Quake ex­pert warns of ‘Chch on ste­ri­ods’


An earth­quake trig­gered by a rup­ture in the Alpine Fault would be like ‘‘Christchurch on steroids’’, an emer­gency man­age­ment con­fer­ence has been told.

About 50 emer­gency-re­lated or­gan­i­sa­tions from across the coun­try were in­tro­duced to Project AF8 [Alpine Fault Mag­ni­tude 8], a group set up to ‘‘col­lec­tively plan for an Alpine Fault event’’.

The talk was part of the South Is­land Civil De­fence Emer­gency Man­age­ment Con­fer­ence held at the Copthorne Ho­tel and Re­sort in Queen­stown on Fri­day.

Emer­gency Man­age­ment South­land man­ager An­gus McKay said an Alpine Fault rup­ture and re­sult­ing earth­quake would ‘‘change life in New Zealand’’.

‘‘If you thought Christchurch [earth­quake] was bad, that’s Christchurch on steroids. It’s go­ing to change the way of life.’’

About one mil­lion peo­ple vis­ited Mil­ford Sound an­nu­ally and 30 per cent of all in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to New Zealand vis­ited Mil­ford Sound, the clos­est hu­man habi­ta­tion point to the Alpine Fault’s likely rup­ture point, McKay said.

‘‘When the Alpine Fault pops, there won’t be a Mil­ford Sound any more.

‘‘After two years, we’re hop­ing to have a South Is­land Emer­gency Re­sponse Plan for the Alpine Fault. If we don’t get this right, we’re not serv­ing our peo­ple.’’

The Project AF8 fund­ing of $245,000 was part of the Gov­ern­ment’s an­nual $889,000 Civil De­fence and Emer­gency Man­age­ment’s Re­silience Fund an­nounced in June.

Project AF8 sci­ence li­ai­son Dr Caro­line Orchis­ton from the Univer­sity of Otago, said the fault had the po­ten­tial to ‘‘pop off a big one [earth­quake] pretty soon’’, but with re­search data from as far back as 1770AD, the group hoped to be able to pre- pare peo­ple for it.

When an earth­quake did oc­cur along the Alpine Fault, the dam­age would be wide­spread as the fault ‘‘is go­ing to unzip ba­si­cally’’, Orchis­ton said in a phone in­ter­view.

‘‘Queen­stown would be badly af­fected but so would other places across the South Is­land.’’

The fault runs for about 400 kilo­me­tres up the South Is­land.

GNS Sci­ence said there was a 30 per cent chance of a large earth­quake on the Alpine Fault in the next 50 years, which could cause hor­i­zon­tal move­ment of up to eight me­tres.


Univer­sity of Otago sci­en­tist Dr Caro­line Orchis­ton at the Copthorne Ho­tel and Re­sort in Queen­stown on Fri­day.

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