Wellington Lifelines Report Released

Media Release 3 December 2019

A trail-blazing report just issued by the Wellington Lifelines Group concludes that if we don't improve the region's infrastructure, a 7.5 magnitude quake on the Wellington fault would cost New Zealand more than $16 billion in lost economic activity alone, without counting the social or recovery cost or building damage.

According to Dame Fran Wilde, chair of the group, having infrastructure sufficiently resilient to either maintain services or recover sooner, would reduce the economic loss to $10b.

The study sets out a 20-year investment programme (some of which is already included in asset plans) with a total investment of about $3.9 billion. The key to the programme's success is in the lifeline utilities agreeing on the sequencing and timing of the programme, which has been designed to take account of the interdependencies between various types of infrastructure. Dame Fran said the difference between this and other studies was the detailed examination of those interdependencies, together with the modelling of economic impact.

She said there are also additional paybacks that the study did not measure.

"For example, the ongoing benefit of having individual projects delivered in a sequenced way would greatly enhance resilience to smaller but more frequent events such as floods and smaller quakes."

"In addition, this specific resilience-building programme is likely to help build third-party confidence in Wellington, where the issue of insurance premiums is of growing concern," she said.

"The sequencing is critical in this complex system. For example, there is little benefit in having a highly resilient water network if electricity isn't available to run the water pumping stations after an earthquake. Some of the 25 individual projects in our programme are already in long-term asset plans, so we are asking decision-makers to fund and build them in the sequence suggested.

"However, much of the programme is still unfunded and will require commitment and foresight on the part of both owners and consumers in order to secure the economic future and wellbeing of the Wellington community," Dame Fran said.

"This is a challenge for everyone. It may cost consumers more over time, so the question that Wellingtonians and their leaders need to consider is whether it is worthwhile ensuring that there is a viable economy and jobs following large earthquake."

Dame Fran stressed that even with this programme, widespread damage would still result in significant outages after a quake, but the modelling indicated that the programme would speed up the timeframe for resolution and contribute to the survival of the regional economy.

"We know that the big one is 'when' not 'if' and that quakes in the past few years have been quite mild compared with this scenario. Wellingtonians are reasonably well prepared, but household resilience needs to be supported by functioning infrastructure to maintain the liveability of the city following a major event. We want to galvanise our leaders into action to make sure this happens".


The report has been nearly three years in development and uses Riskscape and MERIT software to model the resilience of infrastructure and then assess the economic disruption that would follow an earthquake. The study is the first of its scale and complexity undertaken in New Zealand and is already attracting attention both domestically and internationally from those involved in infrastructure resilience.

It was overseen by Aurecon, with GNS, Resilient Organisations and Market Economics involved in the modelling. The work was funded by Central Government, Local Government and the lifeline infrastructure providers themselves.

The Lifelines Group comprises all the infrastructure providers for the Wellington region, together with GNs. Infrastructure providers  are:

  • CentrePort
  • Electra
  • Greater Wellington Regional Council
  • Hutt City Council
  • Kapiti Coast District Council
  • KiwiRail
  • New Zealand Transport Agency
  • Nova Energy
  • Porirua City Council
  • Powerco
  • Transpower
  • Upper Hutt City Council
  • Wellington City Council
  • Wellington Electricity
  • Wellington Water
  • Wellington International Airport
  • Z Energy

Comments on the release of the WeLG PBC in December 2019


"The November 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake highlighted CentrePort's importance as a Key Strategic Asset for the Central New Zealand economy, facilitating $20BN value of cargo through the Port each year.  We rely on other Lifelines utilities in order to provide our services for the needs of our customers and the community.

CentrePort is developing an ambitious regeneration plan that will deliver our vision of a 21st century logistics supply chain asset to benefit the business, the community and the New Zealand economy for us and our future generations.  A key factor in the regeneration plan is the consideration of resilience, along with safety, the environment, technology, risk management, the needs of the community, and the regional and national economies."  Anthony Delaney, General Manager Regeneration

GNS Science

"Ensuring we have resilient infrastructure is key to reducing the impact on Wellingtonians. We want to make sure that people can go about their daily lives much sooner after a major Wellington earthquake.

"We don't want people to have to leave their homes or abandon their city, and that means having resilient infrastructure that allows people to get back to as normal a life as possible.

"If all organisations work together to achieve the necessary upgrades, the economic and social cost of a big event will be markedly reduced. It also means that by having resilience during the rarer, big events, that the impact of smaller events is also greatly reduced.

"We are proud to be involved in this project which has been in partnership with all the lifeline organisations in the region. We are particularly proud also of our partnership with Market Economics and Resilient Organisations and for the amazing science and modelling work that was undertaken. The science behind the report is compelling, and it shows the need for deep partnerships among lifeline organisations in order to realise the vision of a more resilient Wellington"
Ian Simpson, CEO GNS Science.

Greater Wellington Regional Council

"Having been forced to move our staff and operations twice following damaging earthquakes, and witnessed significant damage to our subsidiary port company CentrePort, Greater Wellington fully understands the importance of maintaining vital services in following disaster. That's why we are focussed on building resilience into vital services such as transport, water supply and flood protection, and we'll willingly co-operate with other "lifeline" organisations to improve the survivability of the region and its environs following disasters, whatever the cause." Cr Daran Ponter, Chair of Greater Wellington Regional Council

Kapiti Coast District Council

With more than 5,000 Kāpiti residents travelling in and out of Wellington each day for employment, hospital appointments and to maintain business and family connections, investing in infrastructure that strengthens our regions resilience is critical to helping to mitigate the effects of potential displacement and aiding recovery efforts.  We welcome the report and encourage further discussion on how infrastructure investment programmes will be integrated and prioritised across the region to help give our communities the best shot at surviving and thriving following a major seismic event.
Kāpiti Coast District Mayor K Gurunathan


We congratulate the Lifelines group on the delivery of its report and look forward to continuing our involvement with them on this project to ensure the best possible outcome for Wellington and the nation as a whole. In all our activity, we design, build and maintain our transmission assets with a view to long-term resilience and will continue to do so alongside our supply partner WE* to ensure appropriate planning and delivery into the future.

Wellington Region Emergency Management Office

Since 2016 a significant amount of work has been done by councils to increase the resilience of regional households and businesses. This work by the Wellington Lifelines Group is a concerted effort by local and regional infrastructure providers to not only invest in resilience ahead of a large scale event like a rupture of the Wellington Fault, but to do so in a way that helps deliver a 'step change' in the level of resilience provided. This has been achieved through some excellent modelling work that has helped the region understand the likely impact of such an event and what needs to be done to make our infrastructure more resilient.

Jeremy Holmes, WREMO's Regional Manager, said "The fact that infrastructure providers have agreed to work together to align their respective work programmes is truly remarkable. It shows how dependent we all are on the work of others to be truly resilient and that we are all going to have to play our part if we are going to achieve the level of resilience for the capital that we want going forward."

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