Action plan tackles post-quake reopening of transport links

A 37-point action plan to ensure the Wellington’s region’s transport operations can resume as soon as possible after a major earthquake has been released.

The plan, prepared by the Wellington Lifelines Group and Wellington Region Emergency Management Office, is a response to a Lifelines report in November that found the region would be cut off for about four months after a rupture of the Wellington Fault.

That report predicted a 7.5-magnitude quake would sever State Highways 1 and 2, along with the linking roads Akatarawa Road, Paekākāariki Hill Road and State Highway 58 and the region’s rail lines. It also found that most of the region would be without gas for nearly three months, without wastewater systems for several months, without power and water for at least three weeks, with considerably longer periods in some areas, and without phones for 10 days.

Wellington Regional Council Chair Fran Wilde, who heads the group, said the initial report showed up the importance of road access and the latest plan was focussing on a programme of upgrade work which it was hoped would be largely implemented during the next two years.

“Earthquake-strengthening infrastructure is an immense and drawn-out task because of its scale and cost, but that doesn’t mean we should relax our efforts as this latest plan demonstrates.

“We know a severe earthquake would isolate the region from the rest of the country, but the region itself would also be splintered, with half a dozen areas cut off from one another.

“The challenge will be to restore external and internal links simultaneously, so that supplies can be distributed throughout the region as soon as they reach us. That will be important for residents, but also for speeding the overall restoration of services, which are spread out but still highly dependent on one another to function.”

Key actions recommended in the report include:

  • A plan for offloading ships at CentrePort in the absence of power and/or container-lifting capability.

  • An assessment of the availability of ships, barges and landing craft around New Zealand for use in delivering supplies to the port and alternative sites.

  • Consideration of deepening Seaview Marina to allow big barges and landing craft to supplement damaged port operations.

  • Review an engineering study confirming the availability of Wellington airport’s runway for military and passenger aircraft following a major earthquake.

  • A plan to repair damage to the section of State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Petone to speed up restoration of Hutt-Wellington link.

  • A regional emergency fuel distribution plan.

  • Work to assess the seismic strength of the Mungavin bridges in a key crossing point of the Porirua Stream.

  • Consider whether creating staging areas for freight-carrying trucks on either side of the Rimutaka Rail Tunnel would be feasible, investigating whether a train could ferry supplies through the tunnel for transporting onwards by road.

  • A plan to evacuate tourists and key personnel from the region, along with a plan for residents who want to leave temporarily (as well as a plan to get home commuters, shoppers, students and others displaced in the immediate aftermath of a quake).

    Jenny Rowan, chair of the Wellington Region Civil Defence Emergency Management joint committee, said the report highlighted the importance of building Transmission Gully.

    “A motorway would allow us to reconnect the Wellington metropolitan area with the rest of the North Island in 40 days rather than 120 days with only State Highway 1. That’s the great beauty of a road built to modern seismic standards along a more secure route.”

    The report expects roads linking Wellington’s western suburbs and Tawa-Porirua to be reopened within a week of a big quake, and the Kāpiti Coast to be reconnected with State Highway 1 in the same period. Within a fortnight, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt would be reconnected. Within three weeks of a big quake, Wellington’s northern suburbs would be reconnected to the rest of the city.

    But the report says it would be between two and four months before slips around the Pukerua Bay section of State Highway 1 were cleared and links restored with the rest of the North Island.

    The report was prepared with input from the regional council, the five local councils in the metropolitan area, the New Zealand Transport Agency, KiwiRail, Wellington’s port and airport operators, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and the New Zealand Defence Force. It will be presented to the joint committee on March 28, 2013.

    To view the report, go to