Mind the gap: Post earthquake community wellbeing?


  • Nicky Cooper-Cabell Worked at Nga Maata Waka as part of the Earthquake Co-ordination team following the September and February earthquakes. Now working at CYF as a Care and Protection Social Worker.




canterbury earthquakes, christchurch earthquakes, disaster, mental health, psychosocial recovery, noeliberalism, stronger canterbury strategic planning framework,


Following the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury earthquakes the Stronger Canterbury Strategic Planning Framework was developed by the National Psychosocial Response Subgroup with support from the Psychosocial Recovery Advisory Group under the auspices of the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the National Health Emergency Plan (Ministry of Health, 2007, p.18). The Framework’s purpose was to provide an overarching context for the Christchurch Psychosocial Response Subgroup as well as applicable Community Wellbeing subgroups to assist in planning the psychosocial recovery in response to the Canterbury earthquakes. Within the document two essential components to the psychosocial recovery for Canterbury are identified: individual recovery and wellbeing, and the building of community resilience while supporting psychosocial wellbeing. Implicit in the document is the notion that provided the right supports are in place, recovery will occur. This article argues the current pervasive neo-liberal perspective has hampered the ability of those supports to be fully realised. To begin, the strategic planning aims of addressing individual psychosocial wellbeing and community resilience will be defined in this review. Secondly, examples illustrating how the pervading neo-liberal perspective has contributed to the failure of the policy to assist community recovery will be discussed. Examples referring to the notions of rights, equality, social justice and the Treaty of Waitangi will be provided. To conclude, the slow pace of the recovery for Cantabrians has had, and continues to have, multiple implications for the social work community. It is over two years on from the first earthquake, and much of the population are still struggling to gain equilibrium. Social workers in Canterbury have been working tirelessly to improve outcomes for clients. It is suggested it is time social work as a national body advocates for the stakeholders to pay more attention to the original intent of the framework.


Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of Ethics (2ndrev.). Christchurch, New Zealand: Author.

Bragin, M. (2011). Clinical social work in situations of disaster and terror. In J. Brandell (Ed.,) Theory and practice in clinical social work. (2nd ed., pp 373-405). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Braveman, D., & Gruskin, S. (2003). Poverty, equity, human rights and health. Bulletin of the World Health Organisation, 81(7), 539-545. Retrieved from http://www.scielosp.org/pdf/bwho/v81n7/v81n7a13.pdf.

Canterbury Earthquake Commission. (2012). Scorecard. Retrieved Nov 13th 2012 from: http://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/progress-updates/scorecard.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. (2011a) Statement of intent. 1 July 2011–30 June 2016. Retrieved from: http://cera.govt.nz/sites/cera.live.egressive.com/files/common/cera-soi-2011-2016.pdf.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. (2011b). Briefing for the Minister. Retrieved April 14th 2012 from: http://cera.govt.nz/sites/cera.govt.nz/files/common/cera-briefing-for-the-incoming-minister-december-2011-20120202.pdf.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. (2011c). Iwi recovery programme. Retrieved June 1st 2012 from: http://cera.govt.nz/recovery-strategy/leadership-and-integration/


Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. (2012). Crown offer to uninsured improved properties in the flat land residential red zones [Fact Sheet]. Retrieved from http://cera.govt.nz/sites/cera.govt.nz/files/common/factsheet-crown-offer-to-uninsured-improved-properties-in-the-flat-land-residential-red-zones-20120913.pdf.

Cheyne, C., O’Brien, M., & Belgrave, M. (2005). Social policy in Aotearoa New Zealand. Acritical introduction (3rd ed.). Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Christchurch rent crisis ‘best left to market’ (2012, March 3). The Press. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz.

Community Response. (n.d). Social sector recognised at Christchurch awards ceremony. Retreived February 18th 2013 from: http://www.communityresponse.org.nz/my-community/community-response-model/community-response-forums/canterbury-forum/canterbury-forum-news-and-events/social-sector-awards-media-release.html.

Dean, H (2008). The socialist perspective. In P. Alcock., M. May., & K. Rowlingson (Eds.), The students companion to social policy (3rd ed pp. 84-90). Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing.

Duncan, G. (2004). Society and politics: New Zealand social policy (2nd ed.). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education

Ellison, N. (2008). Neo-Liberalism. In P. Alcock., M. May., & K. Rowlingson (Eds.), The students companion to social policy (3rd ed pp. 61-68). Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishing.

Family and Community Services. (2011). Canterbury social services earthquake. Retrieved April 14th 2012 from: http://www.familyservices.govt.nz/working-with-us/news-room/newsletters/community-connect/issue-11/canterbury-social-services-earthquake.html.

Friesen, M. (2006). Social justice survey. Exploring social justice: A New Zealand perspective. Retrieved February 18th 2012 from: http://www.socialjustice.co.nz/social_justice_excerpt.pdf.

Gates, C. (October, 31). Housing NZ to build for private sale. The Press. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/your-property/7884484/Housing-NZ-to-build-for-private-sale.

Geiringer, C, & Palmer, M. (2007). Human rights and social policy in New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/journals-and-magazines/social-policy-journal/spj30/30-pages12-41.pdf.

Grant, J. (2010). Helping the over 10,000 uninsured quake victims will create a moral hazard. Retrieved April 14 2012 from: http://www.interest.co.nz/insurance/50615/helping-over-10000-uninsuredquake-vic…

Haigh, R., & Sutton, R. (2012). Strategies for the effective engagement of multi-national construction enterprises in post disaster building and infrastructure projects. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, 3(3), 270-282.

Hoyle, J. (2012). Stark realities for southern welfare centres. Retrieved May 9th from: http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/research-media/media-centre/local-news/stark-realities-for-southern-welfare-centres/.

How it works: payout case studies (2011, June 23). The Press. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz.

Hutton, D. (2001). Psychosocial aspects of disaster: Integrating communities into disaster planning and policy making. (Paper no 2). Retrieved from http://www.iclr.org/images/Psychosocial_aspects_of_disaster_recovery.pdf.

IAG. (2012). Factors affecting whether your home can be repaired or needs replacing. Retrieved May 9th 2012, from: http://www.iag.co.nz/News/Documents/IAG1340-1%20IAG%20Repair%20or%20Rebuild%.

Inter Agency Standing Committees. (2007). Guidelines on mental health & psychosocial support in emergency settings. (Handbook) Geneva: Author.

International Federation of Social Work. (2005). Definition of social work. Retrieved April 14th 2012 from: http://www.ifsw.org/f38000138.html.

Klein, N. (2007, September). Disaster capitalism. The new economy of catastrophe. Harpers, (9), 47-58.

Mathbor, G. (2007). Enhancement of community preparedness for natural disasters: The role of social work in building social capital for sustainable disaster relief and management. International Social Work, 50(3) 357-369. doi: 10. 1177/002087076049.

McClure, J., & Williams, S. (1996). Community preparedness: Countering helplessness and optimism. In D. Paton, & N. Long (Eds.). Psychological aspects of disasters (pp. 237- 254). Palmerston North, New Zealand: The Dunmore Press.

MacDonald, L. (2012, November 9). Property prices through the roof. The Christchurch Press. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/your-property/7926241/Property-prices-through-the-roof.

Ministry of Health. (2012). Future directions. The draft education renewal programme. (Brochure) Retrieved from http://shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/FutureDirectionsSelfFacilitationPPT.pdf.

New Zealand Government. (2011). Stronger Canterbury earthquake recovery: Strategic planning framework. Retrieved from: http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/planning-strategy/strategic-planning-framework/index.html.

Norris, F., Stevens, S., Pfefferbaum, B., Wyche, K., & Pfefferbaum, R. (2007). Community resilience as a metaphor, theory, set of capacities and strategy for disaster readiness. American Journal of Community Psychology, 41, 127-150. doi: 10.1007/s10464-007-9156-6.

Parliament. (2012). First session, fiftieth parliament. Parliamentary debates (unedited). Retrieved May 9th from http://www.parliament.nz/NR/rdonlyres/4E13EDD4-8951-444A-B9E1-3E0BAF7C8500/212029/50HansD_20120322.pdf.

Pyles, L. (2008). Community organising for post disaster social development, locating social work. International Social Work, 50(3), 321-333.Doi:10.1177/0020872807076044.

Small, V. (2011, June 23). Crown to buy 5100 quake hit Christchurch homes. The Christchurch Press. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/5179959/Crown-to-buy-5100-quake-hit-Christchurch-homes.

Soliman, H., & Rogge, M. (2002). Ethical considerations in disaster services: A social work perspective. Electronic Journal of Social Work, 1(1), 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.centerforurbanstudies.com/documents/electronic_library/disaster_planning/ethics_in_disasterplanning.pdf.

Stewart, A. (2012, April 16). Stressed out, irate residents on the rise. The Press, p. A4.

Tarrant, A. (2012). Govt comfortable with current intervention in Christchurch housing market, but always open to ideas, Housing Minister Heatly says. Retrieved May 9th 2012 from: http://www.interest.co.nz/property/58648/govt-comfortable-current-interventions-christchurch-housing-market-always-open-ideas-.

Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu. (2011). He huanui ara ake mo Waitaha. Retrieved April 14 2012 from: http://www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz/Earthquake/RuWhenua/He-Huanui-Ara-Ake-mo-Waitaha-Te-Runanga-oNgai-Tahu-interim-input-on-the-draft-CERA-Recovery-Strategy.pdf.

The International Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support. (2009). Psychosocial Intervention (Handbook). Retrieved from: http://mhpss.net/wp-content/uploads/group-documents/22/1328075906-PsychosocialinterventionsAhandbookLowRes.pdf.

Waitangi Tribunal. (2012). Principles of the Treaty. Retrieved April 14th from: http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/treaty/principles.asp.




How to Cite

Cooper-Cabell, N. (2016). Mind the gap: Post earthquake community wellbeing?. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 25(2), 27–34. https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol25iss2id78