviour that have emerged since 2010 will shed light on whether this behaviour is entrenched or if shoppers are likely to return to the CBD.

Key research questions:

  1. How have the earthquakes affected the consumption behaviour of fashion (clothing, shoes, and accessories) consumers who, prior to the earthquakes, shopped in the CBD?
  2. What are the psycho-social, economic and environmental factors that deterred fashion consumers from shopping in the CBD after the September 2010 earthquake?
  3. Will these factors continue to deter shoppers from returning to the CBD, or is the biggest threat the altered shopping patterns that have developed in the city since the cordon was imposed?
  4. In what ways can retailers and other central city stakeholders mitigate or minimise the potential impacts of these factors, and what can be done to encourage shoppers to return?

Methods:

By consulting residents who formerly shopped in the CBD, we will examine the motives for and frequency of shopping visits to the CBD prior to September 2010, and ascertain the range and significance of factors that deterred shoppers after the September earthquake. This consultation will also determine how shopping patterns in the city have altered since the February earthquake, including the extent of online shopping. Suggestions will be made with regard to: future location choices for retailers; potential ways to mitigate and minimise the consequences of new shopping patterns and other factors that could discourage shoppers from patronising CBD retailers; and, what can be done to encourage shoppers to return to the CBD.

Project Team:

  • Dr Felicity Powell, Theme Leader
  • Dr Abigail Harding

Testing central city liveability scenarios

There are conflicting opinions within Christchurch on whether there is a viable market for central city living, which is critical to the success of the Central City Recovery Plan and therefore the future recovery of Christchurch. The disparities in opinions indicate a need for robust evidence on what needs to be provided or adapted to make central city living a desirable and realistic option.

Increasing central city living and medium density dwelling (MDD) has been as an important goal for Christchurch even before the earthquakes. The Greater Urban Development Strategy, for example, proposed an increase from 8000 central city residents living within the Four Avenues at 2006 to 30,000 by 2026

The success of a liveable MDD for the city and for residents requires both compact housing stock and good quality of life for residents. A particular feature of a good quality central city lifestyle is the interaction that residents can have with institutional, cultural and recreational opportunities. Ensuring a quality of life that is comparable with more traditional suburban living will require the development of certain lifestyle infrastructure, or amenities (public and commercial), to support everyday living located close to quality housing stock. As well as the provision of amenities and housing, good design will also be critical to mitigate against the negative limitations of compact living such as noise and limited sense of community.

While there are many examples of cities providing successful inner city living, the Christchurch central city is unique in that it is being essentially rebuilt following extensive demolition. It will therefore be some time before the rebuild in the central city is complete meaning that there will need to be early adopters who are willing to move into an incomplete environment. Therefore it is important to better understand what will encourage the type of early adopter into the central city that will provide a robust market for the initial developments that will engender market confidence for later developments. While public agencies can provide the vision and policy parameters for liveable MDD, and will provide some of the institutional cultural stock it appears that it will largely be up to the private sector to build both amenities and housing stock. A risk of this situation is that the developer community may not provide the range and type of amenity and housing stock that will support a high quality, liveable environment that give Christchurch its own inner city lifestyle and core.

Key research questions:

  1. What amenities and design features are required by potential residents to create a successful and desirable central city medium density lifestyle?
    • What are their price, proximity and quality sensitivities for good quality of life?
    • To what extent does this vary by individual and household characteristics (life course stage, household type, occupation)
    • To what extent does this vary in different parts of the central city? And at different times of the day and night?
  2. What are the time sensitivities for central city living? What amenities (lifestyle infrastructure) and qualities are required by residents at different stages of the rebuild?

Methods:

There is a research gap between traditional approaches identifying behaviours and preferences for a given lifestyle, and testing the priorities that inform decision-making by residents. In the absence of real life experiments or longitudinal projects, sophisticated multimedia Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) methods established at Opus Research have been found to simulate relatively realistic responses to alternative scenarios of amenity and housing provision, quality, and location. A particular feature of the method is the ability to test compromises (trade-offs). For example, will residents accept moving from two to one cars if they were able to do most of their food shopping on the walk home from work, or would they accept a smaller footprint if it meant they had more leisure time. This effectively allows for ‘virtual interventions' on the built environment to be trialled on Christchurch residents. Our study uses CAPI methods to examine how potential central city residents are likely to respond to key features of central city living across the rebuild period, thereby identifying what will need to be provided by developers to create a liveable Christchurch central city.

Project Team:

  • Dr Vivienne Ivory
  • Dr Joel Burton

Regional economic recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes: Taking a spatial economics approach

Since September 2010, earthquakes close to Christchurch have caused significant devastation and continued disruption to households, businesses and other organisations located in the city. Anecdotal accounts suggest that smaller population centres within the Canterbury region benefited from Christchurch people wanting to temporarily or permanently escape the city.

At one level, it is believed that retailers in Canterbury towns experienced uplifts in trade due to Christchurch shoppers wishing to escape cordons and the potential risk of being caught by another devastating earthquake whilst out shopping. At another level, there are reports that some Christchurch businesses relocated to the region's smaller centres so they could reopen quickly, avoiding delays caused by the rebuild.

This study will examine economic recovery at the regional scale, focussing on smaller centres in the region that have a resident population greater than 1000, such as Timaru, Amberley, Rolleston and Methven.

Key research questions:

  1. How has the displacement of economic activity from Christchurch affected retail expenditure, employment, and business relocations in these towns?
  2. Were any benefits that resulted from a displacement from Christchurch short-lived or enduring?
  3. What are the consequences of the Christchurch rebuild on business communities throughout the region in terms of intra-regional migratory shifts, shortages of tradespeople, local economic development in other centres, and the upgrading of commercial buildings in other centres?

Methods:

Taking a spatial economics approach has become increasingly important when trying to explain economic behaviour at global and local scales. Over the last 20 years, the heightened interest of economists in understanding space and place that were the traditional domain of geographers has resulted in a growing body of literature around the theory termed ‘new economic geography'. A spatial economics approach recognises the importance of location and geography, and is supported by analytical models and tools such as GIS.

Project Team:

  • Dr Felicity Powell, Theme Leader
  • Dr Vivienne Ivory

Long-term outcomes of the 2007 Gisborne earthquake

Prior to the 2007 Gisborne earthquake, no urban New Zealand community had been seriously affected by an earthquake event since the 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake destroyed much of central Hastings and Napier. On paper, the Gisborne earthquake at 6.8 on the Richter scale was more powerful than the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake (at 6.3), but it was located farther away from the city and far deeper. The earthquake's distance from the Gisborne meant its effects were minor compared to Christchurch, but it still resulted in more than $55million of insurance claims (EQC and private claims combined).

In three separate investigations over two years following the 2007 earthquake, Opus researchers investigated the impacts of the earthquake on the Gisborne business community and their initial recovery trajectory. As it appears that the challenges experienced by businesses in Gisborne have been replicated at a larger scale in Christchurch, it is pertinent to re-examine how Gisborne's business community is faring 5 years on, and to assess the implications of these findings for Christchurch's recovery. Furthermore, now that many of the building repairs and rebuilding are complete in Gisborne, and the ensuing economic stimulus is tailing off, it is judicious to identify what can be learnt from Gisborne's experience that will be relevant to Christchurch in the years to come.

Key research questions:

  1. What have been the impacts on the Central Business District of the repairs to and reconstruction of commercial buildings?
  2. How have building upgrades affected property values, rents, and the demand and supply for both upgraded buildings and those buildings that received no improvements?
  3. What are the opportunities and impediments that arose from the delays to rebuilding experienced in the initial post-earthquake period?
  4. In what ways did the economic stimulus of building repairs/reconstruction affect the local economy?
  5. What roles did the 2007 earthquake, as well as the Christchurch earthquakes, have in driving Gisborne District Council to be one of the first local authorities to demand that existing buildings be at least two-thirds of the strength required for new buildings?

Methods:

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with selected businesses affected by the earthquake, and other key business community members.

Project Team:

  • Dr Felicity Powell, Theme Leader
  • Dr Abigail Harding
Subscribe to our Newsletter! Enter your email address: