How New Zealand’s improved earthquake resilience helped withstand Wellington quake

Source(s): New Civil Engineer

New Zealand’s North Island was struck by a 6.1 magnitude offshore earthquake yesterday, coming shortly after the nation’s most destructive cyclone in decades, but the infrastructure and resilience systems are in place to cope with it more effectively than a few years ago, according to a former resident and chartered geologist.

Progress since the country's 2011 Christchurch earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.3, and the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, shows where New Zealand can – and has – improved in its response to massive weather events.


One technology to reduce earthquake impacts on buildings, pioneered by New Zealand scientist William Robinson in the 1970s, is what’s known as base isolators or a base isolation system. This is a similar idea to car suspension and sees the superstructure of a building decoupled from its substructure, isolating it. The base isolation takes the weight of the building, dissipates the seismic forces and allows the foundations to move horizontally – separate from the superstructure. There are various techniques to create base isolation, generally using rubber bearings, friction bearings, ball bearings and spring systems.

Many important buildings in New Zealand have been built with base isolation. Examples include Te Papa museum in Wellington, Parliament House, the William Clayton building in Wellington and Christchurch Women’s Hospital.


New Zealand is well prepared for earthquakes, but is always improving and never complacent about it. This latest quake will show the country how prepared it is for the next big one, and where it can improve.

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Hazards Earthquake
Country and region New Zealand
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