Sharing science, to be better prepared for an alpine quake

Published: 30 March 2023

AF8 programme manager Alice Lake-Hammond presents a roadshow school session.

The award-winning AF8 (Alpine Fault magnitude 8) roadshow is returning to Ashburton, with a public presentation on 9 May, followed by a workshop with Ashburton College students on 10 May.

The AF8 Roadshow: The Science Beneath Our Feet shares Alpine Fault hazard science with communities to improve understanding of the risk and encourage conversations on how to be better prepared.

AF8 programme manager Alice Lake-Hammond said the roadshow played a critical role in raising awareness and preparing for the next large Alpine Fault quake.

“By sharing the science with communities in a context that is relevant to them we can support informed decision-making at a local level. It’s about understanding how our landscape moves, so we can be better prepared to move with it."

The Alpine Fault has a remarkably regular history of producing large earthquakes. On average it’s estimated to rupture around every 300 years, with the last significant quake occurring in 1717. Research indicates there is a 75 per cent chance that an Alpine Fault earthquake will happen in the next 50 years, with a four out of five chance that it will be a magnitude 8+ event.

Ashburton District Council’s Compliance and Development Group Manager, Jane Donaldson, said the Alpine Fault was one of the largest natural hazards facing Mid Canterbury, but the message for residents was to be prepared rather than frightened.

“We know that a major earthquake along the Alpine Fault will create difficulties across the whole district. Our towns and communities would likely lose power and communications, and some roads would be unpassable.

“However, the more we know about the possible impacts of the Alpine Fault, the more prepared we’ll be and the better we can get through it as a community.”

Toka Tū Ake EQC Chief Resilience & Research Officer Dr Jo Horrocks said that recent weather events had shown how important it was to be prepared for natural hazards.

“Cyclone Gabrielle and other recent storms have shown how much our lives can be turned upside down by natural hazards. A significant event on the Alpine Fault has the potential to impact the entire South Island and beyond, so it’s so important that we’re well-informed and doing all we can to build our resilience now."

Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston, the AF8 Science-lead, said while scientists couldn’t predict when earthquakes will occur, research had shown that the Alpine Fault had a history of generating regular, large earthquakes.

“The next major Alpine Fault event is likely to occur within our lifetime, and we must take steps now to prepare."

The roadshow is sponsored by Toka Tū Ake EQC, with events hosted by the six South Island Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups and supported by world-leading earthquake research and science experts. The AF8 Roadshow will stop at 22 South Island towns over April and May, and last visited the Ashburton District in 2021, with a public talk in Methven.

The free AF8 public science talk be held on Tuesday 9 May from 7pm in the Ashburton College Auditorium. View the Facebook event for more details.

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