The Hikurangi Trench: New Zealand’s biggest tsunami hazard


Last night on the Seven Sharp programme, the hosts had a flat of young people in Napier City conduct and earthquake and tsunami evacuation drill. The earthquake, a fictional magnitude 8.9 on the Hikurangi Trench has triggered a tsunami and the occupants have 20 minutes to reach ground, with 60 seconds to get what they need and get out of the house. The objective immediately post earthquake was to get to Hospital Hill in a set period of time before a tsunami arrived.

The participants in the Seven Sharp drill did not quite make it. 2 young ladies and a young man had 60 seconds to decide what to take and get out of the house. They had to reach Hospital Hill about 2 kilometres away in the estimated 20 minutes they would have. They were out the door in a minute and were pretty sensible about what they took with them – something to stay warm, water and so forth and they had to carry it. Speed was of the essence, and at times despite the foot wear they were wearing, the ladies were running where they could.

One day there will be a substantial earthquake on the Hikurangi subduction zone. It will be anywhere between magnitude 8.5 and 8.9. It will last between 4-5 minutes and be felt the length and breadth of New Zealand. The above drill was aimed at Hawkes Bay, which will feel the full effect of the earthquake and be one of the first places to be hit by the tsunami – Gisborne and Wairarapa being next.

The biggest problem will not necessarily be the earthquake, although that will in itself be a massive event. Rather it is the tsunami risk that should cause people the most concern. From the subduction zone boundary to coastal Hawkes Bay is 110 kilometres. In the travel time of a tsunami that is about 20 minutes, possibly less.

One should not rely on the authorities to issue a warning in time. The warning system might well have been damaged in the earthquake. The people manning it might have injuries or other more immediate concerns such as making sure their headquarters is safe to occupy and getting the Emergency Operations Centre established in accordance with the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act, 2002. During that time a tsunami heading for nearby coast lines would have a significant head start.

In a real event though, things will be about 10x tougher. We will assume that it is indeed at night time. When the shaking stops different people will react differently to the situation. A lot will be in shock and not thinking coherently. Before one can leave the house or building they are in to go inland they need to be able to safely clear a route and make sure all of their fellow occupants are safe. 1 minute would easily pass in that time – 4-5 minutes to get out might be more realistic. The power will most certainly be out in large parts of the city if not across the region so there will not be any working street lights, traffic lights or other lighting to guide them. There will be constant aftershocks and some might be substantial events in themselves. In a city built on marine sediments, liquefaction will have flooded many roads, which will also be cracked. Downed power lines, foot paths blocked with debris from buildings and trees pointing in crazy directions will also hinder progress. And if all that is not enough, there will most certainly be people who are – semi-understandably – panicking even though that is the worst thing one can do and trying to drive out despite the obstacles and potentially blocking others.

The tsunami will behave differently depending on several physical factors. For example the sea floor topography will help to determine the size and shape of the waves as they approach. Will they slow down gradually as they run up a fairly open and gently grading beach, where the classic waves that most associate with tsunami’s will form? Will they be coming up a narrowing bay that forces the waves to converge and become closely packed with short distances between them?

So, there you have it. Could those of you in a tsunami inundation zone find your way to high ground following a big earthquake?

Lessons of the Christchurch terrorist attack: An Introduction


On 15 March 2019 Christchurch was subject to a terrorist attack by a gunman and possible accomplices. Over the course of the attack, the gunman shot and killed 50 people. A further 42 were injured and at the time of writing this about 36 were still in hospital.

The attack happened in two stages at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue, and at Linwood Islamic Centre on Linwood Avenue. Prior to the attack the gunman played military music which continued as he entered the Al Noor Mosque and started shooting at around 1340 hours local time. He left Al Noor Mosque after about 6 minutes and continued shooting outside, before driving away at speed towards Linwood Islamic Centre. The gunman continued shooting there. He then started driving towards a third Mosque, during which the Police intercepted him. They rammed his car, forcing it to stop and arrested him. The car was found to have bombs in it, which the gunman was not able to detonate.

The five articles that will follow over the next several days will focus on:

  1. The implications for the New Zealand intelligence and surveillance programme
  2. The implications for firearms legislation (including the changes already announced)
  3. Supporting our Muslim community and individual victims
  4. Judicial overhaul and the need to revisit terrorism legislation
  5. Consequences for New Zealand’s foreign policy

This was an attack on the very values that New Zealand stands for. Unlike other terrorist attacks, such as the French Government sinking the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior, the Christchurch attack was made by a person with extreme hatred of society. New Zealand and ultimate Christchurch was not attacked because we were conducting a war or other military activity that he disagreed with. Nor were we attacked for inflicting violence on a particular community or people. Nor were we attacked for discrimination or other xenophobic conduct.

New Zealand was attacked because in his eyes our crime was that we were NOT waging active war on Muslims.

 

Analysis suggests $28 billion loss if NZ oil and gas ban happens


An analysis of the intention to phase out oil and gas with no new exploration allowed, suggests that New Zealand might lose $28 billion IF the ban goes ahead. The ban, which was announced last year by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was meant to address the impact of carbon from man made emissions on the climate.

I say IF for a simple reason. At some point, National is guaranteed a return to power and possibly with A.C.T. as a coalition partner or supporting party. It is only inevitable that one or both parties or some other combination of centre-right parties will try to either overturn the ban, or so weaken it by indirect action that it is no longer a workable mechanism of reducing our man made carbon emissions.

The concerns I have about the likelihood of succeeding in completely winding up oil and gas exploration are matched by concerns about the feasibility of electric cars. Yes there might be a surge in the number of Nissan Leaf’s entering the market, along with new models from Toyota, Mitsubishi and Kia, but looking at the range of these vehicles, only two of them could make the 189km trip from Christchurch to Kaikoura even if they left completely charged up.

Other companies – namely Tesla, Renault, B.M.W. and Hyundai – offer vehicles in New Zealand as well, but the prices as an article on Stuff in October 2018 suggested are far higher. Who is likely to want to shell out for a N.Z.$59,000 Hyundai Ioniq EV? For that matter when one considers disposable income in most New Zealand households, who can even afford one?

The death hold Toyota Corolla’s have on the small vehicle market is growing. A hybrid version now exists, which is basically $38,500 and their very popular petrol version continues. Toyota also have medium size Camry’s, again with a hybrid option.

There is another problem too. Many New Zealanders simply don’t see the need for flashy complicated vehicles and as long as they can get cheaper ones that have had numerous owners and still run fine, then it is a losing argument on simple economic grounds.

Also IF this ban is to be effective, New Zealand needs a comprehensive plan in place to make this happen. So far all I have seen is Green Party chest thumping over getting the ban in place and a lot of hot air from National and A.C.T. about how the economy will be crippled whilst completely ignoring the environmental impacts. A New Zealand Energy Voices advert on Facebook promotes oil and gas.

 

Is Nelson fire a sign of future


In the last several years there have been a number of increasingly damaging fires around New Zealand. Prolonged dry conditions, combined with excess vegetation growth that has not been checked, that is often quite flammable in nature can prove the perfect recipe for fires. The are a range of potential triggers ranging from sparks from trains going down railway tracks, farm machinery contacting stones whilst ploughing paddocks, burn offs gone wrong, not to mention human error or arson.

The Port Hills fire event of 2017 is the most destructive thus far in terms of property and lives lost with one person killed and 11 houses lost.

Following that event there was an inquiry into the fires and what could be learnt so as to prevent a repeat. Two years later with a much larger fire now threatening Wakefield, with a population of 2,500 near Nelson, three days after it started on a paddock in Pigeon Valley, how much have New Zealanders learnt and what has been done?

I asked this question a year ago in an earlier article. It found some basic problems with who was in charge when the fires started as they traversed numerous political boundaries. Depending on whose boundary it is in the nature of the likely response will change as different authorities will have different processes. There were also concerns with basic information flow between authorities and civilians, which meant some testy exchanges between the two parties.

Could a changing climate also have something to do with the potential danger posed by such fires? Whilst last year was very hot during summer, it was tempered by big and quite sudden swings to stormy weather with considerable rain in tow that kept the risk of drought and the subsequent risk of fire in check. In 2013 and 2017 when there were fire outbreaks that caused property loss, the damaging fires were caused by prolonged, intense dry warm weather with high sunshine hours. Coming out of a very wet 2018, few in November would have imagined that by the end of January parts of New Zealand would be a tinderbox, but that is what happened.

Questions around planning laws around what kind of vegetation should be permitted to grow were also raised. Around the Nelson and Tasman areas there is a range of temperate trees such as pinus radiata and eucalyptus, both of which have high natural oil content. At the time I mentioned that research into the suitability of different vegetation types had been conducted. For such vegetation to have a positive effect it needs to be planted on a large scale and not limited to a few homes. It might also be worthwhile having vegetation breaks where there are either no trees or vegetation or the vegetation is a belt of fire resistant species that are low in volatility when lit.

But the biggest concern was – and probably still is – how much planning pre-event has been done by regional, district or city councils to understand how this phenomena starts. Understanding it is but one aspect of the 4 R’s: Reduction, Readiness, Response, Recovery.

Putting that understanding to good effect by taking steps to mitigate the potential hazard is REDUCTION. Making sure emergency services and the authorities can be ready to move at short notice and encourage the public to have emergency survival plans and the necessary resources – food, water, medicine, clothes, transistor radio, torch with batteries and so forth – is READINESS. The execution of the plans and being able to adapt to circumstances on the day will determine the RESPONSE. Putting lives and communities back together and creating something approach as normal as possible is RECOVERY.

Attitude change to Police pursuits needed


On Saturday 3 people were killed when the car they were in ran over Police spikes, crashed into a tree and went up in a ball of flames. They were in a car that was the subject of an abandoned Police chase when it went over spikes that punctured the tyres, causing immediate and catastrophic loss of control. As families of the dead prepare to mourn the loss of their loved ones, it is time to have a look at why so many people are making the really silly mistake of running from the Police.

A Police chase starts because it is an offence to evade law enforcement. If the Police see someone has noticed their presence and is trying to evade, it is an offence to harbour or otherwise assist them in their evasion.

Despite this there is a long and sad litany of people who have or killed/injured others as a result of running away from Police chases.

  1. A pregnant woman and fleeing driver are killed in a two car collision.
  2. A vehicle in Lower Hutt flees the Police, flips, injuring 3
  3. An underage driver and passenger killed in a crash fleeing Police

I personally believe that the ability to stop a chase from happening before it starts lies solely in the hands of the person that the Police want to talk to. Simply stopping for the Police will save lives, money, and resources.

However that attitude change is not going to happen unless there is an effective deterrent. It needs to be something that is grave enough to make someone contemplating a pursuit think twice, such as a week or a month in jail for simply evading arrest. Few, if any will want an instant jail rap on their criminal record. The potential impact it would have on ones employment prospects and ability to obtain things like a passport or go overseas because they had committed an offence for which they would receive a jail sentence, is something the sentencing judge should consider remarking on – crime has consequences and often the longer term aspects such as loss of certain liberties could be better highlighted.

For their part though, Police might want to look at the case of Queensland, Australia where officers are only permitted to chase if there is an immediate danger to life or have good reason to believe a serious crime has just been committed. The same applies in the state of Victoria. In South Australia incident controllers can terminate a chase at any time. That said, a lot of chases in New Zealand only last a couple of minutes or even seconds, because Police see that the danger of continuing the pursuit is too hazardous and stop.

But it is all too late for three boys aged 13, 13 and 16 who are now dead, and devastated families wondering how it came to this.