News | 21 March 2024
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After a large earthquake, are you prepared to walk home?

Blisters, sunburn, and exhaustion are real when you’ve faced a 30-kilometre journey on foot. But what about walking 50kms, or even 80kms?

group of people in high vis walking down the road.
About 200 people set out to walk 30kms to find out what a commute home on foot would be like following a large earthquake that could cut off road and rail links to Wellington.

This could be the reality after a large earthquake in Wellington, where road and rail links could be cut off for a week or longer. If this happened on a weekday, the city’s 80,000 daily commuters would likely have to travel home on foot. 

To be better prepared for this, the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) organised a 30km walk – from Sky Stadium to Mana in Porirua – and invited the community to see what it would be like commuting home if walking was your only option. 

Group of people in high vis walking down Thorndon Quay.
People participating in the Long Walk Home event walked from Sky Stadium to Ngāti Toa Domain Hall in Porirua.

WREMO Team Leader Nickola Loodin, who organised the event, said about 200 people took part, including members of NZ Police, Metlink, Te Āhuru Mōwai of Ngāti Toa, and National Emergency Management Agency, as well as staff from local councils from around the greater Wellington region. 

“The event was not a race. It was about raising awareness and helping increase preparedness. Everyone wore a high-vis vest for safety reasons, so people driving past would’ve wondered what the sea of orange marching up Ngauranga Gorge was all about!” 

The event was open to people of all ages and abilities, with most people taking between 5 and 6 hours to complete the walk. There were multiple checkpoints along the route where people could refill their water bottles and pick up a snack, or decide to stop if they were close to home or had had enough. 

Two women in high vis vests standing next to each other.
Hayley and Jenni represented the Public Information Management function from Wellington City Council's emergency response team.

Hayley and Jenni from Wellington City Council’s Communications and Engagement team both took part. In the event of a civil defence emergency, both staff members would be called upon to join the emergency response in helping to keep the public informed.  

Hayley commutes to the capital from Martinborough and took part at 30-weeks pregnant. To remain on the safe side, she only completed half the walk, but says 15 kilometres was hard enough, let alone the 80km walk she would have on her hands if she had to walk all the way home. 

“I had a backpack with snacks, lots of water, and comfortable shoes on, but in the case of a real emergency at work, I wouldn’t be dressed in activewear and appropriate long-distance walking shoes so my mission home would be far more gruelling. I wouldn’t have all the snacks either, so this experience emphasised how important it is to have a ‘grab bag’ prepared and waiting under my desk.” 

Person walking up the gorge.
The team trekked up Ngauranga Gorge in single file.

Jenni, however, did complete the full 30km trek. 

“It took a week to recover from the blisters and joint pain, but in reality, I would’ve had to walk even further to get home. 

“I can’t imagine what it would be like with obstacles and other hazards that could come up after an earthquake. The reality of what we would face has made me want to prepare myself and my family too.” 

How to prepare for your Long Walk Home

  • A grab bag is a small backpack of essential items you can grab if you need to evacuate your home or workplace with little or no warning.
  • As part of your household plan, know where you are going to meet your whānau after an emergency. Don’t forget to consider how you’ll reach your children if they're at school!
  • In an emergency, neighbours are your best source of support. If you haven't already connected, swap contact details in case of an emergency!  
  • After reconnecting with your whānau and checking on your neighbours, you can head to your local Community Emergency Hub to work out what to do next.

Find out more about the Long Walk Home.