26 Sep 2019

Tourism industry must prepare for Alpine Fault rupture, warns MP

5:03 pm on 26 September 2019

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare says it's a matter of when, not if, the Alpine Fault ruptures and the tourism industry needs to be prepared.

The Alpine Fault is marked out on satellite images by the western edge of the Southern Alps snowline.

The Alpine Fault is marked out on satellite images by the western edge of the Southern Alps snowline. Photo: NASA

Alpine Fault Magnitude 8 (AF8) is hosting a tourism forum today to discuss how the sector can team up with emergency management.

Mr Henare, who is also the Associate Minister of Tourism, opened the inaugural forum in Te Anau.

He said forward planning would play a big role in managing and mitigating the impacts if a catastrophe struck.

"Let's be serious as a country when we look at the natural hazards. The Alpine Fault was, of course, our discussion today, but the modelling showed that the impact will be felt right across the country and all of us need to play a role in that. We can't simply think it's a South Island issue or a North Island issue," Mr Henare said.

The modelling shown at the forum was quite blunt - those closest to the fault line or in higher risk areas might not be able to access assistance quickly, he said.

"Another a message I heard this morning was that nothing will ever be the same after an event like this.

The industry needed to work with scientists and emergency management to be better prepared, he said.

"I did express a little bit of anxiety about how do we connect with more of the tourism sector, easy to talk to big operators. Yet as Associate Tourism Minister, I know that many of the businesses in this sector are mum and dad businesses, and how do we get them prepared and understanding of the risks that are in front of them."

That's where he hoped the forum would come in by starting those conversations and working on different ways the industry and other stakeholders could tackle the issue.

Within the 12 months, Mr Henare said there should be a clearer picture about what needs to be done to help the industry prepare.

AF8 science-lead Caroline Orchiston said tourism has a critical role in emergency response.

"While we can't predict when earthquakes will occur, scientific research has shown that the Alpine Fault has a history of generating regular, large earthquakes," she said.

"The next major Alpine Fault event is likely to occur within the lifetime of most of us, or of our children and young people, for whom this is likely to have major short and long-term impacts," Dr Orchiston said.

"Following an AF8 earthquake, we can expect significant international media attention, and how we look after our visitors will be scrutinised. It's essential that these discussions are had so that connections are made and plans are in place to ensure we can respond effectively."

The tourism sector had an essential role before, during and after large-scale natural hazards including looking after tourists and building a more resilient industry, she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs