What do you do if a fault line runs through the middle of your town?

Move the town, of course.

The 300-resident town of Franz Josef attracts about a million visitors a year but is on an alpine fault and faces further risk from the Waiho River, which may rise about 2m every 10 years. Moving the entire village about 10km north is an option about to be put to locals to avoid future earthquake and flooding risks.

A GNS science report says there is a moderate to high probability of a large earthquake in the next 50-100 years on the alpine fault.

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West Coast Regional Council chief executive Mike Meehan says the town could avoid the natural hazards in Franz Josef by moving to Lake Mapourika about 10km away, out of the flood area from the Waiho River, away from the alpine fault and the landslide risk.

Meehan told NZ Newswire this would create new investment opportunities, while protecting the town's tourism value.

"It would be an opportunity to get everything right," Meehan said.

"When you look at natural disasters around the world, decisions get made following the event. If there was time to plan they could've made a different decision. You could design the town to be really resilient."

The Alpine Fault runs through Franz Josef. Westland District Council Photo / Otago Daily Times
The Alpine Fault runs through Franz Josef. Westland District Council Photo / Otago Daily Times

The other options include either allowing the river to fan out in its natural pattern, which will reduce flooding risk and flood management costs or building stopbanks and clearing river gravel.

A report into the three options will be released in a few weeks and discussions with the community are expected to begin shortly.

- NZN