A quake in Wellington: we’re all f***ed

February 17th, 2012 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Stuff reports:

Major routes in and out of New Zealand’s capital city could be blocked by rubble from more than 400 buildings with unstable masonry in the event of a big earthquake.

A new council report into ’s resilience has found the city’s economy would take a $37 billion hit if it experienced an event like the Christchurch earthquake, with many core businesses and services – including the Government – likely to leave the city permanently.

Among concerns highlighted in the report are the 435 buildings in Wellington with unreinforced masonry, 166 of which are heritage buildings.

The location of many earthquake-prone buildings along important strategic roads means routes needed by emergency services in the event of a big earthquake could end up blocked by fallen masonry.

The short version is if a big quake hits Wellington, we’re all fucked.

Transmission Gully will at least provide an alternate route out in the future , but even getting to the start of that will probably prove highly difficult.

Still it could be worse than being left to rot in a quake destroyed Wellington. The Government will probably relocate to Palmerston North – a fate worse than death!

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56 Responses to “A quake in Wellington: we’re all f***ed”

  1. immigant (950 comments) says:

    Not going to argue with this.

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  2. Mark (1,467 comments) says:

    Look out Australia Wellington is comming

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  3. simonway (379 comments) says:

    Saw the headline and thought you were reporting on an actual that had done major damage… don’t scare me like that, dpf.

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  4. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Bugger off Farrar, we’re not letting you junior jafa’s in here. NO latees here, move along city boy.

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  5. Dave Mann (1,200 comments) says:

    One huge benefit of a big earthquake in Wellington would be to get rid of the assholes, bludgers and fuckwits who waste their lives and our money in that beehive shaped building. For details, see DPF’s “Question 12″ post 3 below this one.

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  6. Brian Harmer (686 comments) says:

    It’s one of the things that some colleagues and I worked on at Victoria University before I retired. We reckoned that the university’s USAR team would be concerned to extract us from the rubble of our buildings, but getting home after that would be a challenge. We figured that rail would be stuffed, and SH2 beside the harbour would likely be shut down too. We made plans to form a group to help each other negotiate the transit to the Hutt (and points North) on foot. We were advised by SAR experts that we would need to spend at least one night in the open. Preparedness included having some good walking shoes and warm clothing in your office, as well as a torch and other emergency supplies.

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  7. flipper (3,920 comments) says:

    Would Government then be Outside the Beltway?

    Actually, we would need to find another Hutt Valley. The existing one would sink into the river silt.

    We would also all be trapped in side the beltway because idiots continue to hold up Transmission Gully thru some idiotic court process.

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  8. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    Apartment insurance in the city is rocketing. Heard from someone yesterday whose 6-apartment block has increased from $6.5k to $65k for the year. And that is for a strengthened building. Most of the overseas re-insurers are just pulling out of the NZ market completely. I suspect that city apartments, even new code-compliant ones are going to be unsellable soon.

    It’s like there has been an earthquake in Christchurch and that is going to cause Wellington real estate to be unsellable and un- (or barely-) insurable. Christchurch building owners get red zoned and bought out at pre-earthquake market value. I suspect a lot of Wellington building owners are going to either have all their equity wiped out, and the rest are going to be bankrupted.

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  9. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    “Saw the headline and thought you were reporting on an actual that had done major damage… don’t scare me like that, dpf.”

    I’ll second that. My heart skipped a beat there.

    The headline should have read “IF a quake happens in Wellington…”

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  10. Paranormal (6 comments) says:

    Amazing how much people have either forgotten or haven’t bothered listening to.

    GNS have been predicting a significant chance of a large magnitude earthquake on the Wellington faultline since the late 90’s.

    Can anyone remember what the Wellington Green belt was kept for? One of the key reasons was for Wellingtonians to camp in following the big one.

    Organisations like ACC have been studying the consequences of a big one in Wellington since the early 90’s and used to base their worst case scenario for NZ planning around a magnitude 8 on the Wellington faultline during business hours. From memory I don’t think the estimated number of buildings collapsing has even changed from then to now.

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  11. swan (659 comments) says:

    I think someone needs to start shouting down the heritage warriors. Action needs to be taken.

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  12. Mobile Michael (439 comments) says:

    Central Wellington will be a river of liquifaction after a quake even if no buildings block the roads. As will be the case in Petone and Porirua. The good news is Wellington is going up so The Hutt Valley might become Hutt Hill.

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  13. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    “One huge benefit of a big earthquake in Auckland would be to get rid of the assholes, bludgers and fuckwits who waste their lives and our money”, you talking about Wellington or south Auckland Dave?

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  14. Dave Mann (1,200 comments) says:

    both, murray…. but actually, its the bludgers in Wellington who create the conditions for and encourage the bludgers in South Auckland, so best start at the ‘top’.

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  15. Pete George (23,418 comments) says:

    Gutting the provinces and centralising government departments in Christchurch and Wellington was such a good idea, wasn’t it.

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  16. swan (659 comments) says:

    Pete George,

    You mean decentralising from Auckland and moving the capital south? No it wasn’t the smartest move.

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  17. Nick K (1,199 comments) says:

    $37Billion means it will actually cost about $70Billion.

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  18. KH (694 comments) says:

    Welllington cut off. mmmmh. Explain to me again what the the problem is.

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  19. insider (1,035 comments) says:

    Hey we’ve only known about this since 1840. Good to see the DomPost is really up with the news again.

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  20. MT_Tinman (3,092 comments) says:

    166 “heritage” buildings in one city of a country that is brand new?

    More often than not this “heritage” thing simply means some interfering tosser (you can guarantee not the owner nor anyone connected financially to the building) has decided the building is old.

    “Heritage” buildings kill people as events in Christchurch showed recently.

    Has Wellington learnt nothing?

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  21. berend (1,695 comments) says:

    +1 not to rebuild Wellington in case of a quake.

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  22. Rick Rowling (825 comments) says:

    Before we all get steamed up:

    Until recently, available evidence suggested that this southern segment ruptured at intervals of about 600 years and last ruptured about 450 years ago, producing an earthquake of at least magnitude 7.

    The new findings show it ruptures about every 900 years and last ruptured about 300 years ago.

    http://gns.cri.nz/Home/News-and-Events/Media-Releases/Lower-threat-from-Wellington-fault

    (but of course, keep your emergency kit & plan ready!)

    To put it in context – the other hazard, which no one ever talks about:

    What are the chances of another volcanic eruption in Auckland?

    Based on the number and frequency of previous eruptions, there is once chance in 1000 (1:1000 yr return period) that an eruption could occur in Auckland in any one year.

    In any 50 year period, there is a 5% probability, or 1 chance in 20 that an eruption will occur from the Auckland Volcanic Field.

    http://www.arc.govt.nz/council/civil-defence-emergency-management/natural-hazards/volcanic-hazards.cfm

    So a 5% chance that a lifetime lived in Auckland will include a volcanic eruption.

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  23. Whaleoil (767 comments) says:

    David says Transmission Gully will provide an alternate route out of the capital….uhmmm….would that be the same Transmission Gully that travels up a major fault line?

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  24. marcw (241 comments) says:

    From a Christchurch experience, Wellington residents (especially) should start being proactive about minimising damage to their city, and this includes being realistic about ‘Heritage’ buildings and their worth as objects compared to the devastation they can cause during a moderate earthquake.

    As far as home owners are concerned, the greatest damage is caused by chimneys. It costs about $500 to remove an unused or unstable chimney, but they can easily cause $15,000 of damage or even fatalities or critical injuries when they fall, AND THEY WILL.

    Looking around Wellington recently I can see a huge potential for destruction caused by falling chimneys alone, and my suggestion is that, in conjunction with Insurance companies, the Government and Council should urgently commence a project to neutralise the danger they pose by establishing a removal scheme. This could be done using all the unemployed talent available at present starting with training and a subsidised task force.

    Really, you should have started this already.

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  25. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    Suddenly, all of this is NEWS???

    They’ll be able to bulldoze the rubble of fallen buildings off the roads pretty quickly.

    It’s if they get a massive landslide that buries the Ngauranga Gorge, Rimutaka hill road, Centennial Highway or what have you under millions of cubic metres of material, that the roads will stay blocked…

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  26. Viking2 (11,337 comments) says:

    This is news?????????
    Really???
    Where the hell have you people been sleeping.???

    Born and bred there and new from the time I started school about 1950 that this was the case.
    It seems that the newer generations just never learn from the older ones which of course is why we spend so much money educating them, mostly for no purpose it seems.

    Hop over to Butterfly Creek and have a look at the info boards that Doc put up there a few years back. Its all on there. And you can drive right there don’t even have to climb the gut buster these days.

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  27. cha (3,918 comments) says:

    It’s if they get a massive landslide that buries the Ngauranga Gorge, Rimutaka hill road, Centennial Highway or what have you under millions of cubic metres of material, that the roads will stay blocked…

    The SO takes her tramping boots to work when she’s in Wellington. Reckons if she has to it’ll take her a week, bridges intact, to walk home.

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  28. Viking2 (11,337 comments) says:

    And yes the councils have known all this forever as well.

    I hear already that many insurance excesses are sky rocketing up with more to come next year. Minor claims will become a thing of the past. You know the sort of thing, I broke my window. $150 to fix, $500 excess.

    Hearing $1000 excesses are in the pipeline.
    Tough on house owners as well. Going to have a profound effect on rental houses and rents.
    Can see rent excess clauses going into rental agreements.

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  29. emmess (1,416 comments) says:

    The Government will probably relocate to Palmerston North – a fate worse than death!

    Some might say Government deserves a fate worse than death

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  30. DukeofWellington (2 comments) says:

    The problem with Transmission Gully as a back up route out of Wellington is that it doesn’t start until Linden. If the big one did hit Wellington, Ngauranga gorge would be one of the first to go, ditto for Middleton Road between Johnsonville and Tawa. Rendering T-Gully pretty useless to anyone trapped in Wellington City itself. The Gully itself is surrounded by very fragile slopes that would likely slip in an earthquake anyway. Johnsonville Hill Road, Sh2 to Petone, the Akatawara road and the Rimutaka Hill road would probably all be closed as well due to landslides.

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  31. Lindsay Addie (1,306 comments) says:

    First re the heritage buildings I’m 100% with what Tinman posted at 9:38am.

    The big enemy for Wellington is complacency so good on the WCC for at least thinking about the issues involved.

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  32. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    WCC has been entreating, begging, persuading and forcing people to do something about THEIR earthquake prone buildings for decades.

    Since February 2010, people just resent them slightly less for it.

    Short of nationalising the town’s building stock and directly funding all of the improvements, it is hard to imagine how WCC could have been any more proactive than they have been.

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  33. lastmanstanding (1,261 comments) says:

    the reality is if a biggie struck Auckland and took out the Harbour Bridge not only Auckland but the rest of the country would be stuffed.

    Laugh all you like but a significant number of the people who travel over the bridge each day to the CBD in particular do stuff that if it stopped getting done woul impact on many citizens. Auckland now has the HQs of many organisations and again you can laugh but when those HQs come to a stop the troops in the out posts are left high and dry.

    Too many for instance to explain here but just wait to see if it happens.

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  34. Pete George (23,418 comments) says:

    would that be the same Transmission Gully that travels up a major fault line?
    In areas formed by seismic activity pretty much every gully can be a faultline, and every line of hills. Rivers tend to establish themselves in weakened broken valleys – hence the hooha about the Clyde Dam being built on a faultline.

    Much of New Zealand is patterned by faultlines. Some are historic (less likely to move again), some are active.

    It’s just a punt on nature as to whether a specific faultline will move in our lifetimes.

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  35. GT (44 comments) says:

    DPF – I think you’ll find that most central Govt agencies business continuity plans will have agency operations first revert to existing operations in Auckland. Sure branch offices may set up in Palmy, but Auckland will become the head office for many agencies. That said, I have heard that some agencies are starting to reconsider their efforts to consolidate operations in Wellington as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes, and I believe that IRD is actually trying to again distribute operations, and management skills (sic) around various centres.

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  36. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    Lastmanstanding – absolutely correct.

    The anticipated earthquakes in Auckland are much weaker than in Wellington / Chch within the same average return period – and accordingly Auckland’s buildings are built with lighter and cheaper structures. (Why should Auckland property owners throw their money away on making an Auckland building as strong as if it were built over the Wellington fault?)

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  37. Rick Rowling (825 comments) says:

    A few years ago you’d be saying (Why should Christchurch property owners throw their money away on making a Christchurch building as strong as if it were built over the Wellington fault?)

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  38. Pete George (23,418 comments) says:

    Peter Dunne on the faults of WCC:

    How the worm turns! In 1999 I campaigned for tougher earthquake standards and for identifying at risk buildings across New Zealand, and was dismissed as a scaremongerer.

    Last year, I called on Wellington City Council to publish its list of at risk buildings and was accused of grandstanding. Now, they admit the city faces a potential $40 billion earthquake liability.

    Compare this to some more recent grandstanders whose ideas are on much shakier ground:

    Daniel Pullar: Sane people don’t do well in Govt Peter

    Peter Dunne: Having heard the Green Party MPs maiden speeches and the collective outpouring of lunacy this week, you may well be right – sadly

    Sensible and media coverage seem to be like whiteboard pens and cheeseburgers.

    http://www.facebook.com/hon.peter.dunne

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  39. Elaycee (4,349 comments) says:

    “Auckland now has the HQs of many organisations and again you can laugh but when those HQs come to a stop the troops in the out posts are left high and dry.”

    I think you’ll find that most organisations will have in place a disaster recovery programme – not only in case of earthquakes but also in case of fire / flood / storm / IT failure / evacuation / and (because of it’s happened already in Auckland) a complete loss of power.

    Any business operated by prudent managers will be able to continue – even if its in a reduced capacity for the short term.

    Life goes on.

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  40. Pete George (23,418 comments) says:

    (Why should Auckland property owners throw their money away on making an Auckland building as strong as if it were built over the Wellington fault?)

    Exactly. In the land of showers that money would be better spent on protecting against leaks.

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  41. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    Peter Dunne is an utter, utter fucking cunt if he said that Pete George.

    There is absolutely no way he is the people’s hero, forcing a recalcitrant Council to accept its civic responsibilities. Not even in some other parallel universe.

    He should shut the fuck up, get the fuck out, and let the real people who are doing real things to make Wellington safer get on with their jobs. Feckless, toadying, self-aggrandising politicians are not part of the solution.

    (Apologies for language… demerits accepted as they are due. I feel strongly about this.)

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  42. oddity fan (298 comments) says:

    Capital wont be PN, that plan was dropped a while ago for two reasons that I know of. 1. A quake that would be big enough to destroy Wellington is thought to be likely to inflict serious harm on PN too. I don’t know about that.

    The other reason is that there are few places with the personnel and hard infrastructure in place to enable prompt re-establishment of govt. Accepting that PN can’t cope, the two alternatives were Chch and Aland. Chch isn’t available now either and as Aland has the most govt workers outside of Wgtn, that is where Parlt and Govt will move to if there is a major event in Wgtn. If Alnd’s infrastructure is stressed now, how will it cope if Wgtn is leveled?

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  43. Pete George (23,418 comments) says:

    RRM – over reaction somewhat? Is this a turf dispute?

    What is the solution then? Keeping quiet, and leaving the council to perpetual procrastination?

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  44. Peter (1,686 comments) says:

    Can’t see anything wrong with what Peter Dunne said?

    Especially about the Greens…

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  45. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    The WCC list of earthquake risk buildings was not a secret at the time Dunne purported to have “uncovered” it.

    If he was accused of ever accused of grandstanding, it is because he was grandstanding.

    His efforts to politicise the matter (for his own gain) only confuse people, and they are dangerous.

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  46. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    What is the solution then? Keeping quiet, and leaving the council to perpetual procrastination?

    IF you owned a commercial building in Wellington, or a residential building of two storeys or more containing three tenancies or more, then you would know all to well by now, that what WCC are doing is NOT “perpetually procrastinating”…

    In fact their programme is quite the OPPOSITE of perpetual procrastination!

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  47. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    37 billion, wow, are you sure?. If the house is sitting when deliverance day comes we will probably save more then 36 billion over the next couple of years, especially if the beehive, the inland revenue building and the WC council chambers get their comeuppance.

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  48. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    Some upgrade work out there will not get done, as soon as it otherwise might have, because some property owners will take P. Dunne comments as an indication that the whole earthquake prone building measures WCC are trying to advance are mickey mouse, and just a political hobby-horse, and probably something that some WOMAN in the Dept of Building & Housing dreamed up during some socialist pipe-dream.

    Then the earthquake will come, and people will die in buildings that haven’t been strengthened yet.

    And if Peter Dunne is still around then, he will no doubt stick his head up above whatever is left of the ramparts, and say “You see? I TOLD THEM this would happen! I TRIED to make them do something! But they didn’t listen to me! If they had listened to MEEE everything would be alright now!

    (And at that point, hopefully a soldier will take him around the corner and shoot him, as a clear and present menace to public safety.)

    A dangerous, grandstanding nutter. DO NOT listen to him, he is not well enough informed on the matters he is trumpeting about.

    [But don't take my word for it, I'm just Joe Schmo working in the industry that is trying to gradually put old buildings right. Your local Ohariu/Belmont politician is far better connected to the real world, nuts & bolts of seismic upgrades than a humble design engineer like meself could ever hope to be! ;-) ]

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  49. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Very sad in CHCH recently hearing about all the people who died when hit by falling masonry. Wgtn has a chance to do something now but somehow I can’t see it happening.
    Big ups to Canterbury Uni for demolishing the Chem Eng building..no damage..it was demolished because it was the same design as the CTV building. How many other buildings like this around the country? They should be the first to go.

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  50. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    joana (1,023) Says:
    February 17th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Very sad in CHCH recently hearing about all the people who died when hit by falling masonry. Wgtn has a chance to do something now but somehow I can’t see it happening.

    :-/ Seriously?

    I suggest you google “Wellington council earthquake prone buildings policy” and see what information jumps up at you.

    Either, that or crawl back under your rock.

    What the council in Wellington are doing is setting the standard for all New Zealand…

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  51. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I am presuming this article was culled form “Private Eye” as a Friday windup for the perpetual hand wringers out there.

    If not I really fear for New Zealand if even a small number of you actually sit around even thinking about shit like this let alone worrying about it.

    You could spend 100 billion trillion and nature will still bend you over and “make you squeal like a pig boy” so move on.

    Sorry, but hold on, I have a very active volcano just 30 miles from my front room I better fret some and re-enforce my retaining walls to stop the tidal surges or I could …………..not give a fuck and enjoy my life, goodness me

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  52. Steve (4,538 comments) says:

    “Major routes in and out of New Zealand’s capital city”

    So what? You like it there, so stay there. Why do you want to travel? Just stay there and wallow in your own misery.
    The rest of NZ will get along just fine

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  53. Viking2 (11,337 comments) says:

    lastmanstanding (691) Says:
    February 17th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    the reality is if a biggie struck Auckland and took out the Harbour Bridge not only Auckland but the rest of the country would be stuffed.

    Laugh all you like but a significant number of the people who travel over the bridge each day to the CBD in particular do stuff that if it stopped getting done woul impact on many citizens. Auckland now has the HQs of many organisations and again you can laugh but when those HQs come to a stop the troops in the out posts are left high and dry.

    Too many for instance to explain here but just wait to see if it happens.

    Well apart from food supplies and telephone exchanges all the rest don’t matter much. Well for us fine folks in the BOP. We have petrol supplies. Our own electricity, can grow our own food and puha so really we wouldn’t miss the those Jaffa’s much at all.
    Anyway talking about moving things. Looks like all of POAL will be moved here shortly. Another demonstration of Aucklands inability to get its shit together.

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  54. RRM (9,761 comments) says:

    Pauleastbay –

    You’ll think differently when one of your rellies is in some sort of crushed-under-ctv-building-debris type situation.

    But by then it is too late to do anything about it. Hence, now is the time to worry about whether buildings are death-traps…

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  55. swan (659 comments) says:

    “Short of nationalising the town’s building stock and directly funding all of the improvements, it is hard to imagine how WCC could have been any more proactive than they have been.”

    Ordering tenants to cease occupation and cordoning off the footpath? You know, the things the CCC is now doing.

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  56. Scott B (23 comments) says:

    “Transmission Gully will at least provide an alternate route out in the future” Surely via sea is a more reliable exit route than via road or rail. As others have pointed out any Transmission Gully road is unlikely operational after a earthquake.

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