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Tsunami and natural hazards expert coming to UC

Australian tsunami and natural hazards expert coming to UC as an Erskine Fellow

February 8, 2013

Local and regional authorities have been waking up to the fact that their coastlines are truly exposed but they really don't know how bad things might be if a tsunami hits New Zealand’s shores, says an Australian expert who will take up an Erskine Fellowship at the University of Canterbury in April.

Professor James Goff of the University of New South Wales in Sydney will be a visiting lecturer at UC from April 22 to May 22 and will spend most of his time at UC working on tsunami research.

``While the impact of the earthquakes is obviously there and in your face the entire time, there are many excellent scientists working on the earthquakes. My focus will primarily be to wake up a few more people to the tsunami hazard in New Zealand,’’ Professor Goff said today.

``Since the relatively minor 2010 Chile earthquake that sent New Zealand a long distance tsunami, some local and regional authorities have been waking up to how bad things might be.

``A fair amount of what I would call `once over lightly’ work has been done. Well now the rubber needs to hit the road and we need to seriously understand the nature of the tsunami hazard for New Zealand's coast.

``Just like earthquakes, we don't know when they are going to happen, but we do know that they will - so let's know as much as we can about the nature of this beast,’’ Professor Goff said.

The reconstruction of Christchurch and its social and economic ramifications will be an extremely valuable lesson for a country that is prone to tectonic-related hazards, he said.

``The revitalisation of a city following an event such as the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes represents an unparalleled opportunity to reshape its form in accordance with new design standards and cultural ideals.

``The Christchurch rebuild and all the changes that go with it will provide a great legacy for a country so susceptible to natural hazards.

``Unlike Lisbon following the 1755 earthquake and tsunami where one man had total control over what was built, the plan for Christchurch appears to have been a widely discussed and consulted affair. Only time will tell how this reshaping of Christchurch will sit with its citizens, the country and the world.’’

Professor Goff said before the 2010 earthquake very few earthquake scientists would have said that Christchurch was due for a big earthquake. With earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, the public must expect the unexpected, he said.


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