Get prepared for earthquake

Monday, December 12, 2016

It has been almost a month now since the Hurunui/Kaikōura 7.8 earthquake hit. Strong to severe shaking was felt throughout New Zealand and lasted for over two minutes in some places. Since then there have been more than 1000 aftershocks, and seismic activity is expected to continue for some time.

Two people lost their lives and there was widespread damage in the area. Road and rail links to Kaikōura were cut. The main quake also damaged several buildings around Wellington and demolition work has now begun in the city.

 Fortunately, the Wairarapa wasn’t too badly affected by the quake. However, as we live in an earthquake prone area it’s a reminder to be prepared for another big shake.

The Government acted quickly in terms of immediate support to affected regions. For struggling businesses, we introduced a wage subsidy package in Kaikōura and surrounding districts, and Wellington.   We followed up with a support package for the primary sector around the upper south island, and tax measures to help those affected by the earthquakes.

Parliament has also passed laws to aid the recovery.  Civil Defence Emergency Management legislation allows a smoother and more effective transition from the response phase to recover after an emergency.  It does this by providing those carrying out recovery work with powers that would previously only be available under a state of emergency, such as the ability to limit access to public spaces and remove or secure dangerous structures. It also provides the power to require a building owner to undertake earthquake assessments of their properties.

Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquake Recovery legislation allows flexibility to deal with potential matters in the recovery process, such as temporary housing, accommodation supplements, streamlining planning processes, undertaking geotechnical assessment, and providing greater flexibility around tax reporting deadlines.

The financial cost of the quakes will be significant but we will bear that. We have a strong, growing economy, our books are in order and our debt levels low, so we have the financial capacity to fix our broken infrastructure and to support our affected businesses and communities.

We have been here before and we have overcome those challenges. We are stronger as a result, and we will do the same this time.

The earthquake, and advice from GNS, serves as a timely reminder to all New Zealanders living in earthquake prone areas such as the Wairarapa to be prepared.

We need to be well prepared for natural disasters and it’s essential that we all sit down with family and friends to make sure we have a plan.

Devising a household plan should include agreeing how everyone in your home would meet up after a disaster. Every house should plan to have plenty of food, water and other essential supplies.

When an earthquake happens, make sure you drop, cover and hold and if you’re near the coast and feel a long or strong quake, then head inland or to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for official warnings – the earthquake itself is the natural warning.

I would encourage people to visit the Civil Defence website for information on how to get ready, and get through a potential disaster.