Research

Youthquake, a decade on: the civic legacies of student volunteering

Research

The student mobilisation in Christchurch after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 remains one of the largest youth-led movements in New Zealand in recent years. As the ten-year anniversary of the earthquake draws near, this project traces the civic legacies of this student collective action.

The Project

The physical earthquakes that shook the Canterbury region of New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 also sparked a ‘youthquake’. Students organised an estimated 24,000 volunteers via Facebook to help clean up residents’ properties and neighbourhoods, with working parties of up to 13,000 volunteering in one week.

A team of UC SVA students on their way to support local residents following the February '11 quakes
ServeNZ - Prince Harry
Prince Harry visits the UC SVA in 2015 leading up to Anzac Day to commemorate the Serve for NZ (SFNZ) initiative, held in collaboration between UC, SVA, and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA)

Nearly a decade on, this project offers the first in-depth look at the legacies of this student collective action. Previous research tells us that moments of significant collective action can have subtle but substantial implications for those involved as well as for the political environment. Yet we have little understanding of the long-term effects of the student action in Christchurch.

Utilising archival research, life-memory interviews and a survey, this project offers a unique opportunity to examine how moments of significant collective action can affect the trajectories of young people’s political lives, and how these events have shaped contemporary political action in New Zealand.

The project is supported by a Faststart grant from the Marsden Fund: https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/funds-and-opportunities/marsden, administrated by Te Apārangi | the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Marsden Fund Council.

'19 UC SVA Executive with wheelbarrows and flowers provided following the Christchurch Attacks
'19 UC SVA Executive with wheelbarrows and flowers provided following the Christchurch attacks
Dr Sylvia Nissen leads the research project. She is a lecturer in environmental policy at Lincoln University, and her research and teaching centres on student political action, social movements and environmental politics. She is the author of many publications, including Student Political Action in New Zealand published by Bridget Williams Books.