9 Oct 2014

New fault won't hit capital insurance

8:19 am on 9 October 2014

The discovery of a new faultline in Wellington is not expected to hit homeowners in the pocket and the risk of increased damage is thought to be limited.

The black line shows the new fault found in Wellington Harbour, named the Aotea Fault.

The black line shows the new fault found in Wellington Harbour, named the Aotea Fault. Photo: Dave Allen / NIWA

On Tuesday scientists at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research revealed they had identified the new fault beneath Wellington Harbour.

Watch a video about the new fault found in Wellington Harbour

They believe it stretches for at least another eight kilometres under the city but more research is needed before they can say exactly where.

The think the new fault, called the Aotea Fault, could produce a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

Wellington's Civil Defence and Building Resilience manager Neville Brown said the city is prepared for a shake that big.

"The scientists are saying all of the original calculations to building codes and so on all accomodate this risk. They're saying this earthquake is unlikely to generate ground-shaking over and above what might happen on the Wellington Fault and these are factors that are already taken into account in the way we manage our building stock."

One of the scientists who discovered the Aotea Fault, Philip Barnes said the only new risk is to properties directly on top of it.

"If the fault were to rupture there may be implications for ground-rupture hazard and that's why it would be important to do further research to identify its location on land and that may well influence urban planning procedure," he said.

Homeowners in Wellington are already dealing with increased insurance premiums in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes.

The existing Wellington Fault and the recently discovered Aotea Fault.

The existing Wellington Fault and the recently discovered Aotea Fault. Photo: NIWA

But Chief Executive of the Insurance Council, Tim Grafton, doesn't expect the discovery of the Aotea fault to add to that burden.

"We've got properties adjacent and on top of faultlines throughout Wellington. Wellington is just regarded as a higher risk area of its own so having identified another faultline doesn't change the overall risk that the city faces."

President of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce John Milford is also unconcerned about the new fault.

However he is throwing his support behind a proposal from the city council to investigate exactly where it runs beneath the city.

"The more information the better prepared we are. You know as I recall, and I hope I'm not wrong, people didn't know about the challenges in Christchurch, prior to the event that happened there. Maybe that's a great example that if we'd have known more about it then perhaps we'd have been better prepared."

Scientists believe there are probably several more undiscovered fautlines around Wellington capable of producing an earthquake of a similar force to the Aotea Fault.

Wellington City

Wellington City Photo: PHOTO NZ

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