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«Place attachment & place-based security: the experiences of red and green zone residents in post-earthquake Kaiapoi GEOG420 Research Dissertation ...»

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Place attachment & place-based security: the

experiences of red and green zone residents in

post-earthquake Kaiapoi

GEOG420 Research Dissertation 2012

Author: Kimberley Tanner

University Identification:

Supervisor: David Conradson


This research focuses on Kaiapoi, a North Canterbury town and explores how the Canterbury

earthquakes impacted green and red zoned residents’ connections to, and feelings about their

homes and community. Using the ideas of place attachment and place-based security, it examines how these specific connections to ‘home’ were impacted by the earthquakes and how people found ways to cope or re-establish these connections in a post-disaster context. The research found that participants had different levels of attachment at different place scales: their home, town and city.

The findings highlight a change in the levels of attachment among these different scales. They also demonstrate differences between red and green zoned groups in relation to the changing connections towards home, as many red zoned residents experienced significant changes in attachment because of damage and relocation, while most green zone residents maintained strong connection to their homes. Disruption to people’s place-based security was experienced more commonly across both groups, as people experienced uncertainty, instability and a lack of control over their environments. Participants also found different ways to cope with the disruptions and reestablish their connections to place. In light of these findings, post-disaster decision makers need to be mindful of the multidimensional nature of the impacts of disasters. Rather than focusing mainly on the practical aspects, sensitivity also needs to be given to the emotional and psycho-social dimensions too, especially when planning recovery efforts that impact places of personal significance.




Literature Review

Place and Place attachment

Conceptualising place and home

Place attachment and sense of place

Place-Based Security

Disaster Context: Disruptions to attachment and security

Displacement and Relocation

Coping and re-establishing attachment and security

The Study Area: Kaiapoi


Sampling Strategy

Data Collection and Analysis



Scales of attachment

Place attachments in a post-earthquake environment

Changing connections to the home place

Changing connections with town

Changing connections with the city

No strong connections

Shifting scales

Place-based security

Consequences of disrupted place-based security

Coping and re-establishing connections to place

Project Limitations

Conclusion and Implications



List of Figures and Tables Figure 1. Map illustrating study site: Kaiapoi, Kairaki and Pines Beach towns (Source: Google Maps, 2012).

Figure 2. Map illustrating the geographical areas of investigation (red and green zones) in Kaiapoi, Kairaki and Pines Beach.

(Source: http://cera.govt.nz/maps)

Table 1. 2006 Demographic characteristics of Kaiapoi, Pines Beach and Kairaki Beach area and Canterbury (Statistics New Zealand, 2012)

Table 2: Demographic comparison of participants and Kaiapoi, Pines and Kairaki study area............ 21 Introduction It has been long acknowledged that disasters can cause significant disruption to both people and places. They disturb not only the physical and material landscapes of localities, but also the emotional attachments people feel to places. Within disaster literature the psychological and emotional impacts of disasters are increasingly being recognised alongside the physical and financial losses (Peek & Mileti, 2002; Hawkins & Maurer, 2011). However within geographic literature, there has been a notable absence of research exploring the psychological and emotional dimensions of disasters, particularly relating to the impact of disasters on people’s connection home. This omission is surprising given that many disasters result in the destruction of people’s homes and communities.

This project aims to help fill this gap by exploring the impacts of disasters on people’s connections to their homes and communities.

The context of the project is the September 2010 and February 2011 Canterbury earthquakes and aftershocks. These earthquakes and aftershocks impacted many people’s lives dramatically as their houses and other significant places were damaged, daily routines were disrupted, and in many cases their sense of safety and security was disturbed. In some cases, people also experienced displacement and involuntary relocation from their homes and communities which increased the disruption and trauma. These experiences generated feelings of sadness, loss and grief.

Despite evaluating and consolidating media portrayals of the impacts of the Canterbury earthquakes on people’s lives (e.g. Gawith, 2011), there has been little research examining how the earthquakes impacted people’s connections to their homes and communities. Therefore it was important for people’s connections to places, like their homes and communities, to be explored because of their pivotal role in providing significance in people’s lives. By exploring how these connections were impacted, it is hoped that this research will add to the growing body of work exploring the emotional and psycho-social dimensions of the earthquakes.

The study investigated the earthquakes’ impact on people’s connections to their homes and communities in Kaiapoi, a town in North Canterbury, by using the concepts of place attachment and sense of security. Kaiapoi was an area that suffered extensive damage following the September 2010 earthquakes. There was a spatial variability to this damage, which following the February 2011 earthquakes was given the titles of red and green zones. In order to understand how the earthquakes impacted people’s connections to home and community in Kaiapoi, it was important to hear the experiences of red and green zoned residents. In attempting to provide insights into people’s experiences of the earthquakes, the project examined the following questions;

1. How have the earthquakes affected the place attachments of people living in red and green

–  –  –

2. How has the place-based security of Kaiapoi residents been affected by the earthquakes?

3. How, if necessary, are people re-establishing their place attachments and place-based security following the earthquakes?

In using the concepts of place attachment and place-based security, a richer understanding of people’s connections to their home and community will hopefully emerge. By developing an understanding of how these connections were impacted by the earthquakes, it is hoped that more sensitivity will be given to the emotional and psycho-social impacts of disasters in recovery efforts.

Literature Review There is a wealth of knowledge about people’s connections to place and the impacts of disasters on people’s lives. This review draws on three bodies of work that contribute to understanding how disasters can impact people’s connections to place. The discussion will begin by conceptualising place and home, as they are central to the study. It will then focus on two bodies of work; place attachment and sense of security, which reveal some of the connections people have with places. It will also investigate what happens to those connections after a disaster by drawing on work in disaster studies looking at displacement, relocation and coping. In doing this, the review aims to provide an understanding of the importance of examining people’s connections to place in a postdisaster context.

Place and Place attachment Conceptualising place and home Understanding place in its true complexity requires a multidisciplinary approach. The scholarship conceptualising place ranges from work in psychology, sociology, anthropology and geography to work completed in natural resource social science (Trentelman, 2009). Some of the key contributors to the conceptualisation of place have been geographers and environmental psychologists. From a geographical perspective place is defined as what a location is (Tunstall et al., 2004). Agnew (1987) theorised place as a meaningful location made up of three fundamental aspects: location, locale and sense of place. Most simply, location refers to where a site is (Cresswell, 2004). The material components that shape a place in which people live their lives make up the locale (Cresswell, 2004).

Sense of place is the attachment people have to place that is both subjective and emotional (Cresswell, 2004).

Spaces therefore become places when they are used, lived in, and given value:

when they are experienced (Cresswell, 2009).

Home is often a place that holds great importance for people. As both a material and imagined place, it is a concept that is complex and multidimensional. Home exists as an encompassing category, combining a place/physical location or material environment, such as the physical structure of a house, with an emotional set of meanings like permanence, continuity and rootedness (Blunt & Dowling, 2006; Dupuis & Thorns, 1998). It holds significant social, psychological and emotional meaning (Easthope, 2004). It is constructed as a place of privacy, retreat, domesticity and comfort;

representing a secure and safe place (Mallett, 2004). Home has been described as a haven, where people have the ability to retreat from the outside world into a place where they are in control (Milligan, 2003). It is an ‘intimate place’ (Tuan, 1977 p. 144).

Home is typically characterised as a positive place, though feminist geographers argue that for some, it can represent something different. This is the leading critique of the ‘home as haven’ construction.

Critics argue that this construction depicts an idealised and nostalgic view of home that does not match the lived experiences of many people (Mallett, 2004). Instead, the meaning of home is highly individualised and may not always be a refuge (Robinson & Adams, 2008). For women, children and young people who experience violence and abuse in the home environment, the home may be seen as a negative place; a site of fear, isolation and oppression (Cresswell, 2004; Rose, 1993).

Place attachment and sense of place Place attachment considers the emotional ties people have with places, particularly the material environment (Tuan, 1974). Typically research has explored the positive bonds, like safety and comfort, provoked by place (Foote & Azaryahu, 2009). Tuan (1974) describes these bonds as topophilia or ‘love of place’. They are created and maintained through people’s interactions with their social, material and physical environments (Low & Altman, 1992; Trentelman, 2009). They often arise from long-term experience and interaction in a place. Time, often measured by length of residence, is a factor associated with place attachment (e.g. Lewicka, 2011). It is assumed that the longer someone lives in a place the stronger their place attachments will be, because over time people can develop rich associations with people and place (Gieryn, 2000). However, Tuan (1977) challenges this assumption by emphasising how people who have spent a short time in a place can also experience strong attachments which have significant impact on their lives. For example, Brown et al. (2004) discovered that residents in a new subdivision development had higher place attachments than newcomers to surrounding neighbourhoods, and similar attachments to oldtimers in those surrounding neighbours despite only having lived there a short time. These newcomers were confident in their future in the revitalised area, due to good services and facilities and new housing that meant they could establish their place attachments quickly (Brown et al., 2004). Environmental psychology has also found that people’s place attachments depend on other factors associated with the characteristics of the place and people such as age, social status, education, mobility, community size, strength of neighbourhood ties, natural, architectural and urban features (Lewicka, 2011).

One of the criticisms of place attachment is the tendency to focus only on the strong, positive emotions associated with places. However, affective bonds are not always strong or positive (Foote & Azaryhau, 2009). Sense of place allows for both the negative and positive emotions associated with place to be understood (Trentelman, 2009). It can be used to describe the attitudes, beliefs and meanings people associate with different place by providing a more inclusive way to understand people’s attachments or associations to place (Trentelman, 2009). It draws attention to the subjective nature of human experience which has challenged many of the dominant assumptions and objective models of human behaviour (Foote & Azaryahu, 2009). Sense of place ‘serves as a conceptual bridge among a number of subfields such as social, cultural and behavioural geography’ (p. 96), as well as providing a way to explore the subjective human perceptions and experiences of everyday places (Foote & Azaryahu, 2009).

Over time people invest emotional ties in different places like their home and neighbourhood (Tuan, 1974). These geographic spaces become places or anchors for attachment (Trentelman, 2009).

Emotional ties to home are often experienced as a sense of home (Cuba & Hummon, 1993). They can also provide a deep sense of psychological rootedness, constancy, privacy and security (Williams, 2002). Within the home space, possessions, routines and the personalisation of the environment are significant influences on attachment (Shenk et al., 2004). However, the emotions people have towards places do vary between individuals (Duncan & Duncan, 2001). They can also differ across different scales. When places become personally significant a person’s sense of place begins to extend beyond the individual localities to a regional level, for example shifting from the home space alone to include attachments with a wider area, like a neighbourhood or town.

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