They're probably not a popular cause just now but let me attempt a plug for earthquakes.

Earthquakes make New Zealand great. We would not have a country without them.

It's those two enormous plates colliding and grinding that pushed New Zealand up out of the sea, creating the mountains, hills, river valleys and plains that we call home. The rain and ice is constantly breaking the mountains down but the converging plates keep pushing them up.

Earth would be a boring planet without plate tectonics and life wouldn't amount to much. There would be no New Zealand and probably no humans. It's the diversity of physical habitat that's made the great richness of life.


It's incredible to feel the earth shake and rumble and to witness the damage. The earth, that commonsense tells us should be solid "like a rock", instead shakes and rocks our houses like ships at sea.

The force is awesome. The release of that pent-up pressure shows how puny we are.

My little girls aren't frightened of earthquakes. They regard them as a natural process. "They're how mountains and rivers are made!" The rumbles in Christchurch are as commonplace as stormy nights.

They are also not so dangerous.

In the past 100 years only nine earthquakes have proved fatal in New Zealand. The total death toll is 467. The three most deadly were Napier, 1931 (256), Christchurch, 2011 (185) and Murchison, 1929 (19).

By way of contrast, the road toll last year was 319. It averaged 688 through the 1970s and 1980s.

An earthquake is not likely to kill us. They should not frighten us. We face far more dangerous hazards daily without a thought.

We should also be thankful we are not living through the end of the Permian period. Back then, 90 per cent of the oceans' species became extinct and 70 per cent of those on land. That was a time before dinosaurs. One theory is that the Earth's moving plates caused the mass extinction. I am not so sure: I will have to consult Bishop Brian Tamaki.


But one thing is clear: what earthquakes make they can unmake.