Wellington Quake - news release 8

23 July 2013

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the city is getting back to normal today after Sunday evening’s 6.5 quake. Road, rail and bus traffic are heading back to normal weekday flows.

“The capital is in good shape and open for business.”

The Mayor says she appreciated the warning from the New Zealand Defence Force that a 21-gun salute from Point Jerningham is scheduled for midday today to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.

“Given that quite a lot of people are jumpy after the quakes of the past few days, we appreciate the warning.”

Minister Nikki Kaye received a briefing today at the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office and was impressed by the cooperation, capability and response in the capital.

Mayor Wade-Brown says: “A huge thanks to all the staff, contractors, building owners, volunteers and media for pulling together to help the Capital bounce back.”

Other points

  • The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office in Thorndon and other staff are returning to their usual duties.

Buildings and inspections

  • Many workers will be returning to offices today and in many cases they will find no problems.
  • In other cases they will be spending much of the day cleaning up - we all know there have been reports of ceiling tiles collapsing, shelves tipping over, and other damage.
  • People should take care and report signs of serious damage to their employers or the building owners.
  • While we said yesterday that we know of 35 buildings that have suffered damage - mostly superficial - we also have anecdotal details of other buildings that are similarly damaged but the details have not been reported to the Council.

Traffic and parking issues

  • Featherston Street is the city’s ‘hot spot’ in terms of damage.
  • The street is now largely down to one lane - and the speed limit has been reduced to 30kmh.
  • About 12 buildings on Featherston Street - between Ballance and Gray streets - are barriered-off due to concerns about falling masonry and glass.
  • Work has already started to repair these buildings - and hopefully the barriers will only be in place for a matter of days or a couple of weeks.
  • We do not want to completely close Featherston Street to pedestrians and traffic - it is after all a very important part of the central business district.
  • But people in a hurry through the central city should avoid the street until further notice.
  • Mesh fencing, barriers, warning signs and security guards will keep pedestrians away from the facades of the affected buildings.
  • Pedestrians will have to ‘zig-zag’ down the street a number of times if they are using it to get across the city. If you are in a hurry, it’ll be quicker to use Lambton Quay or Jervois Quay.
  • Our traffic engineers will alter traffic-light phasing at some of the intersections on Featherston Street to make it easier for people to cross the road.

Investment in the city’s physical resilience

  • Sunday night’s quake provides an opportunity to note that the city’s buildings and infrastructure is in good shape.
  • Over the past two decades the City Council has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the quake-strengthening of much infrastructure.
  • Most Wellingtonians won’t be aware of it - but we have spent many millions on new quake-proof reservoirs - all fitted with shut-off valves that will retain water if the water mains crack following a big quake.
  • We have also spent millions on strengthening bridges and tunnels - including the Karori Tunnel, Kelburn viaduct, Aotea Quay over-ramp, and retaining walls above and below important arterial roads like the Ngaio Gorge and Churchill Drive.
  • The Council is about to start a $43 million strengthening upgrade of the Town Hall - featuring base-isolation.

Community resilience

  • Wellington City Council emphasises the importance of community resilience.
  • Social media has been a huge part of communication, with the WREMOnz Facebook now having 31,000 Likes and almost 80,000 views of some of their posts.
  • Neighbours have reassured and helped each other.
  • Wellington Student Volunteer Army has formed.
  • The community-led, award-winning Tsunami Blue Lines project, that began in Island Bay, is being rolled out to coastal communities.

Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office

  • We have to give some credit to the 2011-12 reorganisation of civil-defence duties in the Wellington region for the smooth running of our quake response over the past few days.
  • Bruce Pepperell - our first regional emergency manager - helped set up a joined-up system that has meant our response on Sunday evening was rapid and coordinated with all services.
  • It has been great to have the assistance of Fran Wilde - the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Lifelines Chair - and Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan, Chair of the Regional Civil Defence Committee.

Reminder to everyone

  • Update your home emergency kits.
  • Do you have 3 days’ water for you and your family?
  • Do you have a family emergency plan?
  • Have you met the neighbours in your street or apartment?
  • Do you know the names of your neighbours? It’s a good idea to say hello.
  • Do you have an emergency kit in your workplace? Include a pair of good walking shoes under the desk - it’s a long way to walk to Porirua or the Hutt Valley if the trains are out and the roads are blocked to traffic.
  • Have your house quake-checked.
  • Consider being trained as a volunteer.