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Transformations for resilient rural futures: the case of Kaikōura, Aotearoa-New Zealand
On 14 November 2016, a magnitude (Mw) 7.8 earthquake struck the small coastal settlement of Kaikōura, Aotearoa-New Zealand. This paper uses qualitative case study analysis to explore post-quake transformations in a rural context. The aim is to gain insight into the distinctive dynamics of disaster response mechanisms, focusing on two initiatives that have emerged in direct response to the disaster. The first examines the ways in which agriculture, food harvesting, production and distribution are being reimagined with the potential to enhance regional food security. The second examines the rescaling of power in decision-making processes following the disaster, specifically examining the ways in which rural actors are leveraging networks to meet their needs and the consequences of that repositioning on rural (and national) governance arrangements. In these and other ways, the local economy is being revitalised, and regional resilience enhanced through diversification, capitalising not on the disaster but the region’s natural, social, and cultural capital.
Drawing on insights and experience of local stakeholders, policy- and decision-makers, and community representatives this paper highlights the diverse ways in which these endeavours are an attempt to create something new, revealing also the barriers which needed to be overcome to reshape local livelihoods. Results reveal that the process of transformation as part of rural recovery must be grounded in the lived reality of local residents and their understanding of place, incorporating and building on regional social, environmental, and economic characteristics. In this, the need to respond rapidly to realise opportunities must be balanced with the community-centric approach, with greater recognition given to the contested nature of the decisions to be made. Insights from the case examples can inform preparedness and recovery planning elsewhere, and provide a rich, real-time example of the ways in which disasters can create opportunities for reimagining resilient futures.