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The recent flooding in Canterbury has once again required those of us living in the region to be resilient in the face of adversity. We were very lucky here at the Archives New Zealand Christchurch Regional office to be largely unaffected, personally and professionally by the heavy rain and floods that have devastated many of our rural neighbours. As I nervously waited out the hours of persistent, heavy rain at my home in Lincoln, I took some comfort in knowing that the precious taonga we are tasked with caring for were safely protected in our modern facility in Wigram that was purpose-built in 2018.

As the impacts of climate change cause increasingly unpredictable events such as these, the resilience of our buildings and infrastructure are essential for the preservation of the memory of government, and this is interwoven into Archives New Zealand’s long term planning our repositories.

The other side of the story though, is how Archives can support communities to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, such as the increasing extreme weather events we will continue to experience. Within our repositories are valuable records, maps, plans, data sets and photographs which can support research into our changing land and environment. An example which became quite a media star following the Canterbury Earthquakes was Black Map 237. A plan for the proposed city in 1850, it shows the major water ways under the city which caused such widespread liquefaction after the earthquakes that devastated the city 161 years later. This provides a clear view of the vulnerable areas, enabling us to better understand what happened and how to prevent the same mistakes occurring.

There are many other such taonga held in all of our repositories across the mōtu which are essential to the physical, environmental, cultural and spiritual wellbeing of our communities. It is also interesting to consider how the records, documents and data that we create and compile now, may be used in another 160 years’ time by future New Zealanders.

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