New Zealand is (Slightly) More Dangerous Than You Might Think

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

Since we have been back in Lyttleton, we’ve had a few small tremors (3-ish on the Richter scale) and a larger jolt (4-ish) and I’m glad our house is timber and that the chimneys were taken down after the two big Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. We live on a hill and there are some large rocks above us, but there are also large trees and buildings in between us and those rocks, so having those rocks come tumbling down in an earthquake is less of a worry than in some other places. A 7.8 earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016 caused massive landslips that closed Highway 1 (Yes the major road connecting New Zealand’s north to its south) for over a year, so being protected from slips and rockfalls is a something you have to consider.


At least being on a hill there is less risk of tsunami. In 1868, a tsunami drained Lyttelton Harbour and then ran up 3 metres above sea level, causing damage to wharves, jetties and boats, inundating paddocks and drowning sheep. It was due to an 8.5-9.0 earthquake that happened in what was then Peru (see Te Ara entry). Our house is about 40 metres above sea level, which puts us at low risk of tsunami damage, unless we are down at the pub on London Street, though even there it would have to be massive.

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