Sunday's 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch could delay insurance and rebuilding progress in the city as seismic activity needs to die down before those efforts properly get underway, Prime Minister John Key says.
The offshore quake at 8:34 pm on Sunday was the largest in the region since a 6.3 magnitude quake on June 13. It was classified as a new event for insurance purposes by the Earthquake Commission, meaning homeowners can lodge a new claim for any damage arising from the quake.
Speaking at his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon, Key said that prior to the quake, seismic activity had been calming down. However the latest quake could "slightly delay" the progress made.
"It probably supports the view that the government's been putting up, which is, there is ongoing seismic activity there. Until that actually stabilises, it becomes difficult to really mobilise the rebuilding effort. But we can use that time to do what we are doing, which is, extensive planning and obviously demolition of damaged buildings," Key said.
"It doesn't help the situation. When you've got these reasonable shocks, that tends to push things back," he said.
The government was continuing to work with insurance companies, and provide them with best geotechnical information possible.
"The pleasing thing prior to this point, because I understand there was a bit of seismic activity around that fault on the Saturday as well, was that prior to that, the decay curves had been looking better and the seismic activity was calming down," Key said.
Need to wait for aftershocks to really cease
In June, following the large aftershock on June 13, Fletcher Building CEO Jonathan Ling told interest.co.nz in a Double Shot interview that rebuilding would not be able to take place until the aftershocks stemming from the large September and February quakes which hit the city had ceased.
"Every time you start to rebuild something and we have an aftershock, it has got to be inspected again and evaluated to see if there are cracks in foundations and all those sorts of things. The last thing anyone wants to do is rebuild twice or three, or four or five times," Ling told Gareth Vaughan.
"I think the reality is that the rebuild in proper won’t really start until the aftershocks really cease," Ling added.
In the Christchurch central business district (CBD) there were some 900 buildings that needed to be demolished before rebuilding there started.
"The aftershocks are not really hampering the demolition too much but there’s an awful lot of demolition to go on before the CBD rebuild will really start and I think that will take 9-12 months," Ling said.
Once the aftershocks eased off, Fletcher and others were ready to go. Ling said all the infrastructure and planning mechanisms were in place, and the rebuild would be "smooth" once it was able to really get going.