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A big quake could leave Wellington reliant on barges and helicopters for survival, new disaster predictions show.
Massive landslides would cut off Porirua, the Hutt Valley and Wellington from the rest of New Zealand and from one another, with inbound roads taking up to four months to clear.
All three areas would rely on barges and helicopters to ferry in food, clean water and vital medical supplies.
The would be no power, water or gas for at least three weeks, and for more than two months in some Wellington suburbs.
Wellington city would be cut off for the longest, with no power for at least two months and no gas for three.
It would take at least 55 days to open State Highway Two between the Hutt Valley and Wellington, and three weeks to connect the capital and Porirua.
“What we should really focus on, I think, is making sure our building standards are to the highest standards practically possible,” Prime Minister John Key told ONE News.
he grim predictions are contained in a report by the Wellington Lifelines Group, which includes 20 of the region’s major infrastructure companies and civil defence authorities.
It is based on a “worst-case scenario” of a 7.5 or higher magnitude quake, which has a less than 10% chance of striking within the next century.
The report also reveals just how vulnerable the region’s basic services would be in a big quake.
Wellington Electricity chief executive Greg Skelton admits his network, which supplies electricity to 160,000 homes and businesses, is not quake-proof.
“The network is built underground to keep away from the high winds and that’s not a great place to be. It’s in reasonable nick but we need to do some more reinforcement,” said Skelton.
Reinforcement could cost up to million which could have to be paid for by power users.
Regional Emergency Management Group co-ordinator Bruce Pepperell said road access would be the biggest priority. “Parts of the region will be completely cut off from others.”
The stretch of State Highway 1 sandwiched between the coast and cliffs along Centennial Highway would probably be the most difficult to clear.
“If it is necessary to blow the top of the hill into the ocean [to open a road], that is what will happen.”
Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde, who also chairs the lifelines group, said the report was part of a wider resilience review by infrastructure firms after the Canterbury quakes.
However, many improvements would take years, and the public would need to decide on the tradeoffs between cost and quake resilience, she said. “Unless you have a limitless budget, there is no quick fix.”
The regional council is also considering new emergency water reservoirs, and briefly entertained building a desalination plant on the south coast.
The report says that, whatever strengthening is built into services, it is equally important that people prepare personally for a big disaster.