Groningen earthquakes: Turning threats into opportunities

Partnerships to create a future filled with promise

The earthquakes that shook the Dutch province of Groningen continue to affect the lives of many of its people. Being invested in the area and the wellbeing of its residents, Rabobank is involved in a variety of ways in supporting customers, members and other Groningen residents in reorganising their lives in the earthquakes’ aftermath.

Many area residents report that the earthquakes, induced by the area’s gas fields, have had a massive impact on their lives, and that they have been living in anxiety and uncertainty ever since. They fear the threat of new quakes and have voiced concern about their safety and the quality of life in the area. Some feel they are trapped in their homes because it has become difficult or even impossible to sell their property. And to date, residents have not received compensation from the authorities for the decline in property value. What’s more, they feel they are not being taken seriously, many insurance claims are not being properly handled, and any compensation they do receive does not always cover all their needs.

Providing support with an eye on the future

Rabobank has assigned a dedicated team to support Groningen residents in the aftermath of the earthquakes, acting as a liaison, providing information and input, but also developing concrete initiatives and getting other stakeholders motivated. Sometimes this means we are simply helping to identify the problem and coming up with appropriate solutions. But whenever we can, we go beyond the bounds of basic support, trying to find out if situations might offer new opportunities: opportunities to create something new with a little extra effort – homes, businesses and residential areas – that is stronger, better and more sustainable than before. We like to think of this as a way of turning threats into opportunities.

In practice

While this may sound commendable in theory, how does it actually work in practice?

Home improvement instead of home repair

When homes are damaged, you can choose to simply renovate them so that they become safe and liveable again, or, alternatively, you can use the renovation as an opportunity to improve your house by investing in a solid, zero-energy home. Rabobank provides Energiebespaarlening (Energy Savings Loan) to help customers create just such a home. We advise customers of this option and in creating a home improvement plan. What comes down to a small investment is sure to pay off in the future. The added benefit is that your home will be more marketable by the time you are ready to sell it. This is exactly what ‘turning a threat into an opportunity’ is all about.

Researching property values

With homes in the earthquake area being difficult to sell, property values have been falling. It is important to homeowners that the correlation between the lower property values and the earthquakes is explicitly acknowledged, so they can receive compensation for the decline in value of their home. Through negotiation efforts, Rabobank played a role in bringing about an independent survey into the area’s housing market. The survey was conducted by Delft University of Technology where Rabobank is serving as an active member of the support committee. When presenting the results in January 2016, the researchers established that the housing market in the earthquake area does not function properly anymore, which is due both to the earthquake and to the loss of population in the area. The researchers are calling for more generous and transparent compensation policies, and Rabobank wants to play an active role in developing these policies. For further information, see the Delft University of Technology website.

Opportunities for the future: future vision

The earthquake area will be receiving a large amount of funding over the next several years. If these funds are invested well, this will create opportunities for the future. Because of a lack of good planning in place, Rabobank took the lead and developed a vision for the future together with the people of Groningen and other stakeholders. January 2016 saw the presentation of the report Perspectief Groningen 2015, the objective of which is not merely to restore the quality of life in the region, but also to build an attractive province that is ready for the future. Fortunately, all the ingredients are present to do just that: the Eemshaven seaport, a large business park for chemical companies, a flourishing agricultural sector, innovative start-ups, and two of the region’s major higher education institutions, Hanze University of Applied Sciences and Groningen University. The key is for local authorities, businesses and residents to form alliances with one another and highlight the province’s many strengths and assets.

The research report detailing the future vision for the province outlines the province’s future objectives. Four transition paths have been identified to help achieve these objectives. For each transition path, a working group consisting of residents, businesses and organisations will be working with Rabobank on various projects and initiatives. The following transition paths have been set with the objectives listed underneath:

  • Vital Groningen
    Healthcare, safety, self-reliance
    The people of Groningen will have access to healthcare facilities and will see an overall improvement in their health. Ultimate objective: for Groningen to become the first blue zone in the Netherlands. Blue zones are places where people live significantly longer and are significantly healthier than people in other parts of the world.

  • Attractive Groningen
    Housing, sustainability, equipped to accommodate future changes
    Groningen will become a more appealing place to live.

  • Groningen Works
    Innovation, education, economy, networks inside the city and beyond
    The socioeconomic structure of the Groningen economy will be permanently strengthened by adopting an innovative approach to education and the business community.

  • Groningen Complete
    Infrastructure, agriculture, town planning for Groningen city and the surrounding rural areas
    The city amenities and facilities and the surrounding rural areas will become more connected with each other, making the entire area more appealing and attractive.

More information about the future vision (only available in Dutch):