A staggering 26 buildings in the tiny North Canterbury town of Waiau, which has a population of about 300, have been red-stickered following safety checks, confirming what locals have suspected over the past week, that they bore the brunt of last Monday's giant earthquake.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Canterbury believes that building inspectors have assessed, checked or inspected more than 1300 homes in the Hurunui District where the magnitude-7.8 tremor was centred.

Of them, around 1000 white stickers have been posted on buildings ruled safe to use.

About 120 yellow stickers have been issued, which means those structures may have some damage and use is restricted.

However, 51 buildings in Hurunui have been issued with red stickers so far, of which 26 are in Waiau, Civil Defence Emergency Management Canterbury group controller Neville Riley told the Herald today.

Red stickers mean the building is unsafe and entry is prohibited.

For a town the size of Waiau, it is a devastating blow.

"It's a significant number," Riley said.

As well as many homes being destroyed, several key community buildings have been ruled off limits, including its only pub, bowling club, Scouts den, swimming pool, kindergarten, and church.

The historic Hurunui Hotel has also been red-stickered after an initial inspection cleared it for us.

This yellow sticker shows restricted access to the house in Waiau. Photo / Mike Scott
This yellow sticker shows restricted access to the house in Waiau. Photo / Mike Scott

Riley said that a total of 63 households in Hurunui that have been displaced "for a variety of reasons".

The newly-homeless and badly affected Waiau residents are being cared for in the town hall after initially sheltering in the primary school.

"I know the Hurunui district is doing all it can to support them," Riley said.

The school, which has a roll of 55 pupils, re-opened today with principal Mary Kimber saying it was critical for the local children to have routine and structure return to their shaken-up lives.

The first wave of building inspections are designed to ensure the safety of residents, Riley said.

A further inspection at a later date will confirm the building's status.

"Some of those red stickers may be reduced later," Riley said.

Figures show that things were "not quite as bad in Kaikoura".

Riley said just over half of the 849 buildings they need to visit have been checked.

So far, 34 buildings in Kaikoura have been red-stickered, while another 86 have been given a yellow sticker.

But Riley said there is still a lot of work to do.

"We are cracking on and this is very important," he said.