Learning aids disaster response | Commercial

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Mark Easton

Since September 2010, the South Island of New Zealand has been impacted by a series of significant earthquakes and aftershocks. The most notable of these were the February 2011 and November 2016 events.  In general, key learnings from the 2011 event have been applied to the 2016 event. This resulted in significantly improved engineering response, at organisational, technical and operational levels.

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake caused significant issues with structural performance, ground liquefaction and landsliding. In response to these issues, the engineering community worked in a collaborative manner to collect, interpret and apply the learnings to engineer solutions that are pragmatic, proportional to the risk profile, offer an appropriate level of resilience and are sustainable.

This collaborative approach has bred a tight-knit engineering community, predominately through specific working groups.  As a result, a number of key engineering techniques and learnings relevant to the way in which engineers can better react to a natural disaster were developed.

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake provided an opportunity for the previous five years of learnings to be effectively applied. While the specific nature of the Kaikoura earthquake and its consequences were quite different from those of the Christchurch earthquake, the engineering process was similarly aligned and similar working arrangements were established more rapidly.

Over the Kaikoura coast, scores of significant landslides inundated road and rail infrastructure, with fault ruptures and ground displacements adding to the damage. Road and rail term consultants worked in alliance, recruiting additional engineering resource to meet the high workload demands.

By the start of 2017, a design and build consortium, known as the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) had been formed enabling the Kaikoura recovery to proceed at an accelerated pace. The…

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