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Sobering quake reminder for Wellington

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/05/2017

Christchurch's deadly February 2011 earthquake happened 177 days after an earlier tremor had struck the region.

On Thursday, it will be 177 days since the Kaikoura quake hit on November 14, with widespread damage to buildings in Wellington being among the results.

The Institution of Professional Engineers of NZ says the date will be a sobering reminder for the city of the seismic risk posed by quake-prone buildings.

IPENZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene says because the earthquake most affected mid-height buildings, it's easy for Wellingtonians to feel less concerned about shorter, stiffer buildings.

However, in February 2011, 39 people were killed and more than 100 injured by masonry falling on to footpaths and roads.

"Engineers are extremely supportive of the government's move to compel building owners to secure facades, which will save lives in a large earthquake centred closer to Wellington," Ms Freeman-Greene said.

More than 500 earthquake engineers and scientists met in Wellington last week for the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering's annual technical conference.

NZSEE president Peter Smith says engineers are learning lessons from how buildings performed in the complex Kaikoura earthquake.

"When we design a building, we've always focused on protecting lives first and foremost," he said.

"But now, we're also asking whether buildings need to be more resilient, so that they experience less damage and can be more quickly reoccupied after an earthquake."

He said there was a trade-off that developers and building owners needed to consider - between investing in resilience and suffering economic loss if a building can't be used for some time after an earthquake.

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