On Monday, the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, Cromwell resident Amanda Greer placed flowers on a road cone.
The road cones, which lined streets for years after the magnitude-6.3 earthquake have become an enduring symbol for many who went through the trauma of the day.
Amanda Greer, now of Cromwell, was working in Christchurch on February 22, 2011, at 12.51pm.
She, husband Brian and their four sons lived in Leeston, and both parents worked in Christchurch.
At 12.51pm, she walked out of a building after completing a job interview.
During the shaking she ran to her car and drove to the town’s outskirts, on the way avoiding a truck jumping across the road towards her.
Mr Greer had to run from a building as concrete fell around him.
They had about $70,000 damage to their house, but some friends lost everything.
The aftershocks continued for five years, interrupting sleep, and as a result they became more stressed and exhausted.
She sometimes called her employer up north saying she could not work as the tremors prevented her sleeping, but she got little sympathy.
Mr Greer used to go into the ‘‘red zone’’ every day working for a contractor, but he found this distressing and resigned to return to a former job building motorhomes.
About five years ago they bought a retirement section in Cromwell, then three years ago Mr Greer’s sister died suddenly.
‘‘She and her husband had so many plans and they did not have the opportunity to follow them through,’’ Mrs Greer said.
‘‘We thought, we also had plans and why are we doing this to ourselves and what are we waiting for?’’
They moved to Cromwell shortly after and now Mr Greer works in Wanaka for a joinery firm and Mrs Greer is an education co-ordinator for Central Otago Reap.
These days, they live in a state of preparedness for any natural disaster with stocks of emergency supplies.
Every time she enters a new building, Mrs Greer automatically searches for escape routes.
They recently returned to Christchurch and went into the Quake City exhibition.
‘‘That was really hard to do, to be confronted with sights and sounds and it took us right back to the earthquake.’’
However, some of the city’s vibrancy was returning.
She walked past a new building and next door was a cafe left exactly as it was the day of the earthquake, still with cups and plates on the table, which spoke volumes.
‘‘We are now very aware that life is fragile and we live every moment to the best we can.’’
Plans make big difference in disaster: official
Oliver Varley says he cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have conversations with family and neighbours about what would happen if there was an earthquake.
The Emergency Management Otago (EMO) officer urged everyone to put a plan in place to deal with the first few days after an earthquake, as it was likely people, especially in rural areas, would have to look after themselves for some time.
‘‘We can’t predict them, but we can prepare for them to survive them.’’
People would be helping others, communities pulling together to save lives and rescue the buried and injured, Mr Varley said.
There was likely to be roading and building damage, no power or communications, subsidence and liquefaction, damage to the 3 Waters network — sewerage, stormwater and drinking water — and reservoirs could empty.
Wanaka has the Wanaka Recreation Centre as its primary Civil Defence centre.
Mr Varley said it opened in 2016 and was built to a greater level of earthquake resilience.
‘‘Work is under way by Queenstown Lakes District Council to replace the Luggate Memorial Hall, which will be a further asset for the Upper Clutha area in an emergency.’’
Contact Energy regional head of generation Boyd Brinsdon said he was ‘‘very confident’’ in the design and stability of both the region’s dams, even if there was a strong earthquake.
‘‘They are extremely well built for the earthquake scenarios we can expect here.
‘‘Concrete gravity dams such as Roxburgh and Clyde typically do not fail.’’
The dams were anchored metres down in the bedrock and built on the same bedrock.
However, in an earthquake there might be some minor damage, which could be repaired reasonably quickly, he said.
Both the Cromwell and Roxburgh gorges had slips that had been present for hundreds of years and subject to many earthquakes.
While they might move slightly, he expected them to remain largely intact.
WSP principal geotechnical engineer Robert Bond, of Alexandra, was part of a team on the ground within 24 hours of the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes in 2011 and 2016, assessing infrastructure damage and repair options.
He believed New Zealand’s key organisations were far better equipped, trained and ready for a similar event now than they were at those times.
Scientists had done a lot of research to understand earthquakes and how shaking would travel through New Zealand since then.
The NZ Transport Agency had improved roading resilience and the effects of major earthquakes were much better understood.
Mr Bond said it was unlikely Central Otago would be hit with a similar sized earthquake to those that hit Christchurch, because the region rested on different geology, compared with Canterbury’s softer soils.
Any big earthquake affecting this region was likely to originate in the West Coast area, with an epicentre most likely along the Alpine Fault (AF8).
Roads from Dunedin to Alexandra, and Queenstown to Christchurch over the Lindis Pass are considered roading lifelines and would be high priority for repairs.
In 2019, the Otago Regional Council (ORC) commissioned Niwa to undertake seismic mapping on the Lake Wanaka bed after a desk-based review by GNS Science identified a likely fault.
GNS scientists now propose that the likely active NW Cardrona fault runs northwest past the foot of Mt Alpha, beneath part of the Wanaka township and out under the lake.
The scientists said the goal was to find more conclusive evidence of the proposed fault so the community could better prepare for the effects of an earthquake.
ORC natural hazards manager Jean-Luc Payan said the work highlighted the risk of a lake tsunami. The ORC was planning to raise public awareness around the potential risks that a lake tsunami would present in the event of an eathquake.
Emergency services will activate to help the injured and extinguish fires. Personnel are encouraged to check their own families as well.
FIRST THREE HOURS
– EMO and the Central Otago District Council establish operational response centres.
– People isolated during the emergencies to register with police or EMO.
– Requests for assistance from the region’s other townships processed.
FIRST 12 HOURS
– CODC has a generator to provide power for council buildings and the stormwater pump station.
– Secondary hazards identified.
– Start medical evacuations.
– Establish temporary morgues if required.
– Set up temporary housing in motels and hotels.
– Establish food and water supply chains and welfare support.
– Assess damage to housing stock, infrastructure, river aggradation, and alternative access routes.
– Portaloos, water tanks etc brought in.
– Address animal welfare needs.
– Evacuation of isolated areas.
– Reinstalment of some utilities.
WHAT ABOUT DUNSTAN HOSPITAL?
Within the first hour, the emergency incident team or senior nurse on duty would initiate the protocols:
– Check on patients and staff and care for any injured;
– Prepare for casualties to arrive;
– Assess building damage and set up in the Alexandra Community Centre, the Dunstan High School hostel, the airport or in marquees;
– Liaise with the Central Otago District Council (CODC), the Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management Otago (EMO) and the Southern District Health Board about evacuation;
– Move patients requiring specialist care to other hospitals;
The hospital has more than seven days of food and medical supplies, as well as an emergency generator.