Quake would devastate isolated resort
‘‘This is not a good time to be blase. We know the Alpine Fault is due. We can't afford to be blase.’’
Queenstown’s isolation, mountainous terrain, population and proximity to the Alpine Fault means should a large earthquake occur, the situation would be worse than Kaikoura, experts say.
Emergency Management Otago chairman Stephen Woodhead said now was the time to warn people of what was possible.
‘‘Have a look at what has occurred [in Kaikoura]. This is not a good time to be blase. We know the Alpine Fault is due. I don’t want to scare people but you just need to understand the nature of this.’’
With just two road accesses into the resort winding through gorges and bluffs and ‘‘just about everything you can think of’’ with regard to hazards, the town could be cut off for weeks, Woodhead said.
‘‘The road access does have hazards attached with it. The Nevis Bluff [on State Highway 6] for example. The Nevis falls down on a sunny day [so] . . . we’re not just talking small landslides. It will take quite some time to clear.’’
The number of visitors to Queenstown, especially during Christmas and Easter, could make it difficult logistically, he said.
‘‘Kiwi’s tend to be quite resilient but . . . our communities aren’t as resilient as years ago. We tend to have a ‘just in time’ society. It’s just a good opportunity for ... the whole community to say ‘oh, this could happen here and are we prepared?’’’
Central Otago emergency management officer Trevor Andrews said Queenstown would end up like Kaikoura but ‘‘tenfold really’’.
Businesses and the tourism sector in Queenstown needed to have emergency plans in place, he said.
‘‘If anything keeps me awake at night in this part of the country, it’s how we will manage our guests and foreign nationals.’’
Tailored response plans for every community in the district were being worked on by Civil Defence and were expected to have completed plans within two years.
GNS principal scientist Kelvin Berryman said there was a 30 to 50 per cent chance of a large earthquake on the Alpine Fault in the next 50 years.
Earthquake damage would be ‘‘tenfold’' should Queenstown experience similar to Kaikoura Emergency Management Otago chairman Stephen Woodhead