The post-disaster politics of vacant urban space: contestation and conflict in Canterbury, New Zealand

Authors: David Conradson*, University of Canterbury
Topics: Social Geography, Social Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: post-disaster, vacant space, cities, contestation, recovery
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon B1, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Following the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes in New Zealand, the demolition of buildings in the city of Christchurch and the nearby town of Kaiapoi has led to significant tracts of vacant urban and suburban land. These vacant areas have attracted considerable attention, as commercial, governmental, not for profit, and public interests have vied to use and develop them in particular ways, all as part of a multi-billion-dollar reconstruction and recovery process. Building on the work of Naomi Klein and other commentators on disaster capitalism, the paper examines some of the conflict and contestation inherent to the use and redevelopment of these vacant urban spaces. The particular focus is on 'red-zoned' land, a category that describes areas which the government has deemed unsuitable for ongoing residential inhabitation, and from which residents were required to leave permanently. In Christchurch, there are proposals to redevelop the eastern red-zoned areas, turning them into a multi-purpose city-to-sea river park. In Kaiapoi, proposals for mixed commercial and residential development of some red zoned land have proved controversial. The paper considers the tensions inherent to both these attempts to redevelop vacant urban spaces, and the processes of community consultation associated with them.

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