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Rational science crucial to earthquake response

Hon Dr Nick Smith
Member of Parliament for Nelson

20 March 2011 Media Release
Rational science crucial to earthquake response

New Zealand must dismiss the bogus claims of people like Ken Ring who predict earthquakes and ensure future decisions on risk are made on rational science, Nelson MP and geotechnical engineer Nick Smith says.

Dr Smith today attended the New Zealand Skeptics ‘non event’ lunch at the Sign of the Kiwi tearooms on top of the Port Hills in Christchurch.

“It is reckless and irresponsible for people like Ken Ring to be speculating on the timing of future major earthquakes with no scientific basis. Cantabrians have been through enough trauma without charlatans preying on people’s natural fears,” Dr Smith said.

“I can appreciate that people are frustrated that scientists and engineers cannot give black and white assurances on if and when another major quake may occur, but false claims only make the situation worse. The best assurance that science is able to give is that the probability of another significant quake reduces with each week that passes following a major quake. The advice from GNS is the risk of a quake greater than magnitude six in Christchurch is now similar to that in Wellington and in matter of months will be less.

“Science and engineering have hugely improved the survival rate from earthquakes. The Napier earthquake of 1931 killed 256 people in Napier and Hastings out of a population of 27,000 (approximately one in 100) whereas the similar sized Christchurch earthquake is estimated to have killed 180 out of a population of 375,000 (approximately one in 2000).

“We can continue to reduce the risks and save more lives but, as the tragic events in Japan have shown, we can never eliminate all loss of life from major earthquakes. The key to reducing the risks is not in the scaremongering from the likes of Ken Ring but investing in the next generation of young scientists and engineers to improve our knowledge and understanding of earthquakes and the design of buildings and infrastructure to better withstand them.”

ENDS

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