When the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand, at 12.51pm on 22nd February 2011, the psychological and physical landscape was irrevocably changed. In the days and weeks following the disaster communities were isolated due to failed infrastructure, continuing aftershocks and the extensive search and rescue effort which focussed resources on the central business district. In such moments the resilience of a community is truly tested. This research discusses the role of grassroots community groups in facilitating community resilience during the Christchurch 2010/11 earthquakes and the role of place in doing so. I argue that place specific strategies for urban resilience need to be enacted from a grassroots level while being supported by broader policies and agencies.
Using a case study of Project Lyttelton – a group aspiring towards a resilient sustainable future who were caught at the epicentre of the February earthquake – I demonstrate the role of a community group in creating resilience through self-organised place specific action during a disaster. The group provided emotional care, basic facilities and rebuilding assistance to the residents of Lyttelton, proving to be an invaluable asset. These actions are closely linked to the characteristics of social support and social learning that have been identified as important to socio-ecological resilience. In addition this research will seek to understand and explore the nuances of place and identity and its role in shaping resilience to such dis-placing events. Drawing on community narratives of the displacement of place identity, the potential for a progressive sense of place as instigated by local groups will be investigated as an avenue for adaptation by communities at risk of disaster and place destabilisation.