Rural organizational impacts, mitigation strategies, and resilience to the 2010 Darfield earthquake, New Zealand

Zac Whitman, Tom Wilson, Erica Seville, John Vargo, Joanne Stevenson, Hlekiwe Kachali, J. Cole

Natural Hazards, 2013, DOI 10.1007/s11069-013-0782-z 2013


The 4 September 2010 Mw 7.1 'Darfield' earthquake and associated aftershock sequence affected the central Canterbury Plains of New Zealand's South Island, an area of high-intensity agricultural production, supported by rural service towns. With rural organizations exposed to intense ground shaking that caused widespread critical service outages, structural and non-structural damage to built infrastructure, as well as ground surface damage from flooding, liquefaction or surface rupture, the event represented a unique opportunity to study the impacts of a major earthquake and aftershock sequence on farming and rural non-farming organizations. This paper analyses the short-term impacts to 56 farming organizations and compares them to the impacts to 22 rural non-farming organizations four months following the event. The most commonly cited direct impacts to farming organizations were disruption to electrical services, water supply disruption and structural damage. For rural non-farming organizations, the most common direct impacts were non-structural damage, electricity disruption, and damage to equipment. The effect of stress on farmers was the greatest 2 organizational challenge while rural non-farming organizations cited maintaining cash flow to be of greater significance. In terms of mitigating the effects of the event, farming organizations cited well-built buildings and insurers to be helpful generally, and their neighbours to be most helpful specifically in areas of higher intensity shaking. Rural non-farming organizations utilized lenders or insurers, and showed very little use of neighbour relationships. In summary, this study emphasizes the fact that farming and rural non-farming organizations are impacted and respond to an earthquake in ways that are fundamentally distinct.

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