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Experts think supporting the remote communities cut off by an Alpine Fault earthquake will be a huge challenge.
The longest natural straight line on earth, the Alpine fault runs over 800km between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates.
As a result of research over the last two decades, we now know that there is a 75 per cent likelihood of an earthquake on the Alpine Fault in the next 50 years, and an 82 per cent chance it will be over eight on the Richter scale.
Over the last 8000 years, there has been a major earthquake on the Alpine Fault roughly every 300 years. The last one was in 1717.
Kara Edwards, of Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio, said they have a big area that they aspire to look after which extends from Milford Sound in the south, Hari Hari in the north and inland to the main divides.
"The impacts for us from an Alpine Fault rupture are likely to be big, huge.
"We know this because this is how our landform has been formed. From the air, it's pretty dramatic ... a timeline for the Alpine fault moving, essentially," she said.
Westland District CEO Simon Bastion acknowledges that Hokitika is right in the centre of where a significant impact will be.
"The issue with the West Coast and Westland is its isolation. We are very reliant on our infrastructure, in particular our roading in and out of the West Coast."
He says there are only three ways in and three ways out and all of those will be at risk.
"The biggest worry for our residents would be the longevity of an isolation period. Three weeks to six weeks we would pretty well handle in a heartbeat but then we would find constraints around ensuring we get supplies to those critical areas."
Civil Defence has installed a massive container near the Hokitika airport, which will serve as headquarters and is slowly accumulating emergency food and equipment.
Most of Hokitika is not far above sea level but Seaview Lodge, a historic building that was once a mental hospital, sits on a terrace above the town and ocean and will be used for evacuations.
The implications for people needing urgent medical care are also daunting.
There is one main hospital on the West Coast, the newly constructed Te Nīkau Grey Hospital and Health Centre in Greymouth.
Dr Caroline Orchiston is the science lead for the AF8 campaign — a collaboration between Civil Defence Emergency Management and Alpine Fault scientists to communicate the scientific evidence to the communities that need to hear about it.
She said New Zealand had a recent history of dealing with disasters and what they observed is that people come together and help each other.
"I am confident New Zealand will manage this event really well, it's going to be tough times but we can become more resilient and prepare for this event if we put in the work now."
Edwards said marae and Iwi can play an incredible role in terms of planning and particularly, in the response.
"Because a core value that drives our culture is Manakitanga and looking after people.
"If you think about the Kaikōura earthquake, Ngāi Tahu swung into action around understanding what the impacts were, and not just on our own people but the impacts on the entire community."
The West Coast has lived with this in their own backyard for quite some time, Bastion said.
"They know it's there and they are willing to live with that risk," he said.
• For further information about AF8 visit the website and for how you can best prepare visit getready.govt.nz
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air