How the Canterbury earthquake hit DOC

Department of Conservation —  16/09/2010

The first thing you find yourself doing, immediately after a major earthquake, is checking on family and friends. This is followed by a rapid assessment of your home and that of the immediate surrounding area. Most staff that live and work closest to the epicentre have been affected to some degree – from loss of household goods and personal possessions through to major structural damage to homes. Thankfully there has been no loss of life. Our thoughts are with our Cantabrian colleagues who have lost their homes.

For those of us that could return to work on the Monday after the earthquake (6 September) an important task that needed to be undertaken, after swapping earthquake survival stories, was to check all public conservation land for damage to structures and tracks.

The worst affected areas have been that of Mahaanui and Raukapuka, and the advice being given to members of the public is to avoid all facilities and structures on public conservation land until they have been inspected and reopened.

Several historic sites have also been affected, read Ian’s post Historic heritage hit by earthquake.

Structural engineers have joined the Mahaanui and Raukapuka teams to assist with damage reports. However, as Canterbury is still experiencing aftershocks – several have been felt during the writing of this – it is likely that more damage will come to light in the coming weeks.

Mahaanui area

Initial assessments have shown damage to many walking tracks and structures within Mahaanui Area.


The Ōtukaikino wetland walk suffered extensive liquefaction, with large ‘volcanoes’ of sand squeezed up from the earth below.

Liquefaction at Ōtukaikino.

Liquefaction at Ōtukaikino

Boardwalks and bridges have been separated from their piles and bearers, and the water table in the wetland has risen significantly.

Inspecting the boardwalks and bridges at Ōtukaikino.

Inspecting the boardwalks and bridges at Ōtukaikino

The northern motorway that passes next to Ōtukaikino has been uplifted in several places – and the motorway over bridge has slumped away. Locals are very fond of this walkway – not only is it one of the few remaining wetlands in the Canterbury region – but it is also a living memorial – with trees donated from Lamb & Hayward funeral directors.

Extensive fissures in Ōtukaikino wetland.

Extensive fissures in Ōtukaikino wetland

Raukapuka area

Sharplin Falls track

The Sharplin Falls track at Mt Somers has been damaged in a few places with two slips taking out approximately 10 metres of track. The area office closed the track immediately, as with the after shocks continuing concerns remain about the stability of the area.

Cordons at the start of the Sharplin Falls track.

Cordons at the start of the Sharplin Falls track

The area office has been advised by engineers to remain clear of the area until a geological assessment has been completed and the area has stabilised. Last year the department spent $190,000 upgrading the 1.2km track in to Sharplin Falls, which was opened to the public during Conservation Week in September 2009.

One of the slips on the Sharplin Falls track.

One of the slips on the Sharplin Falls track

Finally – we would like to express our extreme gratitude to everyone for their kind thoughts and messages of support. As New Zealander’s we are all fully aware of the damage, physical and psychological, that earthquakes can cause. Your messages of support have been truly appreciated.

By Cody Frewin (Community Relations Ranger, Mahaanui) & Gemma White (Community Relations Programme Manager, Raukapuka Area)