Why Isn't Wellington Preparing For The Inevitable?

A natural disaster IS coming.

“The horses are lose” the officer explained sternly.

“Oh okay well that’s reasonab- wait, what??

The horses were indeed lose. They had escaped onto the highway and turned my 10 minute journey into a 40 minute one. A few horses can shut down our highways for a number of hours. That is how fragile they are.

If you live in Wellington, I need not explain the terrible traffic times that trouble us. At least 82,000 people commute into Wellington CBD every day. The majority of whom drive in. The two main ways to get in and out of Wellington are State Highway 1, and State Highway 2. Peak congestion times can be improved through better roads, better public transport and better merging. But no matter how much improvement we see, it doesn’t change the fragility of either of these roads. They can be shut down for any number of reasons.

When one highway is shutdown the other becomes fully congested. What happens if they’re both shut down?

The city of Wellington, the highways specifically - are directly on a fault line. A natural disaster is coming. This could be in the form of an earthquake, tsunami, flooding, or any other climate change related emergency. With the concerns of climate change increasing, this should, in effect, increase our concerns for the fragility of our highway systems. Yet it doesn’t. The focus seems to be improving on what we already have which will not solve the problem of a natural disaster. We know this is a matter of when, not if.

According to GNS Science, “The Wellington Fault last ruptured between 300 and 500 years ago with a magnitude 7.6 earthquake. This fault produces a large earthquake about every 500 to 1000 years.”

When this natural disaster strikes, and people are sifting through dust and rubble to try to find survivors, Wellington will become completely isolated. Sure there’s boats and a few back roads. But these cannot accompany the tens of thousands of people who would need to use these services. The worst case scenario would be that people are stuck in Wellington for a number of days. The Christchurch earthquake of 2011 cost upwards of $40billion. Now imagine if the same were to happen to the capital of New Zealand.

It’s not that we should maybe start thinking of solutions soon. We needed to be working on that solution 10 years ago. The point of a precaution is to do something before it happens, hence the ‘pre’ in precaution. Is an underwater or underground tunnel achievable? How about a bridge that connects Miramar to Eastbourne? Any ideas are helpful. To get to the good ideas, one must first put forth bad ones. We need to fix the problem that we are faced with instead of improving on the already fragile bottlenecks that lead into Wellington. If these two highways are ever to be compromised at the same time (which is of no stretch of the imagination), the effects can be devastating.

Even if we don’t have a natural disaster in the near future, releasing some of the stress on our two main highways systems can only be seen as a good thing. Commute times are worse, people are frustrated at the traffic and the population of Wellington is steadily increasing. We need something radically new, and soon.

I really hope that in the next few years I don’t find myself taking a big gulp of ‘I told ya so’ juice. But I’m afraid that I may already be able to taste it.