EQC Geotechnical Report Following Canterbury Earthquake is Positive

(PR.co.nz) Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has welcomed the release of the Earthquake Commission’s Stage 1 geotechnical report into land damage caused by the Canterbury earthquake.

“The overwhelming message in this report is virtually all land in Canterbury can and will be fixed so it is safe to rebuild on,” Mr Brownlee said.

“Only 16 properties have been identified as being individually uneconomic to remediate, and all owners have been visited by an EQC loss adjuster and a Tonkin & Taylor geotechnical engineer in the last two days.”

Information packs about the land damage, including a copy of the Stage 1 Report, were yesterday couriered to the 1,200 claimants whose properties have been most seriously affected by land damage.

“The next step for those people is to work with their private insurer to reach a decision about the future of their house,” Mr Brownlee said.

The EQC Stage 1 report explains:

* the land damage that occurred from the earthquake;

* the areas that have been most affected;

* and, in broad terms, the proposal to fix the land so building reconstruction can commence.

“The development of this report has been a huge task over a relatively brief period of time,” Mr Brownlee said.

“Tonkin & Taylor have so far mapped 16,500 properties in the worst affected areas, of which about 60 per cent show no evidence of land damage.”

The report identifies about 6,800 properties that have been affected by land damage ranging from minor through to very severe.

“Our first priority was to get in touch with those most affected property owners with the news their land can and will be fixed – news which the vast majority of people have welcomed, as there is an overwhelming desire for most people to rebuild their lives on the land they already own,” Mr Brownlee said.

“In terms of those properties that have experienced minor or moderate damage, the engineers need to wait for the land to settle before work plans can be developed to fix that land. The continuing aftershocks are obviously having an on-going effect on the land.

“It’s essential that anyone who thinks their property or house has experienced damage from the earthquake lodge a claim with the Earthquake Commission by the cut-off date of 4 December 2010.”

Mr Brownlee said the Government was now working with the Earthquake Commission, local councils and insurers on remediation plans for the 17 suburbs/areas most affected by land damage through liquefaction, including lateral spreading.

In the report, Tonkin & Taylor have presented some proposals for land repair and protection which go beyond the scope of Earthquake Commission insurance cover.

“The Government is committed to providing funding for this additional work to give greater protection to people’s property should a similar earthquake happen in the future,” Mr Brownlee said.

Canterbury residents who want more information should contact the following services:

* For general information call the Government Helpline on 0800 779 997

* For Canterbury Quake Support and Counselling call 0800 777 846

* To contact the EQC claims centre call 0800 326 243

For a copy of the report or to view a brief YouTube presentation on the report please visit: www.eqc.govt.nz.

Questions & Answers

Q. Why were information packs sent to the most-affected residents?

This pack of information has been sent to people whose properties have been most affected by land damage due to the Canterbury earthquake.

People “most affected” means those whose properties have experienced very severe or major land damage from the earthquake. There are around 1200 properties that have been classified in these two categories. For a description of what these categories mean see Table 5.1 in the Tonkin & Taylor report.

Q. What is the report about?

This report is about the nature, cause and extent of land damage that was caused by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck near Darfield on 4 September 2010.

This is the Stage 1 report, which is a general overview that explains the land damage that occurred, the areas that have been most affected, and the land remediation options to allow building reconstruction to commence.

In particular, it identifies those areas in Canterbury affected by liquefaction from the earthquake, which resulted in lateral spreading and ground resettlement i.e. the shifting, sliding and sinking of land in some suburbs/areas.

Q. Which areas have damage assessments been completed for?

To date Tonkin & Taylor has assessed more than 16,500 properties. The assessments have focused on the suburbs, which had the most severely affected reported land damage. About 60 per cent of those properties have not experienced any land damage from the Canterbury earthquake.

The properties assessed to date are in 17 suburbs/areas across the three local councils – Christchurch City, Waimakariri and Selwyn District Councils – that were reported to have experienced the highest level of land damage.

The selection of these suburbs/areas for assessment was based on EQC claims lodged, reports in the media and anecdotal evidence. Refer to Table 5.2 in the Tonkin & Taylor Report enclosed for a list of the suburbs that have been assessed.

Q. What are the report’s key findings?

The report has found that virtually all of the damaged residential land in Canterbury can and will be fixed. Even if houses are badly damaged and need to be demolished, all but a handful of Cantabrians will be able to re-build on their original site once the land is repaired. The land will be fixed so it is safe and secure for people to rebuild on and will be consistent with the New Zealand Building Code.

Q. Who was the report written by?

The report was written by Tonkin and Taylor, a specialised New Zealand-owned environmental and engineering consultancy, with more than 50 years experience.

Tonkin and Taylor worked with a team of local and international experts, including GNS Science, the Natural Hazards Platform, local authority recovery teams, universities, New Zealand and overseas research teams (USA, Japan and Australia), local councils, in particular Christchurch City Council, Waimakariri District Council and Selwyn District Council), the insurance industry, other local geotechnical consultants, the New Zealand Government, and the community to develop this report. The report was prepared on behalf of the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

Q. What do the report’s findings mean for people’s properties?

The major finding of this report is that virtually all damaged residential land in Canterbury can and will be reinstated and built upon.

Q. How long is the process of working out individual remediation plans expected to take?

Delivery of individual remediated properties will take some time and is dependent on developing plans for not just individual properties, but also for affected suburbs as a whole.

These suburb-wide remediation plans are being developed in conjunction with local councils, particularly in regard to restoring utilities such as sewerage.

Our best estimate is that the actual process of repairing land and rebuilding houses affected by the quake will take up to two years.

Q. How will the land be remediated?

Following a review of the options available to fix damaged land, central and local government have requested EQC to further develop remediation options which lie within the scope of Option E and Option G in the Stage 1 report. These options can be found in Table 8.1 on page 16 of the report.

These options have been chosen for further development because they balance an acceptable degree of land remediation and assurance for homeowners with an acceptable degree of social disruption and cost.

Engineers are currently working up these options on a suburb by suburb basis as the type of land remediation work required will differ from suburb to suburb.

In areas where there is serious land damage caused by lateral spreading EQC’s engineers advise additional remediation work could reduce the effect of lateral spreading in future earthquakes.

Q. Will houses need to be rebuilt from scratch?

Some houses on the land which is most affected by land damage will probably need to be demolished and rebuilt because in most cases the cost to repair will be more expensive than rebuilding.

It is envisaged that most of the land improvement work will be undertaken on public land but in some areas where there is limited public land available remediation work may need to be undertaken on residential properties before rebuilding can occur.

Q. Where will people live until their property is repaired?

The most-affected residents may already be in temporary accommodation. Their private insurer may cover the costs of rental accommodation for a period of time. Once a plan for each property is determined we will inquire about homeowners personal situations and work out what options exist. There are some grants and assistance available. If people have further questions about these they can ring the Government Helpline on 0800 779 997 or visit one of the help centres below:

* Kaiapoi Community Centre, 24 Sewell Street

* Department of Labour, 144 Kilmore Street

* Linwood Community Link, 154 Aldwins Road

* Heartland Services, Hornby, 25 Shands Road

* Work and Income, New Brighton, 26 Beresford Street

Q. Who will pay?

For people who are insured, EQC will pay for the reinstatement of the land and the first $100,000 of building damage and private insurers, depending on policies, will pay for the rest of the building damage.

Tonkin and Taylor have presented some options for land repair and protection which go beyond the scope of EQC insurance cover. The Government is committed to providing funding for additional work to prevent such severe damage in the future.

Q. What if people own land that is deemed unsuitable for reinstatement?

For those who are insured, EQC will compensate them for the loss of some of their land. However, there are limits to this cover. This is outlined in some of the EQC brochures and on its website. For those with insurance, EQC and their private insurer will compensate them for damage to their buildings.

Q. What are the next steps?

EQC is working with local councils, insurance companies, and the Government on a remediation plan for each property, the surrounding properties and wider suburbs/areas.

EQC will be back in touch with homeowners once this plan and a rough work programme have been developed.

We obviously want to get this work underway as quickly as possible, but this is a complex task involving specialised expertise and large-scale co-ordination between EQC, private insurers, councils and individual homeowners.

As a result it is unlikely any physical remediation work will get underway before early in the New Year.

Q. Where can residents get more information or discuss the contents of this pack?

To view a short YouTube presentation by Tonkin & Taylor, the engineers who prepared this report, which clearly explains what this report is all about, visit the Earthquake Commission website at www.eqc.govt.nz (available from about midday), or to discuss claims call 0800 326 243.

For more general information visit the Canterbury Earthquake website at www.canterburyearthquake.govt.nz

For advice about the services residents can access or for more general information phone the Government Helpline on 0800 779 997.

Media Release 21 October 2010 from Gerry Brownlee, Minister of Earthquake Recovery.