New Zealand: Earthquake aftershocks complicate rebuilding and repair in Christchurch

Last Updated: 12 October 2011
Article by Mark Simister
Despite setbacks from further aftershocks, progress is being made with rebuilding Christchurch, New Zealand, Mark Simister MWH's Asia Pacific Director for Program Management reports.

You would not be mistaken for thinking the residents of Christchurch, New Zealand, are feeling somewhat punch-drunk after 12 months of continuing aftershocks following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September 2010. The subsequent aftershocks in 2011 included two earthquakes at magnitudes of 6.3, one of which was particularly devastating. As a result of the initial earthquake and aftershocks, 10 percent of Christchurch's bore water wells were rendered unusable. An additional 44 percent, according to Christchurch City Council, were damaged. Substantial damage was caused to stormwater, drinking water and wastewater network and treatment facilities, and roads. Overall, damage to infrastructure is estimated at US$1.9 billion (NZ$2.5 billion).

Shortly after the first earthquake, the global engineering consultancy MWH and contractor Mainzeal Property and Construction entered into a joint venture, which was appointed to manage and coordinate the repair and rebuilding effort for a significant portion of Vero Insurance New Zealand and AA Insurance claims. In a strange twist of fate, having the MWH-Mainzeal team already in place at the time of the most devastating earthquake on February 22, 2011 enabled a rapid response to undertaking essential make-safe and emergency works. By the end of April, the team had completed more than 1,000 make-safe repairs to homes, most of which were completed within one day of receiving notice. Since then, much of this work has been subject to the effects of the additional June 13, 2011 aftershock, registered at a magnitude of 6.3.

Drinking water is now restored to all suburbs and residences in Christchurch; however some suburbs are still operating without normal household toilet facilities. As of mid-August, 1,600 homes were still using chemical toilets and portaloos due to damage to the sewer network. The setbacks of the aftershocks have created a number of challenges to the urban infrastructure, but basic repairs are being completed wherever possible to restore essential services and to allow time before permanent repairs and renewals can be designed and built. In the face of setbacks and challenges, the spirit and resolve of locals to Christchurch never ceases to both impress and amaze.

The drinking water supply system in Christchurch is decentralized, comprising a series of bores spread across the city. The initial quake and aftershocks damaged the majority of those bores and pipes in some way, resulting in remediation interventions including the introduction of chlorine. Water supplies have been chlorinated to a level that is agreed upon by the Medical Officer of Health and is in line with the best practice used in cities with chlorinated water. The tap water in the city and on Banks Peninsula is regularly tested to the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards and is safe to drink.

Twelve kilometers of pipe damaged in the February quake and 10 kilometers of damaged pipe from the September quake had been replaced by early June when the aftershock hit, setting the counter largely back to zero. Progress is being made, but the time it will take to rebuild the city and suburbs is best estimated at years. Relevant authorities not only need to rebuild the city, but also need to navigate the heightened emotions of whether rebuilding in parts of the city is practical and possible. Already, the tough decision has been made not to repair or rebuild 6,000 homes. Christchurch locals are aware of this dichotomy and officials are working as transparently and speedily as possible to give closure to those still unsure whether they will be able to rebuild, or be required to relocate.

The residential parts of the city have been color-coded to categorize the ground conditions that will determine whether repair or rebuild can occur. Homes in the residential red zones will be demolished. Homes in the green zone are able to be repaired or rebuilt, though work has been delayed until the aftershocks have eased. In other zones – white and orange – the decision to repair and rebuild will depend upon further assessment of ground conditions.

Those involved in the infrastructure rebuild are awaiting clarity around which parts of the city will be repaired and rebuilt, as this has influence as to both where and when they will apply their effort to the full repair and replacement of damaged infrastructure. There is also considerable thought being given to the provision of 'engineered resilience' in the rebuild. Christchurch is now assessed as a seismically active area; therefore ongoing seismic events will occur, which could again damage the city's infrastructure. Because of this, every effort is being made to rebuild a system, which can perform more resiliently in higher magnitude earthquakes. This will involve the use of more robust materials for pipes, jointing systems, pump station design, and consideration of pumped sewer systems as opposed to deep gravity-based systems.

The passing of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 bestows far-reaching powers on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). The purpose of the legislation includes facilitating, coordinating, and directing the planning, rebuilding, and recovery of affected communities, including the repair and rebuilding of land, infrastructure, and other property. This also includes generally restoring the social, economic, cultural, and environmental well-being of greater Christchurch communities. CERA is responsible for working with stakeholders (in particular the Christchurch City Council) and residents to develop the master plan for Christchurch, which will be delivered within the next six months. It will, as best it can, not only accommodate the need to preserve what can be preserved, but also incorporate protections for vital infrastructure including water, wastewater, stormwater, and roads.

The engineering community is working closely with the necessary authorities to help inform decisions as well as to develop a cost-effective, resilient, socially, and environmentally sympathetic master plan.

Once the master plan has been approved, action plans for individual suburbs will be developed. Due to the nature of natural disasters like earthquakes, some suburbs have fared better than others. Some will require little to no engineering intervention to restore infrastructure and services, whereas others will require intensive intervention and, in the worse cases, abandonment.

A structure may look like it has not sustained too much damage, but what is unseen – such as the foundations and structural connections behind walls, under carpets and above ceilings – can determine its future. Initially, information is gathered, such as spot level recordings and measurements, to determine how out of plumb a structure is. These assessments may indicate foundation distress or the impacts of liquefaction, but often foundations are buried so the damage cannot be easily seen.

While damage to personal homes, commercial premises, infrastructure, and amenity areas are foremost in the minds of residents and government officials, the quakes have also changed ground levels and substantially exposed parts of the city to an increased risk of flooding.

MWH served as program manager for infrastructure projects in New Orleans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. With a demonstrated history in working complex responses to natural disasters, MWH is in a regular state of research and information gathering from sources around the globe to help ensure what is recommended will be the best solutions for Christchurch. While there is still community spirit among residents living in the affected suburbs, timely decisions now need to be made. Special legislation was passed in 2011 to create the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to lead and coordinate the recovery effort. CERA is now working with the many stakeholders (local authorities, government agencies, private and public businesses, insurers, banks, realtors, architects, engineers, and builders) to coordinate and, wherever possible, fast-track the recovery.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Mark Simister
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
Accounting and Audit
Anti-trust/Competition Law
Consumer Protection
Corporate/Commercial Law
Criminal Law
Employment and HR
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment
Family and Matrimonial
Finance and Banking
Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
Government, Public Sector
Immigration
Insolvency/Bankruptcy, Re-structuring
Insurance
Intellectual Property
International Law
Law Practice Management
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
Privacy
Real Estate and Construction
Strategy
Tax
Transport
Wealth Management
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.