Marlborough District Council
Marlborough was in some ways fortunate on the night of 14 November 2016. The main towns of Blenheim and Picton received relatively little building damage, the port and airport could resume operations quickly, there were no reports of serious injuries, and, with the exception of State Highway 1, the region’s local road network fared reasonably well, considering the power of the 7.8 quake. However, Marlborough’s east coast was seriously impacted, particularly Seddon and Ward and further south.
Ward’s water supply system was severely damaged, so the Council stepped in quickly to fund and replace the town’s main water tanks; a challenging operation requiring a helicopter airlift. Damage was also reported to winery infrastructure around the region.
The coastal pāua fishery was closed, which led to some job losses in the local industry, and many farmers’ lives have been severely disrupted. For example, the inland road to Molesworth Station was blocked by a large road slip for over three months, meaning supplies had to be flown in by the Council to the isolated farming families up the Awatere Valley. The quake also damaged some of the lower Wairau Valley’s intricate network of flood stop banks that protect Renwick, Spring Creek and Grovetown, as well as Blenheim. An urgent stop bank work programme through the summer to fix the damaged banks is now finished.
Of course the biggest single impact on the region was the closure of State Highway 1. People living in eastern coastal areas of in the Marlborough district had to drastically change their daily work routines and lifestyles. Many suffered damage to their homes and other buildings and are now going through the insurance claim process. The local tourism industry on the coast all but dried up, and the traditional volume of summer and winter visitors from Canterbury to Marlborough is significantly reduced. Traffic volumes on the alternate route through Blenheim, Renwick and along State Highway 63 to Murchison increased enormously, putting great strain on a road that was never designed for heavy haulage.
In addition to the quake, heavy rainfall on the morning of Monday 14 November caused further damage to roading and brought flooding to Havelock and parts of the Marlborough Sounds.
The NZ Transport Agency made improvements to the road at short notice and speed limits were reduced to improve road safety.
Fortunately for Marlborough, international tourist numbers increased over the same period that saw a decline in the domestic visitor spend. This softened the blow for local tourism operators and the state highway rebuild has brought in road workers who have filled the motels. The region’s tourism agency Destination Marlborough was successful in securing MBIE funding to promote the region as a winter destination in Nelson, Wellington and Auckland to counteract the decline in visitors from the south.
While Marlborough District Council’s post-quake work has focused on coordinating the community recovery inside its borders, it has also provided ongoing support to the remote rural dwellers of the northern part of the Kaikōura District, who remain cut off from the township.
Marlborough District Council’s earthquake and flood damaged three waters infrastructure repair costs are estimated to be over $15 million. While the cost is significant, the unitary Council’s strong financial position has meant it could absorb the financial shock of the quake and provide ongoing assistance to its most affected citizens.
Marlborough District Council received a $940,000 share of the $2.5 million government support for additional local government regulatory and communications requirements arising from the earthquake.
Along with the Kaikōura and Hurunui districts, Marlborough is fortunate to access assistance from the Lotteries funding of $5.41 million for earthquake relief and $7.5 million for rebuilds of community facilities.
Social support has been provided to those affected by the earthquakes, particularly in the smaller and more affected areas of Seddon and Ward.