Photo of the Day : Hectors dolphins, New Zealand

Marine mammals off Canterbury coastline. Photo by H Peters

Christchurch quake anniversary : recalling the ugly, considering the future

 Taken from the Port Hills overlookingChristchurch when the quake hit.

As New Zealanders remember the earthquake of 22nd February a year ago, a range of media have covered many aspects of the event. Here I attempt to summarise some of my own thoughts and facts… 

*** Quake factsheet at my re-launched Learn From Nature blog | follow me at twitter

Just as Christchurch was beginning to recover from the huge impact of 4 September 2010 earthquake, a massive aftershock delivered an even more deadly and destructive blow to the city. News reports of the Anglican Cathedral without its characteristic tower, flashed across the internet and newspapers. In January, NAEE co-chair Henricus Peters visited his family who lives there to see the city for himself.

Out of sight, out of mind. Such folly, as we all know now, when it comes to nature. Many Cantabrians probably thought a major earthquake would not happen in their lifetime, despite occasional warnings from scientists, council planners, engineers, and Civil Defence workers that there was still a good chance it would.

The threat was, it was thought, might be from the Alpine Fault, which runs through the western spine of the South Island. Instead, it was hidden or ‘blind’ faults, under the Canterbury Plains. What happened on Saturday 4 September 2010 at 4.35am and continued on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12.51pm, proved to be damaging …. Canterbury’s fertile plains are the result of millions of years of mountain building, glaciation and river action. These deposits masked the greywacke bedrock with its tell-tale splinters and cracks resulting from the pressure of the colliding Australian and Pacific tectonic plates [1].

Vast amounts of energy were released in the first few hours of 22 February, changing the shape of Christchurch. The Port Hills are 40 cm taller in places, and Port of Lyttelton is now several centimetres closer to the city.

Everyone has been affected by this natural disaster, turned human disaster for all those who have lost loved ones and property. Schools are sharing premises, since of their locations has been devastated and is now ‘red zoned’ – cannot be occupied.

182 people died as a result of 22 February. This was because a shaken city was now rocked and people were inside these already-affected structures.

21 – the number of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 5 since 4 September

247 – number of earthquakes exceeding magnitude 4 since 4 September

6016 – number of earthquakes detected in Canterbury since 4 September

563 million – number of hits on GeoNet in the six days after 4 September

Christchurch has been presented with a rare opportunity. We have the chance to build a better city. Christ’s College [2], where my brother teaches, has lost a large number of buildings. They are now designing far better, more sustainable premises, which will benefit future generations of students.

Acknowledgements: 1. ‘Earthquake’ by Chris Moore; The Press.  2.

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Fiordland sustainable improvements or world heritage at risk ? Forest and Bird thinks the latter

Milford Sound
Image by edwin.11 via Flickr

Both world heritage sites and national parks are, by their very nature, representations of special landscapes with unique flora and fauna. The balancing act – between managing protection and managing people who visit – is complex and needs to be sustainable. In the case of Fiordland, Forest and Bird are concerned. What are your views? Comment below or click to twitter here. 

Link to my

Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of Ne...
Image via Wikipedia

Proposed mega-developments to enhance the journey between two of New Zealand‘s most popular visitor attractions have opponents warning that life in a precious World Heritage Area and national parks will suffer. NZ Herald reports.

But those behind the two planned developments for travel between Queenstown and Fiordland – including a monorail which could prove to be the longest in the world – say they will provide a much-needed lift for New Zealand tourism.

The first proposal is the $150 million Fiordland Link Experience which would include a 41km monorail trip through conservation land that takes in Te Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand) World Heritage Area. The monorail would link tourists with catamaran and all-terrain vehicle trips.

The second is an 11km bus tunnel called the Milford Dart, costing up to $170 million Those behind it say it would cut travel time for a one-way trip from five hours to two for some of the half-million tourists who visit Milford Sound every year.

Forest and Bird warns both developments would have significant impacts, especially the monorail proposal which it says would require clearance and modification of 68ha of forest, home to endangered bat species and threatened forest birds.

“Neither of the proposals is essential. The public and tourists already have access by way of public roads to these areas in the national parks and the jury is out as to whether they would alleviate congestion at Milford.”

Riverstone Holdings – the company behind the monorail proposal – has hit back, with chief executive Bob Robertson saying: “Forest and Bird can flap their wings all they like but I think people in New Zealand would like to earn a reasonable living. Tourism is very important.

“Once the monorail is there it will be the same environmental impact whether it’s one person using it or one million.”

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson has given notice of her intention to grant concessions for the parties to investigate, construct, operate and maintain the two projects on the public conservation land, and public submissions are being taken ahead of hearings on both.

Southland district mayor Frana Cardno said that aside from her “extreme concern” about environmental effects from the Milford Dart tunnel, there was no need to speed up journeys through the scenery.

“We need to have quality tourism in New Zealand, and there’s already perfectly adequate ways of getting to Milford. What we have got to do is slow people and let them enjoy that magnificent drive.”

Milford Dart Ltd managing director Tom Elworthy said he suspected some of the opposition to the project was motivated by reasons other than environmental.

“I guess there’s people that just have an issue with the fact of a tunnel being in a national park. I suppose if we started outside the national park and ended outside the national park, I imagine people possibly would still have a problem because of the fact it’s there – even though you can’t see or hear it.”

Mr Elworthy said he did not see the Fiordland Link Experience as direct competition to the Milford Dart. Mr Robertson said it might be that there was room for only one of the two developments, and he backed his monorail as more likely to succeed.

Getting from A to B

The Fiordland Link Experience, over 106km, would start with a 20km catamaran trip on Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu, before linking with an all-terrain vehicle for 45km, onto a 41km monorail trip through Snowdon Forest to a terminus at Te Anau Downs, in Fiordland National Park.

The 11.3km Milford Dart tunnel would link the Routeburn Road in Mt Aspiring National Park to the Hollyford Road in Fiordland National Park, passing under national park land and Fiordland’s Humboldt Mountains.

The Department of Conservation is taking submissions on both proposals.

Whale strandings : pilot whales in New Zealand’s Golden Bay

Thirty-eight pilot whales which stranded in Golden Bay yesterday have re-stranded, despite a successful refloating exercise this morning. 3News reports on a natural tragedy that still baffles scientist. *** Please post comments below, at!/LearnFromNature or


A 3 News cameraman at the scene said rescuers were now working in waist-deep water where the whales had re-stranded.

“We tried to encourage them to move to deeper water, but they wouldn’t move,” Department of Conservation Golden Bay manager John Mason told NZ Newswire.

“They just milled around in a group and didn’t show any inclination to move, other than 4-500m down the beach.”

Project Jonah’s Kim Muncaster says one whale lead the others into shore.

“After [we] refloated them, one of the larger whales made a determined attempt to get back on shore,” she says.

The other whales then followed – causing them to re-strand.

The rescue mission is made worst by the fact the tide is quickly receding, with low-tide forecast for just after 5pm.

DOC spokesman Nigel Mountfort says the whales are stuck “high and dry, exactly where they were yesterday”.

For now, the plan is to cover the whales in sheets, keep them wet, keep the sun off them and shovel around their tails and fins to help them stay upright.

Once night falls and the tide starts coming in, it is hoped the whales will refloat themselves, Mr Mountfort says.

Project Jonah and DOC will review the situation in the morning, but it is too dangerous for volunteers to stay in the area overnight.

Almost 100 pilot whales stranded about 7 kilometres from the base of Farewell Spit on Monday, in the third mass stranding of the summer.

Volunteers and Project Jonah worked throughout the night to keep them alive.

Thirty-four whales did not survive the night but 39 were refloated at high-tide this morning.

By midday the whales were 200m offshore with volunteers coaxing them out to deeper water.

Twenty-six that refloated themselves overnight were seen swimming away this afternoon.

Mr Mason said the unfortunate turn of events was “disappointing”.

“We put a lot of work in trying to refloat the whales and they chose not to go. It’s disappointing but we will try and refloat them again and hopefully they will choose to leave.”

About 50 people had volunteered to help with rescue efforts, with people travelling from as far as Australia, Auckland and Invercargill to take part.

Mr Mountford said the dead whales would either be buried or left to dry out in the dunes.

3 News / NZN

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Oilspill Update : 2325 tonnes of Rena waste processed so far

English: Waihi Beach, New Zealand
Image via Wikipedia

In Tauranga, the oil spill have had ‘gone’ public minds – I have seen public beaches previously ‘closed’ and now ‘back to normal’ . The waste and its impact, however, is still being dealt with ….  This from the Bay of Plenty Times |!/LearnFromNature &!/NAEE_UK


About 2325 tonnes of waste from the stricken cargo ship Rena has been processed since it ran aground off Tauranga in October, clean-up company Braemar Howells show.

Of that, 1870 tonnes has gone into landfills while 117 tonnes has been liquid waste, mostly blood from meat freezers.

Around 177 tonnes of the rubbish was collected from Waihi Beach and 77 tonnes from Matakana Island.

About 25 tonnes of milk powder has been collected and 120 containers have been processed by Braemar Howells.

The figures include waste which washed ashore and waste collected from the sea.

Braemar Howells spokeswoman Monique O’Connor said the company was prepared to deal with the same amount of waste again, but it was unclear how much more would be washed from the ship.

“A lot of that depends on what’s happening on board, which depends on what’s happening with weather conditions. It’s in the lap of the gods really.

“The clean-up is very much an ongoing operation. Initially it focused on the western Bay of Plenty because debris was focused nearer the Rena but it’s now a far greater area, it’s spread far to the north and south.

“We have vessels and people working constantly targeting different areas at different times.”

One of the aims this week was to recover containers holding timber which had washed up at two secluded beaches north of Waihi Beach, she said.

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