Kaikōura is situated on the eastern coast of the South Island in New Zealand (NZ). In November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the town. Ruptures occurred on multiple fault lines and Kaikōura’s road and rail links were severely impacted on, and in some areas completely destroyed. Emergency services and communities were cut off, with the only access to Kaikōura by air and sea for a number of weeks. In an urgent, highly-pressurised situation, our highly skilled team was deployed within hours to assist in the extensive emergency response.
Delivering Emergency Response
On the morning of the earthquake, the New Zealand Transport Agency established a multi-agency Emergency Control Centre in our office in Christchurch. From this centre, we worked closely with agencies including the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and KiwiRail, Civil Defence, affected councils, the NZ Army and multiple contractors.
Our Highway Network, Geotechnical and Bridge teams undertook reconnaissance from land and air to help re-establish access for isolated communities. Our structural engineers also carried out building triage assessments, and inspected key lifeline services, such as phone exchanges, to enable communication lines to be restored quickly. Buildings from six public schools were assessed within two days, so that the school and community could return to normal activities as soon as possible. Our team collaborated on the ground with Civil Defence to coordinate information, and to avoid replicating inspections.
At the same time, our teams were also deployed to assess the damage to major buildings in the Wellington CBD, as the quake had significantly impacted NZ’s capital city.
Based on our previous experience on the Canterbury Earthquakes (2010-2012), we had in-depth knowledge in earthquake emergency response. We had developed processes for these types of events, but equally importantly, we had highly-trained and experienced people who knew how to respond and make decisions in a highly challenging situation.