Earthquake Rocks Wellington

A large and sharp earthquake rattled Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand at 10.07 pm today.

The 4.5 magnitude quake was widely felt in the North Island and caused alarm among many people in the city. Fortunately the quake was very short lived and isn’t thought to have caused much damage. It was centred in the sea north of the Cook Strait.

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.

Compare that to Christchurch where, in mid 2010, 490 heritage buildings were deemed to be at risk of collapse in a moderate earthquake and needed to be earthquake-strengthened.

Concerns were raised over how to pay for the estimated cost of the necessary work – $169 million. Some Christchurch property owners said 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 were faced with a $90 million bill to assess all potentially earthquake-prone buildings as part of a planned new policy which was considered on 14 June 2010. But a Christchurch City Council staff paper, prepared for the hearing, revealed putting new time frames could prompt property owners to demolish rather than upgrade their buildings.

Wellington council is among property owners potentially affected by a moderate earthquake and  has budgeted $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.

5 thoughts on “Earthquake Rocks Wellington

  1. A 4.9 earthquake just struck Kaikoura,today 6 March, *it is the fourth quake felt in Wellington over the past week*. Are they getting close enough to the Beehave yet?

    “Naw, she’ll be right mate!”

  2. Kiwis tend not to like big, expensive fixes. They are the People of the Number 8 Wire. They will make do until the sheep come home, procrastinating endlessly on laying out money for sensible safety-related work of a non-emergency nature – until disaster strikes. You can see the results of this attitude in Christchurch. In Wellington, they now have the cautionary example of Christchurch, and can change their policy if they wish. The fact is, they do not think it worth spending the money on. At this point, Wellingtonians should be wondering, “when is our own Christchurch going to happen, and how much damage will there be? Is it worth preparing for”? Given their location, & stress transfer effect of large earthquakes spawning ripples farther away via surface waves, the prospect of a more serious seismic shakeout in the near future should be taken more seriously. This is one feature of Kiwi culture I truly do not like: their taking of ridiculous risks and considering it to be akin to bravery. Worshipping an Everest climber is one thing – amazing, however, that they lump safety cheapness and passing on blind curves drunk with kids in the car in the same category as mountain climbing. And to head off the inevitable “f*** off back home you stinkin (non-Kiwi whatever)”, YES, many of us are working on that just as hard as we can, thank you. We can’t always just step in a plane and go.

  3. If the point was to highlight the cost of earthquake strengthening and the question of when it was going to be done, I think headlines such as “Councils drag their heels on earthquake strengthening” or “Councils kowtow to vested property interests” would have told the real story. As well as the buildings owned by Wellington City Council, there are numerous commercial buildings that are possible hazards. Some of these have already received notices, like Whitcoulls’ premises on Lambton Quay which shocked a lot of people when they saw the notice by the door.

    I have yet to meet someone who was alarmed by the earthquake, although I did hear someone interviewed on radio who was definitely upset, so I’m sure these people do exist. I work with a diverse group of people, many of whom are used to earthquakes in their own countries eg the Philippines, China, the US, and nobody thought anything of this one.

    Linking a minor run-of-the-mill quake with spending millions of dollars on buildings is counter-productive, because the buildings in question have withstood hundreds of these, as their owners may well point out. The real reason for strengthening is a major earthquake with a destructive strength similar to Christchurch or Napier.

  4. There are many new people in Wellington though, alongside the relocated from Christchurch are foreign tourists and visitors to the city who are understandably jittery at present.

    The point was that both Christchurch and Wellington were faced with bills of millions of dollars to upgrade their at risk buildings. Wellington has budgeted $42 million over the next ten years.

    We’re waiting to see if that timescale gets shortened and if tougher legislation will be introduced, but that is the subject of another blog.

  5. I’ve found a number of your other posts really interesting and worth reading, but wondered about the point of this one. It just isn’t newsworthy to me.

    I’m not sure where in New Zealand you are living, but in Wellington this quake did not cause alarm among many people, despite the recent events in Christchurch. People new to the city may have been alarmed but Wellingtonians are used to getting one or two quakes like this each year, so it was no big deal. I haven’t heard of any damage caused by it, not even something falling off a shelf.

    This was a mild rattle and in no way comparable to the devastating events in Christchurch. If the point is to remind people that New Zealand is an earthquake zone, then there are plenty of other quakes which are better examples eg Christchurch of course, Napier, Edgecumbe, Dannevirke and Inangahua to name a few.

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