Preparing for an Earthquake

25 June 2012

Over the past year, Wellingtonians, like many other New Zealanders, have been thinking about earthquakes.

Older unstrengthened buildings were demolished to make way for stronger structures

Older unstrengthened buildings were demolished to make way for stronger structures

With so much destruction in Christchurch, people are asking, "How safe is Wellington?"

During July and August, we will be hosting a series of meetings where you can come along and find out. The Council's earthquake team and other experts will be there to share information and answer your questions.

We plan to discuss:

  • The continuing demolition in Christchurch. The engineers will explain that buildings are designed to protect people. A number of buildings in Christchurch failed to do that, but most of the others did what they were supposed to do: the people in them survived.
  • The Wellington context. In the 1970s and 80s the Council started identifying at-risk buildings, and hundreds of older buildings in the CBD were demolished and replaced with new ones. As a result, the number of buildings that are potentially at-risk is much smaller than it was - today only 4 percent of the commercial space is earthquake-prone.
  • The building code. In Wellington, buildings have to be more resilient to earthquakes than elsewhere. A new building in Wellington, for example, is three times more earthquake resilient than a new building in Auckland.
  • Relative risk. There have been about 480 recorded deaths in earthquakes in New Zealand. But over 37,000 people have been killed in road crashes since 1921. We should be concerned about the safety of our city, but it's also true that you are much safer in your office - no matter how old it is - than in your car. New Zealand itself is one of the safest countries in the world - it was ranked the second safest place to be in 2011.
  • The work the Council has been doing to ensure the city's transport links, water and sewerage are resilient.
  • What you can do to be ready. Christchurch reminded us how important it is that we all know what to do before, during and after an earthquake - to find out, visit:
    Get Ready Get Through website
  • Resilient organisations. Buildings, not people, will be the biggest casualties in an earthquake and so the businesses that survive will be those that are well prepared.

If your business does not have a robust business continuity plan, it needs one. Some day - perhaps today, perhaps not for 1000 years - Wellington may experience a major earthquake. So we must prepare for that, but we also need to do so from the perspective that risk is part of life. Our city absolutely, positively has a strong future.

There is work to do to be prepared for a big earthquake, but - relatively speaking - we are in good shape. What happened in Christchurch is a reality check: a chance to reassess our priorities. To register to attend one of our free earthquake meetings, visit:

Briefings About Earthquake Resilience