Kaikoura Star - Earthquake could close highway for months

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A recent news article about the effects that a major earthquake generated by the Alpine Fault could have on our main highways is a timely reminder to be prepared.

The article quoted University of Canterbury earthquake engineering Professor Brendon Bradley as saying that the South Island's major highways could be closed for up to six months due to landslides.

It would be sensible to assume Kaikoura, surrounded on both sides by sections of highway and railway line prone to slips in adverse weather events, could be affected in this way.

There is no need to be alarmed, but there is always a need to be aware.

The best way to protect ourselves against natural hazards and emergencies is to know our risks and be as prepared for them as we can be.

Part of managing these risks is focussing on areas where we can improve the highways.

Currently, the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) is conducting a major survey on State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch to identify those risks.

The study - which will be publicly released later this year - will also focus on a number of other issues that I have highlighted in this column previously, such as the lack of passing lanes and the notorious one-way Hurunui Bridge.

According to GNS science, there is a 30 per cent chance of a large earthquake on the Alpine Fault in the next 50 years which could cause horizontal movement of up to eight metres.

We have, of course, learned a lot from the Christchurch earthquakes and legislation is now before Parliament aimed at helping communities better recover from small to medium scale emergencies. Last week's Budget also provided an extra $6.1 million of operating funding for civil defence, and $63,000 of new capital funding for the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management.

This new funding will improve the Ministry's ability to provide more nationwide support and leadership by supporting councils, communities and businesses to identify and plan for hazards.

In the event of a natural disaster, the funding will also ensure we are better placed to respond to and manage the risks posed by a range of natural hazards and other disasters.

Of course, it is impossible to predict earthquakes and the Alpine Fault may not rupture until our grandchildren's era - or it could go tomorrow.

With that in mind, take time to prepare an emergency kit for you and your family; there is plenty of information available about this available from civil defence. After all, forewarned is forearmed.