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GNS Welcomes Upgrade Of Hazard Monitoring Network

The proposed upgrade of New Zealand¡¦s geological hazard monitoring network will lead to greatly improved monitoring of geological hazards and strengthen disaster management response, Chairman of the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS) Derek Milne said today.

Dr Milne paid tribute to the Earthquake Commission for taking a first substantial step toward providing New Zealand with an upgraded and fit-for-purpose hazard monitoring network. EQC will contribute $5 million a year for at least 10 years toward the upgraded network, called GeoNet.

New Zealand is located dangerously on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates that are grinding past and overriding each other. The several decades of relative calm New Zealand has experienced conceals the fact that we face significant geological hazards, and the improved network will help to lower the risks we live with.

¡§ It is crucial for New Zealand¡¦s long-term economic security to improve the understanding of the geological hazards we face, and to use this knowledge to help reduce economic and social damage resulting from a major earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, or tsunami,¡¨ Dr Milne said.

He said the existing network was old, sparse, and parts of it were regularly failing. There was a partial upgrade in the 1980s, but these instruments were now obsolete. GeoNet will take advantage of new technology and be fully integrated with equipment to be used to monitor the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

¡§ GeoNet, which will be phased in steadily over several years, represents a huge step forward in making New Zealand more resilient to the impact of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and tsunamis,¡¨ Dr Milne said.

¡§ We hope that electricity, water, communications, and transport companies, and local and regional councils will take advantage of, and invest to supplement, the broad range of real-time geological hazard information that this truly modern network will provide.¡¨
Dr Milne summarised the main benefits of GeoNet as:
„h Earthquake Emergency Response: When fully operational, it will provide accurate details within minutes on the size and location of an earthquake, and the severity of ground-shaking in different locations. This information is crucial to organisations charged with mobilising help or planning an emergency response, and for rapidly evaluating the likelihood of damage to buildings and other key structures.

„h Public information: A moderate to large earthquake causes alarm and immediately raises the questions, ¡§ Where? What size? How bad? Will there be more?¡¨ The upgrade will allow GNS to provide more detailed information more quickly in the wake of an earthquake or eruption.

„h Warning of volcanic eruptions: When fully in place, it will give scientists an improved ability to detect early signs of volcanic unrest and impending eruptions. This will allow valuable time to organise effective community and business response.

„h Warning of tsunamis: The first warning that an offshore earthquake may have generated a tsunami comes from seismic monitoring. Tsunami detection and warning requires regional co-operation and appropriate technology. The upgrade will enable New Zealand to make a valuable contribution in the South Pacific.

„h Seismic hazard assessment: The upgrade will enable GNS to develop better intelligence on the severity of ground-shaking that can be expected in various parts of New Zealand. This information is relevant to decisions about where to site roads, bridges, water, oil, and gas pipelines and buildings that are better able to withstand ground-shaking.

„h Earthquake engineering: Recordings of earthquake shaking in buildings, bridges, roads, airports, oil and gas pipelines, dams and other structures are an essential ingredient in safe, cost-effective design and construction. The upgrade will provide improved knowledge of how structures perform during earthquakes. This will enable engineers to improve design and construction techniques.

„h Scientific research: The upgrade will enable scientists to pursue new avenues of research that, internationally, are leading to a better knowledge of geological hazards. It will also greatly strengthen existing research.

„h Insurance and mitigation: Improved data from GeoNet, plus scientific research, will contribute substantially to the knowledge of geological hazard and risk throughout New Zealand. This knowledge is used to assess potential losses from future hazard events and to adjust the risk, and hence the cost of insurance cover. Greater knowledge will also lead to smarter decisions about siting and design of buildings, engineering lifelines, and structures.


Contact: John Callan, Communications Co-ordinator GNS, Ph: 04-570-1444 or 025-402-571

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