Quake affected communities in the Nelson-Marlborough region have been told to dig their own toilets.

A new public health message includes instructions around safe drinking water, food preparation, waste disposal and how to cope with stress and anxiety in the wake of Monday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

Drinking water

Seddon and Ward town water supplies have been damaged.


Dr Ed Kiddle, Medical Officer of Health for Nelson Marlborough Health, advises boiling all drinking water from either of these supplies.

Private water supplies and individual household supplies may also have been damaged by the earthquake.

"If you are unsure about the quality of your drinking water it is sensible to boil it," Kiddle said.

• Boil or treat water from before drinking, brushing teeth or using in food preparation. Water from the Ward Civil Defence Welfare Centre tanks is treated and doesn't need boiling.
• Bring the water to a rolling boil (for example when an automatic kettle shuts off); it is not necessary to boil it for longer than this.
• If you cannot boil water, treat it by adding 1 teaspoon (5ml) of plain ( non-scented) household bleach per 10 litres of water and leave for 30 minutes.

Upset stomachs, diarrhoea and or vomiting

If you are sick, limit contact with other people, do not go to work and do not prepare food for anyone.

Call your GP if you require medical attention. It is important you address your health concerns early with your general practice team.

Contact Healthline on 0800 611 116, or if it is an emergency call 111.


• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, dry them thoroughly, then use sanitiser (or just use sanitiser if there is no water available).
• Always wash hands after using the toilet and before preparing food.

Take care with food

If there have been power cuts, use chilled food first, then frozen, then packaged and canned.

If you are unsure about the safety of any food because of the lack of chilled or frozen storage do not eat it.

Stress and anxiety

Anxiety and associated emotional effects are very common when earthquakes occur.
"This is a normal response to a very stressful situation," Kiddle said.

• Talking to people and helping others is useful and if you need further support call 0800 777 846 for support and advice (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Human waste (sewage)

If sewerage systems or septic tanks have been damaged, avoid overflows and ponding of human waste.

Protective clothing, gloves and good hand washing are important if you are dealing with sewage systems.

If your toilet is not working bury human waste in your garden. Thoroughly wash your hands immediately after contact with human waste.

Contact a registered drainlayer and your insurance company for repairs.

Use portable toilets where they are provided.

How to make a temporary toilet:
• If your toilet is still intact, put a strong plastic bag under your toilet seat to collect waste.
• Alternatively line a bucket or rubbish bin with a strong, leak-proof plastic bag.
Put half a cup of liquid bleach in the bag.
• For a bucket or rubbish bin toilet make a seat from two planks of wood or use a toilet seat on top of the container. Keep the bin completely covered when not in use, to prevent attracting flies.
• Dig a hole well away from the vegetable garden and downhill from any water source. Dispose of waste by burying or flushing when your services are restored. Make sure the waste is well covered with dirt.

How to make a long-drop toilet:
• Dig a hole up to 1m deep well away from the vegetable garden and any water source.
• Make a seat out of planks of wood or use the toilet seat.
• Cover the waste properly with dirt after each use.
• Throw in a little garden lime, insecticide or disinfectant to reduce smells and flies.
• Use the long-drop until it is full to within 300mm of ground level.
• Cover completely with soil and dig a new long-drop.