Effective communication and engagement with communities post-disaster was critical. It helped SCIRT build trust and tolerance during the substantial disruption created while rebuilding the city.
Communications and Community
A suite of 31 management plans were developed under the Interim Alliance Agreement prior to the start of SCIRT, to intentionally guide the organisation. These plans were reviewed annually and updated as required.
This Stakeholder Management Plan was one of these management plans, and it outlined the scope, approach and key deliverables for communications and stakeholder engagement for SCIRT's horizontal rebuild programme.
SCIRT used many communications channels to maintain an open and honest dialogue with the community during its rebuild programme. These helped build tolerance and understanding around the disruptive nature of SCIRT's work. Regular community surveys showed SCIRT's most effective communication tool was the Work Notice.
Work site information days were a positive way to build relationships with the local community. The public was invited to visit the site on a set day and meet the people working there.
In response to driver frustration and to encourage patience and safe driving habits during traffic detours and delays, stationary drivers were given "chocolate fish" (iconic New Zealand sweets) wrapped in a message about the project.
SCIRT created a range of fact sheets describing its role and work. These accessible, cost-effective tools were displayed in public places and taken to community meetings.
Effective stakeholder communication and engagement was critical to the success of SCIRT's rebuild programme. In a post-disaster environment, the community was already under considerable stress. About 150 SCIRT construction projects at any one time within a relatively small city (population approx. 360,000) could be highly disruptive to residents, businesses and commuters.
One of SCIRT's objectives was to "be proactive and communicate face-to-face where possible". It also aimed to be "approachable". These objectives were regularly measured in community surveys.
Door-knocking was a successful way to meet these objectives and encourage positive contact between SCIRT and the community. It was particularly important in a post-disaster environment where people were coping with many stressors and their ability to process information was impaired. It was also important in communities where written communication was less effective.
Supporting businesses affected by SCIRT rebuild works was critical to help businesses continue to operate, and to maintain community confidence.
Independent research underpinned SCIRT's communications programme, providing insights into the public's perception of its work and identifying areas for improvement.
For six long years, about 100,000 cones served the people of Christchurch, creating protective barriers, signalling dangers and guiding pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
SCIRT was recognised nationally and internationally with awards for its achievements in several areas from civil engineering and construction to IT, planning and the environment, including winning the prestigious Brunel Medal in 2013.