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National landslide database invaluable asset to New Zealand

A new database for landslides will become an invaluable asset for any organisation involved in planning housing and infrastructure in New Zealand, says EQC’s Chief Resilience and Research Officer Jo Horrocks.

The Earthquake Commission has been working closely with the Auckland Council, GNS Science, NZTA and Kiwirail to develop a National Landslide Database that will capture all current and future landslide information from local and regional councils, Crown entities and geotechnical consultants.

“The landslides in Napier demonstrated again that landslips are a major risk to people and property in New Zealand, which we need to understand and manage,” says Horrocks.

Horrocks points out that GNS Science research has identified around 1800 fatalities from landslides over the past 160 years, which is significantly more than earthquakes casualties over the same period. She says that landslides cost the country an average of $250-$300 million each year.

Many organisations—including GNS Science, EQC, NZTA, Kiwirail and local councils—hold valuable information on landslides, but no single entity has had overall responsibility for managing this information.

“GNS Science, for example, has an extensive database of historical information, but that system was not designed for local councils and other stakeholders to add their own information. Once completed, we hope this new database will create a uniform set of information that can be used by any agency, developer or planner in New Zealand,” says Horrocks.

Auckland Council identified landslides as a major risk and needed a reliable database to manage the hazard as the city looked for suitable land to develop new housing.

“When we started this project, we realised it had to be developed with a national capability in mind, and we have been working closely with EQC  and GNS who are also focused on better understanding our exposure to landslides,” says the Auckland Council project manager Ross Roberts.

Horrocks says the National Landslide Database will link existing data from a variety of sources, establish trends and be shared and used by other agencies.

“This will give us a much better understanding of vulnerable land, which is the deciding factor for damage from natural hazards. To build more resilient buildings, we need to know where landslides exist and where they may occur in the future,” says Horrocks.

Dr Chris Massey from GNS Science says that the value of detailed and accurate landslide data has been demonstrated repeatedly in the work GNS Science has done to quantify life safety risks from landslides.

“An example of this is the work done for the Christchurch City Council in the Port Hills after the Canterbury earthquake sequence and now included in their district plan,” says Massey.

Horrocks emphasises that the project team still has a lot of work ahead, such as determining the long-term home of the new database and the technical details on how other agencies will access the database.

“But there is a common goal between all agencies, and once it is fully operational, the database will be an invaluable asset to the country.”

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