Christchurch Visit Highlights Our Risk - Mayor

16 September 2010

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says her visit to Christchurch yesterday has put aspects of Wellington's potential vulnerability to earthquake damage in sharp relief.

Mayor Prendergast and Chief Executive Officer Garry Poole flew to Christchurch for a few hours to meet some of the 20 Wellington City Council staff helping with recovery work after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake.

They were also able to see damage caused by liquefaction of the ground in areas where the Wellington staff, mostly CityOps wastewater staff, but also some building inspectors, were working.

Mayor Prendergast said: "The CEO and I wanted to show our support for the staff and thank them. We had an amazing number of volunteers, and the ones who went left their families behind, often at short notice, and are working very hard in difficult conditions."

She said the visit showed the fragility of homes that were built on sandy areas and on land that is subject to liquefaction.

"The damage was unbelievable. We saw the effects of the so-called 'sand volcanoes' which have pushed up and wrecked concrete slab floors and bent roads out of shape.

"I have asked the CEO that when the building inspectors get back, they provide a report to Council with recommendations on future building in areas that are at risk of liquefaction.

"We have just identified Kilbirnie as an area of increased density residential housing. We need to know our building codes are strong enough to be able to require the foundations that may be necessary to withstand an earthquake and subsequent liquefaction."

Mayor Prendergast and Mr Poole also met Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Chief Executive Tony Marryatt and discussed further cooperation.

Last week, in the wake of the 4 September earthquake which hit Christchurch, and the subsequent aftershocks, Mayor Prendergast said she wanted Wellington City Council to review the rules regarding earthquake strengthening of buildings.

She said: "The damage in Christchurch really brings home the fact that in a quake-prone city like this we can't afford to get this wrong."