Christchurch's aftershock treatment

12:12 pm on 17 February 2016

What's this about another shake in Christchurch?

Just after lunchtime on Sunday, the city was struck by a 5.7-magnitude earthquake. Damage was described as relatively minor, and there were no reports of serious injuries.

That's a relief! Can we go back to talking about Auckland house prices now?

The tremor - which caused liquefaction, power cuts, and dramatic coastal cliff collapses - was the biggest aftershock for almost four years, and delivered a jolting reminder of Christchurch's hardship, made all the crueller because of the timing.

Is that a no?


Why was the timing bad? Because it was just after lunchtime?

It hit eight days before the five-year anniversary of the most destructive of the chain of earthquakes, the 6.3 magnitude event on 22 February 2011, which took 185 lives, ruined tens of thousands of homes and left much of the city in rubble, with the CBD roped off for two years. Mayor Lianne Dalziel said that while it was reassuring that new infrastructure largely endured Sunday's quake, it was nevertheless "a real setback psychologically for the city".

Was this one an aftershock?

Almost certainly. But so, in turn, was the February 2011 quake, which geologists believe was triggered by the monster 7.1 Darfield earthquake in September 2010. Owing to its depth and location, as well as the fact it occurred in the middle of the night, the structural and human damage of the 7.1 was much less grave.

How many aftershocks have there been all up?

It depends how you measure them. In the five years from September 2010, Geonet recorded 4341 aftershocks of magnitude three or higher in Canterbury. There were many thousands more of a lower magnitude.

And how many more can be expected?

With the five-year mark just days away, how is the rebuild going?

Christchurch business leaders say that the city rebuild will pass the halfway point in 2016. Minister of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee reckons that might be optimistic, but believes progress is strong both in public and private developments. The blueprint for the rebuild, drawn up in 2012, has its critics. Some feel too much emphasis has been placed on accommodating rugby games. Author Fiona Farrell, for example, charts the city Brownleegard, in the province of Rugbistan.

Other criticisms?

There are questions over the shift in power from top-down, in the form of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority which will soon wind up, to bottom-up, as well as whether the "social recovery" is matching the physical progress. Everyone seems to love the Margaret Mahy playground, though.

Have all the home insurance claims settled?

The Press reported earlier this month that 4600 homeowners were still waiting for settlement in relation to major property damage.

It all must be an expensive business.

Treasury has estimated the rebuild will cost about $40 billion all up, though a good chunk of that is covered by private insurers, who have so far paid out about $16.7 billion. The government says its contribution will total $16.5 billion, but that includes insurance payouts from the Earthquake Commission, which says it has so far coughed up about $9 billion. The rebuild has also provided a crucial national economic stimulus, and will continue, says Treasury, to be "a positive driver of growth over the next several years", together with Auckland housing construction.

Thank goodness, we're back to Auckland house prices.


What sort of impact can the strong aftershocks have on people's confidence?

Is mental health affected?

According to experts Christchurch has seen an 8 percent overall rise in mental health disorders. A University of Otago study suggests those with high exposure to the earthquake were twice as likely to have experienced depression as a non-Christchurch resident, or three times as likely to have suffered post traumatic stress disorder. Commenting on dramatically rising numbers of attempted suicides and related calls to police, Canterbury district commander Superintendent John Price recently said many residents had "got to a stage in their lives where they're saying, 'Please come and help.' We've got to take some notes that the community is still hurting after the earthquakes and people are still crying out for help."

Presumably the Ministry of Health will be beefing up Canterbury's mental health services.

Actually, mental health funding for Canterbury is being cut.

Ha! For a second there I thought you said "actually mental health funding for Canterbury is being cut".

Mental health funding for Canterbury is being cut.

Crunch it into 25 words.

Admired, supported and/or ignored by the rest of the country, Canterbury has endured five years overcoming liquefaction, muntedness and quakebrain. Just don't overdo "resilient".

And five words?

Recovery troubled by aftershock treatment.

Toby Toby stamp

* This is a weekly column published every Wednesday, by graphic artist Toby Morris and journalist Toby Manhire.