New harbour faultline: City Council response

8 October 2014

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says while more detail is always useful, she is reassured that Wellington’s building standards already take into account the level of ground-shaking that the newly-discovered ‘Aotea’ fault could generate.

The fault, referred to informally as the Aotea Fault, runs in a northeasterly direction for about 2km in Lambton Harbour, appearing to peter out about 1km east of Westpac Stadium (see NIWA news release for more details). GNS scientists believe the fault also tracks south onto dry land.

Mayor Wade-Brown says City Council managers will discuss with GNS and NIWA the feasibility and cost implications of mapping the path of the fault. She says she is keen that additional funding be found for scientists to continue geological mapping.

“For the Capital’s resilience, preparedness and reassurance, it’s important that we precisely confirm the location and characteristics of this new fault,” says the Mayor.

“From what is currently understood, the fault is one of a number beneath the harbour and it may come ashore in a zone bounded by Oriental Bay and Taranaki Street Wharf.

“Knowing more about Wellington’s geological faults is critical to our resilience. The better our understanding is, the better we can prepare for events and the better we can plan our urban design and infrastructure,” she said.

“I urge further joint investment in the It’s Our Fault research programme. The City Council, the region’s Civil Defence Group, EQC and ACC have been funding It’s Our Fault for the best part of a decade now. It may be prudent to review the priorities of the programme especially in light of the discovery of the Aotea Fault.

“The real value in this research is understanding the characteristics of the fault, so that new infrastructure built across the fault can be constructed with the best available knowledge of how this fault behaves.

She emphasises, however, that Wellingtonians should not be unnecessarily alarmed at the news of the fault’s presence. “I am reassured by the scientist’s view this fault does not increase Wellington’s earthquake risk in any appreciable way.

“The Capital City is a safe city. Wellington is well-prepared for natural hazards. Council, WREMO, GNS, NIWA and Greater Wellington will continue to work closely together in the interests of making Wellington as resilient as possible,” she says.

Her views are echoed by Bruce Pepperell, Manager of the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO). “Having a good understanding of the region’s risks is the key to being able to manage the consequences,” he said.

“Currently, local authorities in the region are working together to develop a Wellington regional natural hazards strategy that will aim to coordinate the way councils manage natural hazards, undertake research into risk and align planning and management practices so there is better certainty when it comes to development in hazard prone areas.”

Wellington City’s Civil Defence Controller (and the City Council’s Building Resilience Manger), Neville Brown says building standards in the city and region are the toughest in the country because of the extensive and long-standing knowledge of Wellington’s seismic risk. .

“Since 2006 Wellington City Council has been running an earthquake-prone buildings programme that has identified commercial and multi-unit buildings that require strengthening,” says Mr Brown. “As a city we are well advanced in terms of getting our building stock up to code. We are the first city to have assessed all pre-1976 buildings.

Mayor Wade-Brown said while new details emerged on the capital’s topographic tapestry, Wellingtonians already know it is important to be prepared for quakes and tsunami.  

“Having a plan at work and at home, and knowing your neighbours, is all part of making our city more resilient,” she said. “Businesses must have good continuity plans so our economy can bounce back too.”