Kaikōura, New Zealand, November 2016

Kaikōura earthquake

Quick Statistics

2 Fatalities
NZD $900 million Insurance Costs

Shortly after midnight on 14 November 2016 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand, 95 kilometres from Christchurch. The quake lasted approximately two minutes and was considered notable for the complexity of the ruptures involved.

A tsunami followed the earthquake; at the time of the tsunami, the maximum run-up height was 6.9 metres above tide level. The height was approximately 5.3 metres at Oaro; a survey team located various marine flora and fauna as far as 250 metres inland of the high tide mark.

The response included a New Zealand Fire Service Urban Search and Rescue squad. There was also a response from the Defence Forces of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States and Japan which were coincidentially in New Zealand for the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

The earthquake caused two fatalities: one man was killed in the collapse of the Kaikoura Elms Homestead; one woman died following the impact of the event on the Mount Lyford log cabin where she lived.

The New Zealand Earthquake Commission had received around 38,000 residential claims for damage caused by March 2017. Serious damage to road and rail infrastructure was also experienced with repairs projected to take up to a year.

In the city of Wellington, widespread damage occurred to buildings, many communities suffered power outages, and damage to docks impaired ferry traffic across Cook Strait. By February 2017, business insurance claims exceeded NZ$900 million, broken down as follows (correct 1 February 2017):

  • Wellington region: 65 per cent
  • Upper South Island: 25 per cent
  • Canterbury: eight per cent
  • other North Island claims: two per cent.

Changes in the position of land:

Satellite imagery indicated that as a result of the earthquake:

  • Cape Campbell, in the north-east of the South Island, moved north-north-east by over two metres, rising almost a metre vertically
  • Kaikoura moved north-east by almost one metre, rising 70 centimetres
  • The east coast of the lower North Island moved up to five centimetres to the west
  • The Wellington region moved between two and six centimetres northwards
  • Christchurch moved two centimetres to the south. 

The Kaikoura Earthquake: what happened and what does it mean?

Victoria University of Wellington


Information sources

This incident was included in the Major Incidents Report 2016-17 (Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, 2017). The report acknowledges the following sources:

Insurance Council of New Zealand 2017, 'Kaikoura earthquake business claims reach $900 million,' media release 1 February 2017. At: https://www.icnz.org.nz/media-resources/media-releases/single/item/kaikoura-earthquake-business-claims-reach-900-million/
Morton J 2016, 'The Big Read: Unravelling the quirks of the Kaikoura Earthquakes,' The New Zealand Herald, 21 November 2016. At: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11751775
New Zealand Earthquake Commission 2017, 'Update on Kaikoura earthquake claims,' 28 March 2017. At: https://www.eqc.govt.nz/news/update-on-kaikoura-earthquake-claims

Additional sources:

Amos J 2017, 'Kaikoura: 'Most complex quake ever studied,'' BBC News, 23 March 2017.
Daly M 2017, 'Kaikoura Earthquake tsunami was as high as 7 metres at one spot,' stuff.co.nz, 28 March 2017. At: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/90773348/kaikoura-earthquake-tsunami-was-as-high-as-7-metres-at-one-spot
Evans K 2017, 'In the wake of the quake,' New Zealand Geographic 143: Jan - Feb 2017
Howie C 2017, ''It was just a freak thing' - Partner of Kaikoura earthquake victim,' The New Zealand Herald, 6 May 2017. At: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11848670
The New Zealand Herald 2016, 'Live: 7.5 magnitude earthquake strikes near Hanmer Springs in South Island - two killed, Kaikoura isolated, Wellington CBD damaged,' The New Zealand Herald, 14 November 2016. At: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11747414
The New Zealand Herald 2016, 'Tragic rescue: 100-year-old pulled from rubble after son killed in devastating quake,' The New Zealand Herald, 14 November 2016. At: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11747702
Radio NZ, 'Kaikōura quake caused 6.9 metre tsunami,' 5 May 2017
Seismological Society of America, 'Seismologists offer detailed look at New Zealand's Kaikoura earthquake,' ScienceDaily, 12 April 2017