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International earthquake experts meet in Oamaru

12 November 2018


This month, Oamaru is host to 70 top earthquake scientists at the 2018 Taiwan-Japan-New Zealand Seismic Hazards Assessment Meeting, which is being held between 14 – 18 November.

Lead convener Professor Mark Stirling, Chair of Earthquake Science at the University of Otago, says scientists from the three countries meet each year to share the latest research and techniques.

“We’re all in countries where it’s extremely important to understand where, and how big, the earthquake hazard is – so getting together each year gives us a chance to share and apply the latest scientific advances.”

EQC Manager Research Strategy and Investment Dr Richard Smith, says that EQC is pleased to support and provide sponsorship for the meeting.

“Like New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan have a lot of earthquakes and sit where two tectonic plates meet, so working closely together helps all our countries. Collaborative work like this is hugely helpful for advancing earthquake science in our countries and also around the world,” says Dr Smith.

Professor Stirling says the focus of discussion at the meeting is on developing models and maps that show where earthquakes and strong shaking are most likely in each country.

“As we know from recent events like Christchurch and Kaikōura, working out where the hazards are is not a simple task.

“Assessing hazard in what people are used to thinking of as “low seismicity” areas will be one of the big topics of discussion. We will be sharing science and techniques for identifying active faults and understanding more about what might happen with faults that haven’t done anything for a long time – like tens to hundreds of thousands of years.”

This is part of what makes Oamaru, which is considered a “low seismicity” area, a great place for this international meeting, he says.

“There are fault lines around Oamaru, like the Waihemo Fault running from Shag Point inland west to the top of the Pigroot, that haven’t moved for a long time. What we want to understand is how these faults are likely to behave in future.”

Professor Stirling says the seismic hazard models and maps developed by scientists are used by engineers and planners to design buildings that can stand up to the shaking they are likely to experience.

“These estimations of likely shaking produced by the science are used to set standards for buildings. For example in New Zealand, building standards depend in part on what and where you are building. Buildings like schools and hospitals will always be built to a higher standard than houses, and also to higher standards again in areas where there is a higher estimated earthquake hazard. Our highest standards are for large dams.”

Professor Stirling says the scientists are also going to take the opportunity to visit the Kaikōura area, which experienced the most complex quake every recorded, and sites like the Clyde dam.

“The meeting participants are also really looking forward to the experience of staying in such a historic New Zealand town as Oamaru. Though it will be mostly science talk, our visiting scientists will also have the chance to see the little blue penguins, visit the Victorian precinct, see what steam punk is all about, and simply take in the atmosphere of a beautiful small New Zealand town.”

EQC invests more than $16 million every year in developing scientific knowledge to reduce the impact of natural disaster on people and property.


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