Infrastructure, Earthquakes and Tsunamis
A page about the low standards of NZ’s infrastructure. This page is still under construction and will contain information about the roads and limited rail network, power transmission, preparedness for earthquakes and civil emergencies, provision of safe drinking water, sewerage system and other infrastructure topics.
Building consents, a good indication of the health of an economy, were down to the lowest in 46 years in December 2011. Of the property being built apartments units show the most growth, a significant number of which were retirement flats. Not such a great place for families perhaps?
It is divided into two main sections -the first relating to national transport and building, the second to infrastructure issues in specific regions, towns and cities.
If you are looking for information relating to the Christchurch or Canterbury earthquakes scroll down to the Christchurch section.
- “KiwiRail bosses say thousands of rotting wooden sleepers spread along its rail network do not pose a significant risk to the public, despite fears they could trigger a derailment. About 55 decaying sleepers have been identified in the Waikato. KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said inspections of about 100,000 imported sleepers from one supplier found about 7000 were showing signs of premature decay.” (Aug 2012)
- “An AA/Transport ministry/KiwiRap survey none of the roads in New Zealand were found to have a 5 star safety rating and only 5% of the roads were awarded 4 stars. 39% were judged as 2 stars meaning they had major deficiencies such as poor alignment and roadside conditions. Roads for which the entire length of highway was rated at the lowest safety rating of two stars included SH24 and SH39 in the Waikato, SH17 in Auckland, SH58 in Wellington, SH62 in Marlborough, SH71 in Canterbury, SH8B and SH88 in Otago, SH98 in Southland and SH67A on the West Coast.
- A 40km stretch of highway between Mount Maunganui and Paengaroa is ranked the second most dangerous in New Zealand. About 42% of the Bay of Plenty’s state highway network was given a two-star rating.
- “A $5 million government fund to employ young workers on cycleway projects has quietly been shelved after delivering just a quarter of the jobs envisaged. Prime Minister John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the $5.3m package as part of a larger programme of youth employment schemes at the National Party conference last year. It was to subsidise an estimated 500 youth working on the Government’s cycleway project, paying them the minimum wage for up to 30 hours a week. However, Budget documents just made public show it was dismantled before this year’s Budget because only $800,000 was spent and just 123 youth were employed under it.” (July 2010)
- There were fewer building consents granted for new dwellings in 2011 than in any calendar year in 46 years, according to Statistics New Zealand. Building consents were granted for 13,662 new dwellings in the 12 months to December 31, down 12.4 % on the previous 12 months, and the lowest since the series began in 1965.
- “House building consents fell more than 5 per cent in July according to official figures, more than outweighing a small rise in June, but apartment consents rose in the month to more than 200, the best level for a year. More than half of the new apartments were retirement flats.” Source BusinessDay.co.nz, 31 August 2010
- The small tourist town of Franz Joseph literally ran out of water in early January 2012. A shortage of rain meant that many restaurants and tourist attractions were forced to close, most residents and tourist faced a night without running water.
Regional west coast
- West Coast authorities have approached the Ministry of Civil Defence for funding of a study into how vulnerable the Coast is to tsunamis. Since records began in 1826 the region has been impacted by 14 tsunamis. The largest was 2.5m high recorded between Karamea and Farewell Spit following the 7.8 magnitude Murchison earthquake in 1929. Researchers believe tsunamis of over 5m hit the West Coast in the 1600s and 1700s. source
Wellington – New Zealand’s capital city, situated in an active earthquake zone
- “Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has warned local authorities to do everything they can to protect against an earthquake, saying he is scared to be in the capital.” February 2012 source
- A 7.5 magnitude Wellington earthquake would kill an estimated 600 people and injure 4000, according to one source.
- Wellington is likely to be hit by a 7.5 magnitude quake – releasing four times the energy of the Canterbury tremor in September 2010. “Emergency medical supplies in Wellington could run out within a day of an earthquake of equivalent devastation to that of Christchurch, a study reveals. The likely consequences for Wellington of a deadly shake similar to the 7.1 magnitude one in Canterbury. Up to 1500 people would die and 13,000 would suffer injuries. Previous forecasting estimated 300 deaths in Wellington.
Critical infrastructure such as transport, power and water would be in tatters as underground pipes, power lines and roads criss-crossing fault lines were ruined.” source
- “As many as 23 schools around Wellington could have earthquake-prone buildings. Wellington City Council’s list of potentially quake-prone school buildings includes 16 schools and 34 school buildings.” source
- A single road crash was able to shut down all road routes into Wellington. Police say it “painfully highlights the fragility of the capital’s infrastructure,” and the limited number of routes into Wellington. A crash south of Porirua closed State Highway 1. Diverted traffic clogged up SH58 to the Hutt Valley and SH2 into Wellington. Sections of all three highways were gridlocked between 6.30am and 9am. August 2010
- Wellington City Council has been working through 3800 properties identified as being potentially unstable in a moderate earthquake. At least 130 properties, including 21 heritage buildings, have been confirmed as vulnerable. The council is among affected property owners, budgeting $42 million during the next 10 years to bring some of its buildings up to code. Most of that will go toward the town hall and next-door Municipal Office Building. Other buildings include the Opera House, the old Basin Reserve grandstand, Thistle Hall and the old chest hospital, which the SPCA wants to redevelop.
- Children are often late for, or skip, school because of delays and other problems on the beleaguered rail network. One pupil was stuck in an crammed carriage and sent home with heat exhaustion. Another pupil estimated she’d missed 25 classes so far this year (June) because of late trains.
- A massive power cut disrupted power to the city, caused by a ‘fault’ at a sub station. It affected the CBD & eastern suburbs from 3.20pm to 4.30pm on 22 April 2010, power to 84,000 customers was cut. The backup generators at Wellington Hospital failed, forcing patients to be sent elsewhere.
- Another power cut hit the city on 8 July 2010, affecting 4,500 homes in the Mana area, north of Wellington. Power went out at peak time – 8.30pm - in Paremata, Titahi Bay and Mana, Plimmerton and Porirua. The fault was traced to a substation.
- A row is brewing between central government and Auckland Regional Council over plans to use old sheds as “party central” during the world cup. “Murray McCully, the cabinet minister in charge of the 2011 World Cup, described Auckland local government as “a train wreck” after the regional council (ARC) turned its back on the Government’s plan to demolish two century-old sheds on Queen’s Wharf and put up a temporary glass and steel party venue.” (8 July 2010)
- Auckland Rail have been accused of gross incompetence for building a new railway platform that’s too short for the trains it will serve at the new Onehunga station. It will be 15 metres too short.
- “A new prison to be built in South Auckland will bring $1.2 billion in economic benefits over 30 years, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says. But she has been criticised for announcing the gains to be had from higher crime and more prisoners.”
- The Mount Albert area was blacked out in a power outage arising from an ‘unknown’ problem at 7.20pm on 3 June 2010. “Auckland has been plagued by power cuts over the last few years, the last was in January when power cables hit trees on a Waikato farm leading to a power grid emergency, affecting around 5,000 homes.”
- 12,000 customers were left without power when foul weather resulted caused problems with the Vector network. Affected homes were in the North Shore, West Auckland and Rodney (6 July 2010)
- Apparently sub-standard electrical installation work in a number of relatively new homes has led to a series of house fires. The fires started in meter boxes in houses in Wainoni Heights, Greenhithe and Azure Grove and Carl Place in Albany.
- Extensive damage to modern buildings in Christchurch after last February’s earthquake is a “wake-up call” for the construction industry. Stefano Pampanin, a professor in civil and natural resources engineering at the University of Canterbury, told commissioners the extent of damage to Christchurch buildings built after 1970 was a concern. New Zealand needed to address the same seismic design issues the United States, Europe and Japan had faced for decades, he said. March 2012 source
- In May 2011 GNS officials cautioned that Canterbury has a nearly one-in-four chance of a third major earthquake of up to magnitude-7.0 during the next year. The devastating quake on 22 February 2011 was only a magnitude 6.3.
- 490 heritage buildings in Christchurch deemed to be at risk of collapse in a moderate earthquake need to be earthquake-strengthened. Concerns have been raised over how to pay for the estimated cost of the necessary work – $169 million. Some owners say that earthquake strengthening would make their investment worthless, as the costs would be greater than the value of the building. In contrast Christchurch Heritage Trust and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust recommended that the city council promote strengthening to 67% of full code levels instead of the policy-stated 33% to preserve heritage fabric.
- Christchurch ratepayers could be jolted with a $90 million bill to assess all potentially earthquake-prone buildings as part of a planned new policy being considered on 14 June 2010. But a Christchurch City Council staff paper, prepared for the hearing, also revealed putting new time frames could prompt property owners to demolish rather than upgrade their buildings.
- The low budget film noir, working title Toby Brennan, is to be shot in Christchurch. Why? because the “people are kinda quirky…It’s not a happy faces Disney story - that’s why we’re shooting it in winter when the weather’s a little volatile, the lightings a little darker and there’s a lot of clouds..”
- The stink emanating from Hastings’ new $27 million sewage plant will cost $1.3 million to fix with a further $360,000 needed every year, under modifications being proposed by council staff. The plant has received dozens of complaints since it opened in July 2009.
- “Invercargill does not have a register of earthquake-prone buildings despite Invercargill City Council’s policy requiring it to identify and classify such buildings. A 2005 policy requires the council to identify and classify quake-prone buildings as such from its records as far as practicable within 24 months, which would have been by 2007. City council building regulations service manager Simon Tonkin said most of Invercargill’s CBD was potentially prone to damage in an earthquake, but the council faced some real problems in identifying earthquake-prone buildings, Mr Tonkin said. Buildings made on government land before 1993 by the former ministry of works were not required to have plans filed, and no plans existed for buildings built before about 1900.” (April 2011) source
- “Stadium Southland, which collapsed under heavy snow in September, was showing cracks in its walls and pillars two years after it was built, Invercargill City Council documents from the early 2000s show…Documents obtained from the council by the Southland Times showed the stadium’s columns developed cracks because the roof was installed incorrectly…In a letter to the council on January 4, 2000, the original engineer in charge of the project, Tony Major, said cost restraints were behind the “under-design” of some elements of the stadium, including the concrete foundations and the trusses.”
- Fire alarms were switched off in Stadium Southland for most of its life without the Fire Service being told because the building was moving so much it was setting them off. Southland Indoor Leisure Centre Charitable Trust chairman Acton Smith confirmed yesterday the beam detection fire alarm system in the community courts was simply turned off after numerous false alarms. “It took seven or eight years to fix it,” Mr Smith said. source 15 Dec 2010
- Plans are afoot to increase population growth and bring about an upswing in the local economy. The ex-Mayor of Wellington, Mark Blumsky, wants to make Invercargill the most “child friendly” place in New Zealand, even renaming it “Invergiggle” for a week. According to Mr Blumsky what people dislike most about Invercargill at present is:1. Drivers – boy racers, bad drivers.2. Expensive airfares – tyranny of distance.3. Perceptions (of Invercargill) by people outside of Invercargill.4. Drinking culture.5. No plan or vision.6. CBD – disjointed, rundown, no shelter and lacks parking.7. Weather.8. Invercargill Licensing Trust.9. Conservative in self-promotion.10. Limited activities for youth/teenagers.11. Lack of vibrancy.12. No shopping mall.
- Residents are incensed that their council may agree to host the notorious Undie 500 student rally, displaced from Dunedin after street violence, excessive drinking, assaults on emergency services and rioting. ”The chairman of Kaikoura business group Envision, Stephen Rattray said the event would be a “bad example for our kids“, with “no economic or social benefit“. See also Nothing to fear from Undie 500 – President ”Seddon residents have nothing to fear from Undie 500 participants, says the event’s organiser.”
- The first new state primary school to have opened in the lower South Island since the 1970s cost $17.3 million to build but it was refused a grant to install an energy efficient, sustainable energy system.The school is now reliant on electricity and paying more than $10,000 a month with an estimated spend of $75,000 for the full year. The education ministry doesn’t full electricity bills of that size and the shortfall must come from the school’s operating budget, or community fund raising.
- The district council has identified 106 buildings as high or moderate earthquake hazards, but it will not release the list to the local paper citing “commercial sensitivity”. Owners of 9 of the buildings face repair bills of thousands of dollars to meet council standards and are refusing to do the work.