Kaikōura District Council

The November 2016 earthquake severely impacted Kaikōura’s local communities, economy, landscape and the regional fauna.

Although the Kaikōura District is usually well-connected to other parts of the country by road and rail, after the earthquake, much of the district was inaccessible for some time due to damage to the road and rail system.

Access for relief ships to the Kaikōura township harbour was also difficult due to the seafloor upheaval.

The earthquake caused sizeable damage to Kaikōura District’s infrastructure (drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, roads, bridges and community facilities). The scale of the damage is comparable to that faced by Christchurch after the Canterbury earthquakes.

Kaikōura District Council is facing an approximate forecast infrastructure rebuild cost of $40 million (including three waters, local roads and bridges, and community facilities), roughly five times its annual spend.

The ongoing isolation by road has directly affected over 50% of the district’s workforce, although some later found work with NCTIR, and was felt widely by businesses. The isolation and reduction in tourist numbers has led to a marked decline for many sectors.

Socially the district continues to see the after effects of the earthquake, for example temporarily displaced residents, the ongoing need for psychosocial support, and financial and insurance advice for homeowners through the personal rebuild process. 


The Kaikōura district is extremely appreciative of all the financial and other support received since the quake. Sources of support include Environment Canterbury, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM), the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for the Environement, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), Lotteries and the Rata Foundation, the Red Cross, the Rural Support Trust, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, Te Puni Kōkiri, Whānau Ora Agencies, Sports Tasman, Sports NZ and JR McKenzie Trust and local organisations and individuals. This funding and collaborative support is essential to the district’s recovery and ensures it can continue to sustainably operate into the future.

Funding allocated from central government (some of which has already been expended) includes:

  • $5.72 million to restore the council-owned Kaikōura Harbour and to enable the coastguard to resume its activities
  • A 60% contribution from government towards the costs of repairing damage to drinking water, storm water and waste water infrastructure, including cash advances of up to $12 million if they are needed. 
  • $2.4 million ‘betterment funding’ to help the Council upgrade damaged infrastructure, rather than just replacing or repairing it. 
  • An estimated $11.4 million of additional assistance towards the cost of local road repairs, reducing Kaikōura District Council’s share from 30% to 5% of the costs.
  • $2 million to cover Council debt on Kaikōura Health Centre.
  • Funding up to $2.6 miilion for waste management, including asbestos management, waste facility repairs and increased recycling support.
  • A $1.26 million share of the $2.5 million government support for additional local government regulatory and communications requirements arising from the earthquake.

After the quake the Kaikōura Recovery Team worked with the community to develop the Recovery Plan ‘Re-imagine Kaikōura’. A community survey generated nearly 3,000 ideas, condensed into 34 themes that were workshopped and developed to form the plan.

The core themes are:

  1. Economic development; supporting local businesses through the ‘third winter’ by providing and facilitating advice and supporting access to grants and funding.
  2. The earthquake rebuild; restoring water, wastewater and stormwater systems and repairing roads throughout the district.
  3. Community development; ensuring community outreach and support services are delivered at the required level across our district.
  4. Protecting our environment; carefully managing earthquake-generated waste, reviewing the impact of the quake on all Kaikōura’s natural hazards and the risks they pose.
  5. Planning for the future; getting all the systems, processes and resources in place to ensure Kaikōura’s long-term recovery.
  6. Council is making sure the Recovery Plan, the Annual Plan 2017/18 and the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 work together to create a roadmap for the district. However the council says re-imagining the district will take time, commitment and endurance. Council has to carefully manage its finances and workload to achieve the best it can for residents and ratepayers in the long term.

Kaikōura is now in many ways 'open for business’. Tourists are welcome, recovery work is well underway and community support is in place. Achievements include:

  • State Highway 1 South to Christchurch is open (some partial closures to allow work to continue).
  • The Inland Route 70 between Hanmer Springs/Culverden and Kaikōura is open.
  • 91% of tourism activity/attractions are open.
  • 91% of retail, café and general services are open.
  • 81% of accommodation providers are open for business.

However, recovery is a long journey and there is many years of work ahead of the district. The Recovery Plan lays out a way to co-ordinate and prioritise local efforts to make sure the Council is working cohesively towards what the community wants and needs.


"To all people it is as one voice and shared intentions, we embark on this journey of reimagining Kaikōura.

Ki a koutou katoa, kua kotahi te reo, ā, kua kotahi te whakaaro, i tēnei haereka ki te pōhewa anō i a Kaikōura

Change is the universal law of life. Those who dwell only in the past or present are sure to miss the future. Collectively we are strong. Collectively our vision horizon expands. Collectively we are the great architects of our own destiny, a destiny we will imagine together, as one people, a community with clarity of purpose and vision.

He ao kōmiromiro tō tātou ao. Mena ka mau tātou ki kā raki kua hori, ka kore tātou e kite i kā hua kai mua i te aroaro. Ka kaha tātou i te kotahitaka. Mā te kotahitaka te pae tawhiti e whakawhānui. Mā tātou katoa te ara whakamua e para hai iwi kotahi. He hapori e mahi tahi ana, e whakaaro tahi ana, whai take tahi ana."

(Quote from the Kaikōura District Recovery Plan)


Wider recovery work is progressing well, although significant challenges remain. As Kaikōura Mayor Winston Gray explained, “the Recovery team’s main focus continues to be providing support and advice to District residents”.

When the national transition period was lifted on 7 June 2017, a local transition period was put in place. This allowed the local Recovery Manager to continue to exercise powers under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, and has been extended five times to allow these powers to continue to be exercised as long as is required. It expired on 22 November 2017. This local transition period allows some of the more complicated issues around natural hazards and people’s homes to continue to be dealt with safely and effectively, as is in the public interest.

The social recovery team is working with the areas of our community that need it most, connecting them to the support services and providing assistance however and whenever it is needed. Activities include organising community events and activities, such as free exercise or community classes, free concerts, and weather tightening and warming people’s homes. A door to door survey and wellbeing check were carried out early on and, as a result, families could be referred to the services they needed, including temporary accommodation. MBIE has funded a position in the Council to help match temporary accommodation demand with supply.


Business support is another key focus of the Kaikōura recovery. MBIE’s Earthquake Support Subsidy operated initially, and paid out $17.5 million in wage subsidies across the three districts so staff could continue to be paid by the business owners.

MBIE’s Business Recovery Grant Programme that helps businesses most in need until State Highway 1 reopens, has further helped businesses that may not receive tourism or primary producers funding.

The recovery team is working with local hospitality providers and the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) to support local businesses to supply the lunch and evening catering to the workers accommodation village. NCTIR is helping create an innovative way of delivering hospitality services, whilst helping stimulate the local economy. Lunch and dinner providers have been working together to coordinate ordering and ensure quality. Where possible they use local suppliers to help support local businesses. The team has also been working with MBIE and others to deliver free workshops focusing on business development and resilience building.

A marketing campaign encouraging domestic and international tourists to return to the Kaikōura District is underway. Funded by MBIE and led by Christchurch International Airport limited, it will run until 2019.

A Rebuild Director has been appointed to deliver the district’s local road and council-owned infrastructure rebuild on time, on budget and up to standard.


The Recovery team is also focusing on natural hazards. It is coordinating efforts to work out what happens next for the residents and owners of properties that were red or yellow stickered due to natural hazard risks. It’s working with central government to make progress and provide answers for property owners, and advice for council about the future to aid in Council’s decision-making.


Lotteries funding has been allocated to help communities recover from the earthquake, for which the community is enormously grateful. Funding includes $5.41 million for earthquake relief and $7.5 million for community facilities rebuilds – both funds are being allocated across the three districts: Kaikōura, Hurunui and Marlborough.


$4 million was ring-fenced by the Ministry for Primary Industries for Mayoral Relief Fund across the Councils. Red Cross provided a further $1.2 million across the three councils for winter warming. About 250 vulnerable households have been assisted across the three districts under the winter warming Find and Fix programme, including providing a heat source (firewood, gas, and power), insulation and re-hanging doors reduce draughts.


Visit the Kaikōura District Council website.