Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation

Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation

The situation

Within a matter of minutes, the Canterbury earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011 irrevocably changed the face of Christchurch, creating a national state of emergency and throwing its more than 400,000 residents into disarray – in many cases dispossessing them of their worldly goods, destroying the world around them as they knew it, and often robbing them of their houses altogether. After the September quake alone, 12,000 houses were deemed seriously structurally unsound.

Since the earthquakes, Christchurch has been faced with the task of supporting its people in the aftermath and rebuilding a city from the ground up. Since its earliest recovery efforts, one of the city’s most pressing needs has been to find shelter for the newly homeless and provide support and financial assistance to those affected. To address this crisis, the Christchurch Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS) was established. A joint venture between the Ministry of Social Development and the Department of Building and Housing, CETAS needed to bring together government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) across the country, enabling them to work together to deliver a seamless and timely service to a public in need. A solid technology platform was urgently required to underpin the CETAS service, unifying the many agencies involved in delivering it and making it easy for people to receive the assistance they needed.

The pain

The CETAS solution needed to be rapidly deployed, in place within a three-week timeframe following the September quake. It also needed to be reliable, robust and flexible enough to serve as a platform for unknown future requirements, as the earthquake response effort evolved.

It needed the scalability to handle extreme peaks in usage, and it needed to cater to the various goals of the government agencies and NGOs using it.

“The system had to give database access to multiple service providers across remote locations and bring all this information into one space to deliver a unified service with several service delivery arms,” says CETAS Business Manager, David Griffiths. “So a web-based solution made sense.”

The technology

With these needs in mind, a partner-hosted ‘private cloud’ CRM solution was seen as the best fit, allowing agile and rapid development and providing an extensible platform that would grow with the earthquake recovery effort.

The cloud model has meant that the CETAS solution is cost effective, as big or small as it needs to be based on the demand for it, and it has removed the burden of hardware ownership, meaning the service could simply be ‘turned on’ as required, speeding up the process and eliminating overheads and the need for maintenance.

CRM has proved to be an extremely adaptable and powerful platform for numerous ongoing enhancements. David Griffiths says: “Having the ability to extend and enhance the solution along the way has meant it has become a core tool for us in our response efforts.”

The gain

Up to 5,000 members of the Christchurch public have made use of the CETAS service since its establishment, and since April 4 2011 the CETAS team has dealt with over 1,800 enquiries. Roger Sutton, CEO of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Association, says of the service: “Often the best ideas and policies are also the least publicised. If things are ticking along well without drama or complaint, they generally fall under the media radar. One of the recovery success stories so far has been the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service.”

The solution has helped bring together numerous organisations, encompassing multiple strands, helping them to deliver a vital service. The solution has also set a precedent, providing a much needed level of consistency and the ability for the Christchurch public to receive seamless and timely assistance.

David Griffiths explains: “The CETAS solution has been extremely well received, and the technology itself has created a new way for government and NGO organisations to work together on critical causes, wherever in the country they may be. Because of this, the solution is now being looked at as a model for all types of multi-agency engagements that deliver services that are paid for by the government. It’s a significant step forward for this type of service delivery.”


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