Council boss issues quake warning

Quake-damaged: State Highway 1 and the main trunk railway line north of Kaikoura on Monday PICTURE: NZ HERALD

Queenstown needs to learn from the images of collapsed hillsides blocking Kaikoura from every direction, Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead says.

The resort would probably face a similar scenario should the Alpine Fault rupture, he says, and Queenstown residents should prepare to be cut off by landslips for weeks.

“We are talking large landslides; not something that can be just cleared in a few days. You’d end with Queenstown potentially isolated and maybe even the Kawarau River blocked or partially blocked.”

Consequences from an Alpine Fault quake could include a tsunami on Lake Wakatipu.

Civil Defence authorities are well aware of the risk of Queenstown being cut off and Monday’s quake is a timely reminder for the public.

Woodhead: “You might have to live for a number of weeks on limited supplies.”

Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago emergency management officer Trevor Andrews says the Wakatipu Basin is similar to Kaikoura in relying heavily on tourism.

He warns its transport network is particularly vulnerable to a major quake.

While Kaikoura had about 700 tourists on Monday, the Wakatipu could have many thousands at the time of a natural disaster.

Not only would they be cut off for an extended period, but many could be trapped in communities such as Glenorchy, Kingston and Gibbston.

Andrews says tourism businesses have a “legal and moral responsibility” to keep the visitors safe during a disaster.

Their collective response would be vital for New Zealand’s reputation overseas, he says.

He had been struck by television coverage of tourists reacting to an aftershock while sheltering at a Kaikoura marae.

“They looked very, very frightened – these folk aren’t used to it. As Kiwis, we are used to living on the Shaky Isles and we kind of understand what’s going on.”

Andrews is encouraging businesses, such as tourism giants Skyline Queenstown, NZSki and AJ Hackett Bungy, to develop “continuity plans”.

He says locals need to know the location of their nearest Civil Defence centre and have a plan for reuniting their families.

“Their home might not be accessible because of damage to roads or bridge abutments or collapse. Have they had the discussion about where they’re going to meet?”

Andrews is also working on tailored response plans for every community in the district.

That involves distributing information packs to every household showing Civil Defence centre locations and emergency evacuation routes, and advice about what to do during a natural disaster.


Otago Daily Times