Media release: New Zealand still under-prepared for the next big earthquake

Media release
25 January, 2018

Wellington (25 January 2018): New Zealand is still under-prepared for the next big earthquake or major disaster. That is a central finding of a research report, Recipe for disaster: Building policy on shaky ground, launched by The New Zealand Initiative. Lianne Dalziel, Christchurch City Council mayor, wrote the foreword.

Post-earthquake disaster recovery in Christchurch was substantially hindered by avoidable policy mistakes that have still not been adequately addressed. The report’s authors, Dr Bryce Wilkinson and Dr Eric Crampton with Jason Krupp, argue that government should pre-plan for future disasters by:
•          establishing an off-the-shelf framework for a recovery agency;
•          including disaster contingencies in Council long-term plans;
•          progressing the changes to Earthquake Commission coverage and processes proposed under the last government and trialled in Kaikoura.

“Such changes would help reduce the problems Christchurch experienced,” said Dr Wilkinson, co-author of the report, “otherwise recovery from the next disaster will be unnecessarily difficult and costly”.

"The Government was right to implement a recovery agency like CERA, but its governance arrangements were rushed and became increasingly problematic as the scope of its activities increased,” said Dr Bryce Wilkinson. “Building off-the-shelf arrangements now that a future recovery agency could quickly deploy, would allow for more deliberative decisions.”

Report co-author Dr Eric Crampton lived in Christchurch during the earthquakes and through the first three years of the recovery period. He said, “The overarching lesson of the Christchurch earthquakes is that policy and regulatory uncertainty is terrible for recovery. Homeowners and business owners need to know quickly what the rules are for rebuilding their homes, lives and businesses.”

In any future disaster, the government should quickly establish certainty about policies, plans, and regulation. Anchor projects and precinct designations should be avoided unless they were planned for in Council’s long-term disaster contingencies.

The Initiative’s Executive Director, Dr Oliver Hartwich, added, “Wellington is our home, the seat of government, and most at risk for the next earthquake. We need to work now to make sure that, when the time comes, recovery is as smooth as possible. Earthquakes are bad enough. We do not need to compound the unavoidable losses of a natural disaster with avoidable policy failures.”

Read more:
You can download Recipe for disaster: Building policy on shaky ground on our website


Dr Bryce Wilkinson and Dr Eric Crampton are available for interviews, please contact:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 172 8036

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates