Rattled not Rolled. How our brothers handled the NZ quake last week

Resilience glows through quake dust


Rattled out of bed or still working, the large and angry South Island earthquake on Monday 14 November was a big shake. Mercifully the epicenter wasn’t under a major city like the disaster that struck Christchurch in 2011.

CX NZ put out a call to see how our industry are affected, and how people reacted. The resilience shines through.

“The Waimakariri District (just north of Christchurch) has a couple of key venues:  Oxford Town Hall, Rangiora Town Hall and Woodend Community Centre” reports Simon Kong, Community Facilities Coordinator (pictured).


“After this 7.8 earthquake inspections of all community facilities were done the following morning.   No damages were observed in any of our facilities or anywhere throughout the district.  General bookings were postponed for Monday 14th while checks were completed with everything reopened for Tuesday 15th.”

“One show postponement occurred.  Ben McDonald’s touring show Grease was disrupted as a result of interisland freight.“

“The Woodend Community Centre which is a combination of a gymnasium sports hall and meeting rooms also serves as a Civil Defence centre.  The building was activated by Civil Defence and utilized to receive people being evacuated by helicopter from Kaikoura.   The building received around 100 evacuee’s over three days who were provided hot showers, food, a place to sleep, internet, information and support.”

That road damage is a major problem.

“The amazing thing is how badly State Highway 1 was damaged from Cheviot to Blenheim. This is the main road for all freight and the only rail link to service the South Island runs next to the road. This was so badly damaged by slips due to the earthquake that the authorities don’t even think will re-open”, reports Tony Edards from Sound Choice Pro Audio.

“The current road diversions add a extra 3 hours of driving for a trip that only took 4.5 hours in the fist place. As for the Rail link, who knows what will happen?”

Paul O'Brien

Paul O’Brien

In Wellington Norwest Group crew Paul Obrien and Matt Coplon were inspecting the TSB arena with building inspectors when a magnitude 6 aftershock struck. Matt and Paul were in the catwalk at the time some 40 m above the ground and both report catwalk to exit in world record time.

NWG’s Jamie Collings lives by the sea in Wellington and was required to evacuate very shortly after the earthquake at midnight. She spent the night sleeping (not well!) on a road case at Grouse Lighting’s (a competitor in Wellington) building on safer and higher ground.

Also with NWG, Rob Wiles was lucky enough to be working in Auckland when the quake struck at midnight and was returning to his accomodation from a gig at the Langham hotel. He had called his wife to say good night and was speaking to her as the quake first hit their Wellington home. While talking to Rob she watched as their fish tank with over 100 kg of water in it crashed to the ground. Incredibly, she managed to save all the fish while continuing to talk to Rob on the phone!

Matt Coplon

Matt Coplon

In Wellington it seems most buildings emerged without significant damage. There were plenty of broken windows, but the building code worked as advertised.

Down at Gisborne it was a similar story. “We were re doing lighting cues For Aladdin the pantomime,  after tech rehearsals at the Gisborne War Memorial Theatre when the quake struck”, reports Tim McAneney from Creative Lighting Design Limited.

“We felt a long slow rolling motion that set all stage battens swaying. We moved under a doorway till things stopped moving. Fortunately the motion seamed to be  moving in a Stage Left/Stage Right direction so nothing was banging together. There was no damage but the battens swayed for several minutes after the earthquake. “

Back in Wellington, NWG’s Cheryl Bowden recently immigrated from the UK and experienced her first ever earthquake that midnight. One day later she had experienced more than 300 aftershocks and as a result considers herself a true Wellingtonian.

Strange factoid: around 30 sticks of 3m truss were standing upright and unsecured in the Oceania Wellington warehouse overnight, and when staff entered the premises that morning they were amazed to find that not a single one had fallen down.

Back in Christchurch, Abe Coulter from Pro LED said his house was “shaking like nothing. I was  told to evacuate at 3 am. Leaving the cat behind and having no car we walked to the hospital – with my martin M2GO under one arm and Elo touch in the other.”

Abe Coulter

Abe Coulter

That’s a chap with the right priorities!

“With my bag on my back full of batteries, my trusty spanner which I use for rigging and opening up junk food, I was trying to think with a panicking tourist from the backpackers continually asking ‘What the f**k do i do’? We had to evacuate due to tsunami sirens blaring.”

Norwest Group CEO Matt Jones summed up. “Perhaps the most remarkable story is what the team in Wellington achieved in the 24 hours since the first quake struck. By 7 AM every single staff member and casual and contractor had been contacted, their safety confirmed, and advised of what the plan was for the next day or so ahead. “

“All Wellington venues and our installations within had been inspected by us with council inspectors. While not yet confirmed, and subject to further quakes, we are optimistic there has been minimal damage to our equipment or the venues themselves and we do not expect our current bookings to be materially impacted. “

“Then amongst the aftershocks, Prep has commenced for a large event, Kiwicon, on Thursday in the Michael Fowler Centre. The Welly team have officially decided it’s back to business as usual.”

By Julius Grafton

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