Hurunui District Council

Community connections drive Hurunui's earthquake recovery. Almost half of Hurunui’s population lives in areas directly affected by the November 2016 earthquake, with diverse communities from towns to villages and rural areas impacted in different ways.

Along with damage to homes and businesses, many farms were left with fractured and unusable pastures that couldn’t be accessed as farm access roads were destroyed. Many business and communities that depended on State Highway 1 traffic were left without their usual income as traffic ground to a halt.

The recovery response was led by the community with support from the Hurunui District Council. Natural leaders emerged from each community and these leaders provided invaluable insights into the needs of local people. Adopting a community-led approach enabled the Council to customise its recovery efforts according to the needs of Hurunui residents.

The recovery team initially focused on reopening local roads, restoring water and essential services, providing emergency accommodation and carrying out building inspections.

Over 3,500 premises were inspected, with 314 requiring whole or partial evacuation because of the risk to human life. Council staff worked closely with building owners to provide advice and assistance.

One small but very successful initiative was an offer by the Council to inspect chimneys where the owners had concerns. Around 100 properties were inspected and 25 found to have chimneys that were too dangerous to use.

Government-funded free legal advice was arranged in association with Community Law Canterbury.

Communities quickly rallied, and once the basic services were up and running, the recovery team spent much time with local communities to provide the advice and help they needed to get their lives, homes and businesses back on track.

Social recovery efforts were driven by community needs and a desire to bring local people together. Successful community-led initiatives include: Let’s Connect, a mobile recovery hub, education and wellbeing seminars, community meals, funding application workshops and free legal advice.

The Let’s Connect events were well-received by local communities in Hurunui. Residents could reconnect with their community, while discussing earthquake issues with insurers, the Council, EQC, funding organisations, Community Law Canterbury, Wellbeing North Canterbury, the All Right Campaign team and other recovery specialists.

With such a diverse population over a wide geographical area, face-to-face contact has been a key ingredient of the recovery effort. A mobile recovery hub played a vital role in connecting with people in smaller, more remote communities. Connecting with the community in their own space gave people the opportunity to ask questions and get the information they need to make important decisions in a relaxed, informal setting.

A social recovery team, together with various agencies, interacted with the community to connect those in need with the health and social services they needed. Navigators, funded by Lotteries Grants and and Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, played an essential role in providing wraparound services for those who needed help with referrals to agencies and advice on services.

Promoting wellbeing has also been a vital part of the recovery strategy. Wellbeing workshops and seminars presented by health experts provided practical tips for residents to help get their lives back on track. Fun events, such as family movie nights and shared community meals, provided an uplifting break for affected residents.

Events for children and younger people gave families the chance to have some fun, while having an opportunity to connect with others in the community.

The Council worked with the Rural Support Trust to make sure help reached individual farms and remote locations. A team of volunteers carried out a door-knocking campaign to connect with the rural community while identifying the needs of farmers. Behind the scenes, the Council worked with government on support measures, such as the grant schemes from the Ministry for Primary Industries (such as the mobilisation of skilled volunteer labour on farms) and MBIE (including through the Earthquake Support Subsidy and the Business Recovery Grants Programme).
The Ministry for Primary Industries has ring-fenced $4 million for community projects across the three districts to help them recover from the earthquake through changing land use, as well as $1 million for professional advisory services to help with long-term land use planning and technical advice.

Recreational and sporting opportunities are a key part of the recovery strategy. Funding application workshops helped community and sporting groups access funds to help them rebuild damaged facilities.

Having access to good quality relocatable housing units proved a major boost. The Rāwhiti units replaced damaged farm accommodation so people could stay on their farms and their children could continue to attend their usual school. The Council provided fast turnarounds for consent-related rebuild work, which brought a stream of income back into many small towns.
In Waiau, the Council acted proactively by purchasing land to build a temporary accommodation village of four houses for local residents, which officially opened in July 2017. This means residents can remain in the local area while their houses are repaired.

This community-led earthquake recovery model has made sure the needs of affected Hurunui residents are accurately identified. Working through established community leaders has enabled the Council to provide the most appropriate resources to meet the needs of a diverse population spread over a wide geographic area.

Hurunui District Council received a $300,000 share of the $2.5 million government support for additional local government regulatory and communications requirements arising from the earthquake.

Along with the Kaikōura and Marlborough districts, Hurunui was fortunate to access assistance from the Lotteries funding of $5.41 million for earthquake relief and $7.5 million for rebuilds of community facilities.

Visit the Hurunui District Council website.