One Year Done: Wellington apartment dwellers still shaky

8:09 pm on 16 November 2017

Nerves remain on edge in central Wellington a year on from the Kaikōura earthquake, a survey shows.

Wellington port; Wellington City

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A survey of 803 people who live in city apartments shows that since Kaikoura, eight out of 10 are more concerned about their safety during earthquakes when out in the city centre.

About half were more concerned about their safety during earthquakes in their apartment and workplace, according to the joint survey by GNS Science and Wellington City Council.

"We ended up moving out of the apartment building we were in," one respondent told surveyors.

"Although structurally OK, the building shook more and made creaky noises in the wind that made me panic because it sounded like the earthquake.

"There were also a lot of cracks in the plaster that while only superficial, [it] was that constant reminder."

Just under half think another damaging quake will hit within the next five years, while a third think that's "very likely".

"I've heard from other apartment dwellers and their experience was the same - complete terror - but when you talk to people in houses they don't understand what you went through," another respondent said.

A majority of people said they were informed enough or knew instinctively what to do straight after the quake at midnight, but an even higher proportion said there was a lack of direction by the authorities.

"It was a terrifying experience and I don't believe enough support was given to people following the quakes," one said.

"It really concerns me how little open green space there is in the CBD for residents evacuating apartments - what if everyone needed to camp out for several days?" said another.

While most people said they had upped their quake preparedness since, 30 percent said they would not be securing furniture and 43 percent did not plan to avoid earthquake-prone buildings.

Nor are most interested in getting involved in earthquake-related community activities, though research has shown these are essential for boosting community preparedness,

By the numbers

  • 44 percent of respondents were directly affected (damage, injury, evacuation); 26% were indirectly affected, such as through travel disruption
  • 38 percent evacuated immediately or within the first hour (31%)
  • 44 percent did not evacuate in case of a tsunami
  • 71 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that "authorities were there to provide direction on what to do"
  • 62 percent of people agreed or strongly agreed that they had the information to know what to do or instinctively knew what to do
  • 46 percent of people believe it is likely another damaging earthquake will affect their community in the next five years, and 35 percent think it very likely
  • Approximately half of people are more concerned post-Kaikōura about their safety during earthquakes in their current apartment and workplaces
  • 80 percent of people are more concerned about their safety during earthquakes when out in the CBD
  • About half said they would be very likely to leave their apartment in a future earthquake if their building received structural or utility damage.

What apartment dwellers said

"People living in houses simply do not understand how strong the earthquake felt if you were living in an apartment building."

"I have no idea how to turn off water or gas to my apartment ... I also have no idea what the emergency evacuation plan is, or if there is one in place."

"It would ... be good for renters to have permission to secure heavy furniture to the wall without being penalised for making holes in the wall - most contracts won't even let you hang pictures."

"The apartment building held up very well and actually increased my confidence in it."

"As a result of the earthquake we actively started looking for a rental house."

"I am concerned that there is no room in apartments to keep emergency water."

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