Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Parliament would relocate to Auckland if quake knocked out capital

Devonport Naval Base. File photo / NZ Herald
Devonport Naval Base. File photo / NZ Herald

Parliament would relocate to the Devonport Naval Base in the event of a catastrophic earthquake in Wellington, a draft report released this morning shows.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye has released a Cabinet paper and draft plan for the temporary relocation of Parliament to Auckland after a devastating quake.

"The draft arrangements cover a worst case scenario where the impact of a major earthquake is so severe that Parliament and Executive Government could not function effectively in Wellington," Ms Kaye said.

The paper said a severe quake was likely to cut off Wellington's road and rail access for three months, cut power, water and sewerage networks for several months, make telecommunications unusable, and severely affect food and housing supply.

"These impacts mean that it may not be possible for Parliament and Executive Government to function within Wellington," Ms Kaye said.

Parliament is required by law to sit within seven days of a national disaster.

Cabinet has already agreed that the best location for a temporary Parliament was Auckland, because several government departments were already based there and because of its accommodation capacity.

The paper outlined plans to transport 164 people to Auckland - The Governor-General and family, MPs, ministerial staff, and support staff.

But if required, Government could operate with a skeleton staff. The minimum attendance required for Parliament to sit was the Speaker, a minister, and the Clerk of the House.

"This relocation would allow Government to continue to govern effectively, while mobilising national and international support for Wellington," Ms Kaye said.

"The Government must also govern the rest of the country, and in a worst case scenario this may not be possible from Wellington if access was difficult, and communications and facilities were limited. A failure to relocate could render central government ineffective."

Parliament would have to move to Government-owned land, and an emergency facility at the Devonport Naval Base was the most likely option.

Ms Kaye will consult with MPs and others before a final plan is confirmed.

The paper was part of wider response plans for all Wellington residents.

A 2012 report predicted that a 7.5 magnitude earthquake could cut off the capital's main transport routes for four months, cut telecommunications for 10 days, and cut power and water for three weeks.

Food, fuel and other materials would have to be ferried in from a cut-off Hutt Valley.

Expected impacts of a major earthquake could include road and rail access south of Paekakariki and west of Featherston being cut off for up to 120 days, and the transport network within the Wellington region becoming "fragmented'', the Cabinet paper said.

An "initial response'' for the first five days would include the activation of a National Crisis Management Centre, the Wellington Earthquake National Initial Response Plan and the Domestic and External Security Coordination system.

A state of national emergency would also be likely declared, rescue and emergency teams would be deployed and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would approach international partners for assistance.

- additional reporting by Jamie Morton

- NZ Herald

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