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Thread: Tsunami Zone

  1. #1
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    Default Tsunami Zone

    Many of you probably know how brutal the Wellington rental market is -- such poor quality for such astronomical prices. We've been looking to get out of our uninsulated, south-facing, unheated flat in Vogeltown for some time, but nothing has really stood out as a viable option. Then, yesterday, we spotted a place that, while not perfect, would definitely suit our needs -- warm, very nice interior, more affordable, and in a wonderfully flat and walkable area of Lyall Bay.

    One problem: Tsunami zone. It's at sea level, only 500m from the beach.

    Since we've been here, we've said that tsunami zone is a non-starter for us, but after six months of battling the rental market and seeing unaffordable, poorly maintained properties, we're almost feeling like we're ready to concede that downside.

    What are everyone's thoughts on choosing housing based on tsunami zones? I have severe reservations about living in a place where my entirely family could be wiped out, without warning, at any given time. Am I being irrational?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.C. Slater View Post
    What are everyone's thoughts on choosing housing based on tsunami zones? I have severe reservations about living in a place where my entirely family could be wiped out, without warning, at any given time. Am I being irrational?
    There are a lot of things that can kill you in this world; tsunami zones are not at the top of my list. Following a catastrophic earthquake, there would be a delay of several hours before the wave will hit you; I'm not sure what the evacuation plan is like down your way, but we have sirens in Napier, which will wake you up. I would be more worried about loss of home than loss of family. As long as you can insure against tsunamis...

    RE global warming: How badly would a small sea level rise affect your property? Are you really at sea level, or a few meters up? Are there any other issues you need to worry about? 500 m seems like enough space to not be concerned about erosion, though I would definitely check. We came close to purchasing a place about 30 m from the sand. It was remarkably cheap because that part of Hawke's Bay is slowly being reclaimed by the sea.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.C. Slater View Post
    What are everyone's thoughts on choosing housing based on tsunami zones? I have severe reservations about living in a place where my entirely family could be wiped out, without warning, at any given time. Am I being irrational?
    I live on the beach in a similar area on the South Island. It's a risk I'm willing to take because I love living right next to the beach. I love living in a community right next to the beach. While I don't under estimate the risk, I don't over estimate it either. We have a plan of evacuation. We have a secondary plan with our closest friends and the school our children attend has a plan. Having a plan doesn't mean we're safe from the possibility of tragedy but we've made sure we've done all we can. I know it's a cliche to say that all places have risk of natural disaster but to some extent there is truth in that. Considering risks is not irrational. However, there is a certain amount of risk in everything, from drinking water to driving our vehicles. Only you can decide what risks are not worth the benefit but, personally, I can't imagine living where I can't walk to the sea.

    Now, that being said, you have to evaluate tsunami data. When it comes to natural disasters, like flipping a coin, you can't really predict the future outcomes by what has happened in the the past. However, it is very rare for a tsunami to be so sudden and without any warning. According to the recent report in September, a tsunami that happens without warning happens once about every 40-50 years. That doesn't mean that we couldn't have four in the next week. Also, the risks are higher in some areas. You just have to decide what risks you want to live with.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.C. Slater View Post
    Many of you probably know how brutal the Wellington rental market is -- such poor quality for such astronomical prices. in a wonderfully flat and walkable area of Lyall Bay.
    A little bit off topic but have you thought of moving to a different part of NZ? I know it's easier said than done but perhaps a less hilly, windy place might suit you better.

  5. #5
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    It's not irrational to try to manage risk. You can only make decisions based on your own risk appetite. It sounds like your housing budget is one that is forcing you to determine what your priorities are. My personal choice would be to live in the moment, balancing off the absolute certainty of being in a cold, unhealthy, expensive house against a likely but unpredictable natural event. However, there would be no point in you moving to Lyall Bay if you were to be scanning the water all the time. Moving out of the city and travelling in may open up better possibilities for you.

    I chose an area out of the tsunami evacuation zone, not on the major fault line running up from Wellington and in an area at lower risk of liquefaction following an earthquake. For a far away tsunami we would get 12 hours warning. For a near one, such as those caused by an offshore earthquake, we wouldn't.

    In the July and August major earthquakes, and the recent Eketahuna one, I wasn't home - in fact for the three biggest I was less than 500m from the coast. For another, I was at my desk in the CBD. And another, in the cinema, in the dark, in the evacuation zone.

    So, TBH, where I lived was a bit irrelevant. Historically, there has been one dangerous tsunami every 40 to 50 years, with maybe one of a metre or so every 10. Geonet has some good information.

  6. #6
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    Would you be renting or buying in the Tsunami zone?

    I agree with Slater - I'd worry more about earthquakes as you'd (hopefully) receive a warning prior to a tsunami.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the awesome responses, guys. Yeah, it's funny, I worry about earthquakes in Wellington, but I don't really fear dying in one. That may be because I'm overestimating how prepared Wellington buildings are for earthquakes. I've heard that they have some of the most strict building requirements in the world as far as earthquake safety. Maybe not for older houses, but anything new stands a really good chance of surviving.

    But you can't prepare the built environment for a tsunami. The best you can hope for is enough time to reduce the loss of human life.

    With regard to the idea that tsunamis come with a warning, I'm not so sure of that. Certainly a quake outside of Chile would give us plenty of time to prepare, but if one of these Cook Strait quakes ever went rogue, you're only talking about maybe 15-20 kilometers of buffer zone, which is 2-3 minutes tops. The articles I've read say that you're actually better off not even getting in the car, as it costs you too much time.

    A kiwi friend of mine also said something I had never heard before, which is that the seawall will stop most small tsunamis from reaching land. Never thought about that, but they do shave off a good meter or two, don't they?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.C. Slater View Post



    With regard to the idea that tsunamis come with a warning, I'm not so sure of that. Certainly a quake outside of Chile would give us plenty of time to prepare, but if one of these Cook Strait quakes ever went rogue, you're only talking about maybe 15-20 kilometers of buffer zone, which is 2-3 minutes tops. The articles I've read say that you're actually better off not even getting in the car, as it costs you too much time.
    I have never heard of a tsunami occurring within 2 to 3 minutes of an earthquake. The least amount of time I see reported for a tsunami following an earthquake is 15 minutes (1960 Chilean quake). Most of the casualties occurred with subsequent waves after people returned home...which is a common happening. There are so many factors that affect when/where a wave will hit that it is difficult to predict, but they do not run it a straight line from the epicenter to your door. After the Indonesian quake (which I believe was 150 k offshore) there was a delay of a few hours...and the tide had greatly receded prior to the wave hitting--nobody had seen a tsunami before, and there was no warning system in place. The Japanese quake was 70k offshore, and the tsunami took an hour to arrive. The problem with that one was the size was much larger than they were prepared for and several tsunami evacuation centers were hit by the tsunami (people also ignored warnings because there are seawalls in place). It would be hard to prepare for something of that scale in NZ. Unless you want to live in Taupo...then you have volcanoes to deal with.

  9. #9
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    This is the article I read that said we would have no warning: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4786...s-tsunami-risk

    Quote Originally Posted by 72andsunny View Post
    It would be hard to prepare for something of that scale in NZ. Unless you want to live in Taupo...then you have volcanoes to deal with.

    By "prepare" you're referring to the preservation of the built environment, right? Because it seems to me Wellington is exceedingly well prepared to reduce or even eliminate the loss of life from a tsunami, given enough warning. More than half the city is way above the recommended 35m elevation for tsunami safety. If I had an hour to prepare, there's no doubt in my mind I could get to high ground, with or without a car, from anywhere in Wellington.

  10. #10
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    Having lived with hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and tsunami risk I'll vote tsunami every time.

    hurricanes you get advance warning but they last a long time. If you're near the cost even a "near miss" can be devastating. NZ rarely gets hurricane-force tropical systems.
    tornadoes you may get a few minutes warning. A direct hit is brutal, but a near miss is merely terrifying.
    blizzards are fine so long as you have electricity and heat. Lose either and they suck; lose both and it's bad. Really really bad.

    tsunami will give you 15 minutes to 15 hours warning, unless it's a very localised one caused by a landslide into a body of water. If you feel a quake, you go up. Waaay up. And stay there until you know it's safe. If there was a massive quake close enough to NZ to cause an east coast tsunami, we'd still have 30+ minutes to get out.

    Don't get me wrong, it's very real. We have "go" kits in case of an emergency, something I started doing living in Vancouver (another techtonic zone). But it would take a 1/100 year event to flood much of Auckland or Wellington via tsunami.

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