‘Disaster Capitalism’ and Christchurch



‘Disaster capitalism’, according to author Naomi Klein, is when a shocking event like a war, invasion, or natural disaster provides a political opportunity for privatisation and corporate takeover of state functions.
In Chile after the overthrow of Allende, in Iraq after the American invasion, the US after September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, and Sri Lanka after the tsunami, the combination of social disorientation and the justification of disaster response made ideal conditions for right wing economic reform, usually with a reduction in civil rights.

In Christchurch, communities were already disempowered by the removal of elected representatives on ECan, the Canterbury Regional Council, as the Government sought to further ‘Big Farming’ interests in water allocation. The Global Financial Crisis was already being used to justify austerity measures. Canterbury’s devastating earthquakes then provided an opportunity for a range of sweeping law changes that have opened up the region to disaster capitalism with radical effects on the landscape of Christchurch and peoples’ rights.

Soon after the earthquakes, Prime Minister John Key met with 50 corporation CEOs to devise a plan for rebuilding Christchurch. What emerged included SCRIT – the “Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team” made of CERA, Christchurch City Council, NZ Transport Agency, Fulton Hogan and City Care, and publicly listed giants Fletcher Construction, Downer, and McConnell Dowell. Private companies were bonded into disaster recovery.

The earthquakes gave the government justification for five years of unprecedented legislative override. They gave Bob Parker the 2010 election, and Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority members payment of $1,000 a day. They gave Fletchers a bulk contract to rebuild 50,000 homes worth billions of dollars. Developers across Canterbury gained access to new land to house the displaced, and John Key got the claim that the economy is improving.
The catastrophe gave the people of Christchurch trespass notices and charter schools on the ruins of public education. The NZ Human Rights Commission reports that people got deteriorating living standards beyond the disaster’s initial effects, community dislocation, financial distress, unresolved insurance claims, poor or insecure housing, and undermined rights to property, housing and participation.

The Government passed sweeping laws which allowed them to “obtain information from any source; enter and demolish, remove or build land or structures; ‘require co-operation’ between adjoining landowners; and suspend, amend or revoke plans, policies, resource consents, existing use rights or Certificates of Compliance”; all with few rights to appeal. The sanctity of private property was swept aside.

These laws were condemned by eminent legal academics for their “unlimited extreme powers not proportional to the magnitude of the disaster, inadequate checks and balances, for containing elements contradictory to long standing constitutional and democratic principles, which … set a dangerous precedent and are procedurally unsound”.
True to the definition of disaster capitalism, many Christchurch residents are powerless, homeless, and depressed, while some of the world’s biggest companies rake over the ashes and take home the spoils from taxpayers and the state.


  1. Brilliant Post Christine Rose .

    Christchurch is my adopted city . I’d been living there for more than thirty years after I fled the tyranny of the family farm in preference for bright lights , friends , girls and parties . ( And I’d recommend it to any unhappy , bullied young farmer person . )
    Christchurch was a wonderful little city . It had a vibrant pub scene of musicians , it had interesting little lanes , streets and small vendors within the town center and those things , those little ventures are what gives any city its seasoning and spice .
    Then , in about the mid 1980’s a short , squinty eyed little man called roger douglas Game of Thrones-ed his way into ‘ power ‘ . His self styled form of satanic , crypto fascist , economic dogma was injected into our beautiful and evolving country using the filthy needles who were ruth richardson , jenny shipley , don brash et al .
    I remember that the changes that followed were profound and horrible . Suddenly wages plummeted , conditions of employment crumbled and society generally fell into dysfunction . Crime sky rocketed and angry graffiti ( Not the good kind ) became noticeable .
    Then in came the fluro vest . The traffic cone . The ‘ Health and Safety ‘ Nazi . Bleak little men usually brandishing clip boards .
    Christchurch fell to them . Beautiful , historically significant buildings were demolished to make way for Neo Banks and Office Towers . I remember being incensed at the United Service Hotel being pulled down to make way for the ANZ Bank .

    And now ?

    The Earthquakes have produced a remarkable and interesting phenomenon . The city looks gap – toothed . ( While I remember . Watch a documentary called Conversations with gap toothed Women by Les Blank . http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095199/ ) Taller buildings now stand apart , separated by open spaces .

    Those spaces are often filled with art . Yes . Art . Art was once described as being of absolutely no value AND of being absolutely essential . And immutable law of quantum physics ? Two opposing things must exist in the same place at the same time or nothing can exist all .

    It’s my humble opinion that the inner city has never looked more interesting since roger douglas destroyed it during his Reign of Bleak began in the 1980’s .

    Disaster Capitalism is a bi-product of the mental illness that is the lust for power emanating from the minds of cunning , well educated sociopaths .

    • Agh the United Services Hotel.. great place…. i still have a brick i collected from when they pulled that down ……….

  2. I lived in ChCh for 20 years and have now received an insurance payout for our house.

    I am so glad to see the back of this place that will soon become a rotting rat-infested slum. (Even this morning we read of German tourists squatting and crapping in a red-zoned house)

    • Whip-de-fucken-do, some backpackers have taken a shit in a derelict building that should have been demolished years ago.
      The German dumpsters was a pointless and boring media article about a non-event. Written to foster a moral panic about an issue that diverts attention away from the highjacking of Chch – fairly predictable that it would work on you.
      Also good to see you leave Christchurch andys, there’s way to much ignorance and idiocracy around here at the moment.
      Apologies to the rest of NZ who are mopping up our discarded dregs, such as andys.

      • We have had 3 years of dealing with insurance and EQC ineptness. Our woes continue with the completely corrupt EQC with the in-laws rental property in St Albans that has been flooded 4 times since the quake (my wife was on Campbell Live on this last week)
        I have had a gutsful of EQC, of insurance, and guys like “Fatty” who refer to me as “dregs”

        • Well, if your response to a post about disaster capitalism is to reinforce our D-grade journalism, then expect a nasty put-down.
          Disaster capitalism requires crap journalism, and it also requires the public to gobble up those crappy stories.
          You could have written anything in this comment section, but you chose to perpetuate disaster capitalism. Please stop

    • It will never become what you have suggested, my large extended family live in Christchurch and I will return there to build, create a new garden and enjoy my remaining years. I think on my frequent visits down there that one gets a sense of real community which you never get in this part of the world. Yes there are many frustrations with EQC and the many insurance companies (has an insurance company ever gone bust!) but people are standing up and supporting one another.

      Business is booming, my son runs a joinery factory and is run off his feet. People have families, jobs, schools, friends and many more things to stay for. I currently live in Dorkland and it ain’t that flash, it is hideously expensive to buy in and so sprawling I don’t specially want to be here.

      • Do you mean Dorkland, (I guess childishly meaning Auckland) is not part of our Rock star economy? I notice that as well. You just cant believe a thing this government says now can you….

        Damned good article by the way, the erosion of rights once taken for granted in the name of a disaster was fairly breath taking.

      • I’m now living in South Canterbury and life is much better than in ChCh

        The CCC have no future planned for the East other than to run it down. They believe all their sea level rise propaganda, so the obvious thing for them to do is make people leave, and the easiest way to do that is make them hate where they live

        They are doing a very good job at that

        • Well Andy you guys have had a hard road.

          But sea level rise is real and very much understated in the 0.5 metre rise councils are allowing for.

          Doubling that and adding some more, will still only see a medium term reprieve unfortunately.

          But no problem for developers and the gilded Corporates.

          They just do it all again …later

          • Yes well you obviously believe the computer generated “projections” too.

            Shame that there is no empirical evidence whatsoever to back them up

            Anyway, we have left Brighton and taken the money.
            All the Green Party voters left there will have to pay the exorbitant insurance and rates that their favorite junk science demands

  3. ”I re write combined thinking country boy,,,”Word for word ,,,,”Welcome into to the gates of hell,,,”The City of Christchurch New Zealand ,The 2014,15 ,,Holocaust ,”’,The killing fields ,,”We still have old and young people dyeing of the cold in this city,,”If if involves death all the better for the insurance companies its advertizing a deep seated institutionalized ,(FEAR) that we think only insurance can protect you from ,,,2010 ;;Boom ! rattle rattle ,,OMG OMG ! ”Thank God ,,””I’m insured with vero ,EQC Lumley ,”Then we have Brokers Benson and Westpac Banking what can go wrong,,??,, ,”Why have these companies done nothing to help,,?,2015 closing ,,”Liars and Cheats,,? ”Fully Insured to a very clever racket that feeds on our fear misery and ultimately frustration ,,”What can one person do to help these people in this city ,,”Write it all down! ”Very little I know but its a start ,,”CBoy quote..,Insurance companies wear a mask of sanity to hide the fact they are sociopaths ,,”Insurance companies don;t care ,,”They are predatory and parasites ,”,Gambling the markets ..”Starting internal wars in the City and traumatizing the old people of the City ,,”If we who are not sociopaths fail to find a way to control these sociopaths and keep there companies away from the power they have to bring our City and country to its knees ,”We need to recognize this and stop giving them trust and funding till this is sorted out we are doomed to pay the price yet again soon ,,”These mad incompetent arseholes in human suits have heaped upon us because we so want to believe they are not as evil as they are ,,”We need to tear away the mask of sanity and take comtrol again and bring it all back to public accountability ,,Cb ‘A fish like insurance social power structures always rot from the head down,,;;”Its time to cut out the rotten ones no matter how great they think they are starving our people out ,”With out our funding they are nothing as well,,”How many people are duped by the bullies and treats ,”Fake empathy, the insurance companies cowardly charade that hides the evil character of there well crafted fake dystunctional insurance system,,”Insurance companies are making millions out of this !,,20/06/13 , 19/03/14 ”Closeing in on 70 years of age,” Once again a look around our city on a dirt bike,,”Again as seen from the eyes and the heart ,,”One still sees out former city settement abandoned ,,”One sees streets still blocked this day by collapsed buildings,, ”There’s still very little in the way of inhabted buildings if any ,”The city ‘s population has decreased ,,”Many buildings abandoned or gone still waiting on insurance help and funding to arrive ,,”Some in good condition but now getting destroyed by time waiting on help or repair funding ,”,Funding stolen from the people of this city for no reason then to steal ,,”What can we do about it ,,”Who knows ? ”Maybe we can ,Cb, quote ,”Like all creepy crawlies they hate it when you lift up there rocks ..,”Trust has a specific legel meaning when insurance companies and government EQC that hold billions of our dollars for the benefit of us and won’t release it ,,”Insurance cartels and scum conglomerate and have our funds ,”Insurance practices like the system carried out in the cty of Christchurch should be deemed by all our courts to be obviously so detrimental that they are categorized as being unlawful ,,” A new collection of New Zealand laws should be past into government now or when we get a real government with balls again that will stand up to these insurance cartels and regulate the conduct of insurance companies from Australia ,,Restrict the easy formation of these insurance cartels like Suncorp Brisbane vero ,Lumley,and Brokers Westpac Banking and Benson etc ,”,After all we don’t need insurance ,,”The banks are the ones that need insurance ,,”Insurance cartels are supported in their protection racketeering by the banks who require you by law to provide insurances for there risk ,,Cb, , Or a debt untill death ,,The government when we get one ,”Need to restrict the mergers and acquistion of these cartel insurance organizations which substantially lesson competition.” Prohibit the creation of the monopoly insurance cartels from Australia stealing from us and there abuse of monopoly power they have in using our money against us ,,” Allow private parties affected to bring low cost action to courts to enforce antitrust laws on these company cartels ,As it sits we pay ,,”Something bad happens ,,”No funding comes in for rebuilding ar repair,,’No ones doing anything about it,? ”A racket !” quote ,”The insurance industry and its minions in Christchurch are the less savory by-product of a state funded education system of fools and dysfunctional peychopaths that have been educated beyond their intelligence in the art of stealing ,,”Take a dopy sort of fellow ,,”Like the broker I have,,.”Ones who’s mother would like a tipple of gin to ease the discomfort of a reluctant pregnancy,”Why was’nt she on the pill..”Out one comes ,,”Not that bright but a amenable sort ,”Then in comes Daddy ,”Rich Daddy ..”Of you go to Christ’s College old boy,,”Get force fed a degree then become a lawyer or a insurance broker ,,,”Thick as a strainer post on a farm fence but cunning ,”Like a shit house rat ,,((”No disrespect to actal rats’)) ”Set it loss a dumb damaged insurance broker or a Lawyer that is manufactured by a school which thinks programming fools will improve or can repair our city provided the fathers of fools cough up the dosh,’We would think an educated insurance personel or Lawyer should be persons of integrity and transparency ,”This is what drives high the public expectations towards the educated people ,,”Education is not about certicates degrees ‘,Education is about how a person relates to life ”,In my opinion an educated person would be a person who at least is sensitive to the pyschological moral wellbeing of the people of this city and not let it be taken over by insurance cartels ,”The City of Christchurch was leveled by a earthquake which left one hundred and eighty five dead ? and thousands of people homeless and injured and today it’s still unclear if the current government in New Zealand will help or do something ,or just keep letting the insurance cartel’s keep controll,and just let all thats left of the city just go into further decay , ”We still have a deserted city thinly guarded by half broken fences ,”,Features of the abandonment with strange geezers scrawed on the walls of many buildings since the cities desertion years ago,,”’The city sometimes invaded and claimed like a tourist territory still,,Cutting into the boundaries between the Canterbury people and the dream of help arriving from government and the insurance nightmere is between living and poverty ,”No other place on earth or in New Zealand is living the destructive forces from modernity like this the insurance companies and our government have created by denying help,,”There are still dreams a foot of help arriveing ,,”Yet still the psychological mechanisims and treats being used against our people by these ruling oligarchs and corporations like the insurance racketeers and the banksters and certainly our very own nightmere that is our government EQC that one would think was here to protect us ,,;;”Its now out of control and property owners just cannot rebuild on land without the funding that’s owing ,,,So cb , ”We now have a empty city centered by interesting old world churches that ((could ))have long been repaired may ((God)) strike down those responsible for this,, ,”Abandoned in the city that died with its streets sitting quiet and empty ,,”Isolation has taken hold and takes on the macabre shape of a forlorn ghost town just crumbling with neglect and decay,,”Abandonment, yet lurking in the shadow of some civilization from the day of its collapse ,”,Some buildings fallen while others simply have now out lived their function while waiting on repairs by insurance companies,and now sit in the deserted mute streets ,”Remains of houses adversely effected by the years that have past ,,,”City stonework from the gothic art deco slowly crumbling and collapsing ,,”Tower blocks boarded up and ravaged by looters,;;”One gets the sense of the new look ,,”Cumulatively a powerfull and disturbing testament of what our new generation wants a city to look like at a destructive cost and no insurance funding , ”Whats left of canterbury capitalism,, ”A city centre museum in a town centre that sits empty ”A city that has become a notorious symbol of a insurance disaster with parts untouched since the departure of its population sitting like a time capsule ,”We need to sit back ,”’Has our government been hijacked by corporate insurance cartels ,”I look back to 2010 ,,’All one ask for was to have the central heating repaired ,”It wasn’t a big ask,;;2014 ,”,Old and still cold and wet on winter nights waiting on help ,, ,,”We get the collapse’ of a insurance structure and the physical and mental breakdown, exhaustion from the prolonged delays to our people waiting on our insurance funding or help,”The Myth that if you pay insurances and somthing bad happens you will be compensated ,,,If you again Pass Suncorp Brisbane vero ,,EQC , Lumley Brokers , Benson ,Westpac Banking on the way to vote ,Remember we still need help in the city real bad ,,Julian

  4. Earthquake City,,, ”’I apologize for the undue comments, ”Thanks for your support Country Boy, Any support is helpfull , ,,”This is not the first site to remove my comments ,,”’I spent an hour and half writing the real thinking on our damaged City and its get removed after ten minutes , However,,, ”’Thanks for the short air time , Sorry for steping on the wrong peoples feet ,,? Noah

    • Julian, long, thoughtful comments are welcome here, but I suggest you use paragraphs to break them up into bite-sized sections. Otherwise such long comments are very hard to read.

      • Danyl , ”All blacks can win a game, But not aways the fight after the game ,,,”Sorry to cut in on the experts ,,” Im not a scholar by any means and that’s not the point of writing ,,”And I will never will claim to be one,, ”However in 1962 I did get the cane at college for writing my true internal thinking about the Vietnam war,,,I still carry that storey inside to this day and it hurts,,,”’ I should have learned then, ”But I stood up and paid the price ,,”,Again,” I now stand alone as the owner of well used supper gold card and a small dog , ,,” Still driving a old car and running an hand me down old 486 Computer from 80s, ” On dail up conection that drops of the net half way into writing if you stop for a piss ,,”God help blog world if the bow and arrow is taken from me and replaced with something more advanced like a apple laptop ,,”An old tied 118 kg blacksmith and engineer that can still bench press 111kg but not strong enought to fight insurance scum,, ” ”Living in a abandon City with a small dog that holds an uncanny power over me from ghosts of a former city inhabitants even when nature has taken over the structures once forged by human hands ,,”Interesting modern structures I help weld together in decay are nearly as beautiful as medieval or ancient ruins ,,”I guess its because the older strutures were generally more beauiful to begin with ,,”(Jackson wasn’t it )” (( Light a fire under the the Cherokee and when it gets hot enough they will move )) ,,,”We now have Key and his insurance system lighting a fire under us ,,” I well drop out of your blogging system ,,”As I cannot fight with a bow and arrow against your guns ,,,Persecution,,,”My great grand mother run to New Zealand from Cleveland ohio in the 1840s ,,,Fugitives again in our own new country ,,,” I will fight this insurance scam alone ,,”’The stage is yours ,,Julian

        • Please don’t leave us, Julian, we need kind people to counter some the spiteful comments on this site.
          I think Danyl is a good natured person who was only suggesting a presentation of your insightful remarks to make his reading easier. My own suggestion would be for you to express your opinions in smaller bites that we all could ingest more smoothly.

          • PS. The only Jackson quote I remember is ” the only good Injun is a dead Injun”, but here’s another one I looked up which may inspire you to keep writing…
            “It is a damn poor mind indeed which can’t think of at least two ways to spell any word.”

  5. The Christchurch shambles is exactly word for word what was warned would happen when the Ministry of Works was dismantled in 1988 and its SOE successor sold 8 years later.

    Same with the sale of the government owned insurance companies.

  6. great article Christine,on disaster capitalism in chch,Naomi Klien’s book the Shock Doctrine is a must read for anyone wanting to understand where the Neo Liberal agenda wants to take us.

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