Multi-billion-dollar benefits identified by improving Wellington and New Zealand’s infrastructure resilience to earthquake damage

Multi-billion-dollar benefits identified by improving Wellington and New Zealand’s infrastructure resilience to earthquake damage

Kelvin Berryman, Michele Daly, Garry McDonald, Nicky Smith, Charlotte Brown, Erica Seville, Walter Rushbrook, Fran Wilde, Colin Crampton, Emily Grace, Melanie Muirson, Richard Mowll

Abstract from the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2018

Abstract

New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, and its region, contributes >16% of the country’s GDP. It is the seat of Government, has high concentrations of professional and value-added services, is a key tourist destination and the northern terminal of a vital transport link between North and South Islands. Wellington’s vulnerability to a major earthquake is well known, with a probability of a local M7.5 or greater earthquake of 20% in the coming 100 years. Key government and community questions are how big will the economic and social impact be when the earthquake happens, and what can be proactively done about this? Evidence from our domestic and recent international experience shows that when key infrastructure is out or operating at degraded service levels, people leave, productivity drops and communities and the economy suffer. Utilities have historically planned their resilience investments independently and over long timeframes. The drawback of this approach is that planning can become disaggregated and projects delayed and the compelling resilience argument becomes diluted. Even more compellingly, a city’s overall resilience is inherently interdependent across utilities. Lack of co-ordination in planning and delivering resilience projects will result in sub-optimal investment outcomes. A 2-year study in Wellington has drawn on the knowledge of all 16 Wellington utility providers and local government. A preferred, accelerated, programme of infrastructure projects was identified and modelled that demonstrated multi-billion-dollar reduction in economic losses and improved community outcomes in the event of a major seismic event in Wellington. This investment was also recognised to have co-benefits in reduction of losses and faster community and economic recovery arising from smaller earthquakes and from threats arising from other perils.