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Earthquake anniversary prompts reminders

Monday 20 December 2021

Fourteen years ago today at 8.55pm Gisborne was rocked by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake lasting 32 seconds.

The city centre was open for late-night shopping – fortunately, most people had gone home.

After an assessment of the damage, a state of emergency was declared at 1am for the CBD area.

Two days later on Saturday 22 December the state of emergency lifted at 5.15pm.

By Christmas Eve our CBD was back trading as normal.

But it remains one of those moments almost everyone can remember where they were when it struck.

The devastation created in that 32 seconds was enormous, but thankfully there were no fatalities and no fires.

Over $50m in claims were received by EQC - $29m damage claims to residential properties and $27m commercial claims.  There were 2928 content claims, 1582 chimney claims and 1799 interior damage claims.

Council’s Building Services Manager Ian Petty remembers Council being “extremely busy” for six months after that.

Buildings were evaluated and the earthquake-prone building time frames to strengthen them were shortened to ten years. The quake struck at the busiest retail time of the year – the week before Christmas.

Fallen parapets on footpaths showed how serious it could have been.

Mr Petty says Council subsequently re-wrote their earthquake-prone building insurance policy to include parapets as separate building items.

“We gave everyone two years to strengthen their parapets and that worked.”

Ironically it ended up being a good learning process for us all, he says.

“No one got hurt and it highlighted safety issues that owners needed their buildings strengthened.”

Around 140 buildings required strengthening, after the 20 December quake.

Today around 26 are still to be strengthened with most of them due by September next year.

Mr Petty says two or three are overdue and Council will consider enforcement action in the new year.

Civil Defence manager Ben Green says the anniversary of the earthquake is always a good opportunity to ask yourself some questions:

“What is your household plan? Do you know your evacuation route?

“We are a coastal city and our proximity to the Hikurangi Subduction Zone means we have to be ready.

“If you are in an area zoned in red, orange or yellow on the tsunami inundation maps, please make sure you know where the higher ground is and how long it takes to get there.”

Mr Green says if possible, plan your route without a car.

“If everyone jumps in their cars our roads would get blocked.”