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Kaikoura quake liquefaction spurs research

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New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC) is funding research into liquefaction of soils after the Kaikoura earthquake showed the phenomena could have more widespread impacts than previously thought.

Before the 2016 event it was believed only sandy soils liquefied, but the earthquake triggered the same effect in natural and reclaimed gravelly areas.

“Wellington’s waterfront is on gravelly reclaimed land which liquefied with severe consequences for the port infrastructures,” University of Canterbury researcher Gabriele Chiaro said.

“We also had liquefaction in gravelly natural soil deposits in Blenheim, though in this case the extent of damage caused to land and structures was fortunately less severe.”

Dr Chiaro says the research will look at what can be done to help minimise risks and provide information so councils, planners and developers can make better decisions about building on that type of land.

Drilling to test resistance has started in the Marlborough region, with soils to be tested later using university equipment that can replicate the type of earthquake that causes liquefaction.

“We know that other countries are looking at this research with great interest and we expect to be putting out some international guidelines once we have the results,” Dr Chiaro said.