In September 2010 a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near CHC in the South Island of New Zealand. The earthquake's epicentre was 40 kilometres west of CHC and the result of the quake was widespread damage and power outages. Aftershocks continued well into 2011, with the most devastating being a magnitude 6.3 on 22 February 2011, which caused the loss of life, extensive damage to the city of and left many people in need of assistance.
The city’s wastewater infrastructure, which had been compromised since the 2010 quake, had suffered numerous collapses in conjunction with extensive silt build-up and required immediate attention. A taskforce, consisting of several contractors from around Aust , was mobilised in March 2011, with Kembla Watertech sending over CCTV/Jetting units and a Combination truck.
Fourteen Kembla crew members, headed up by Kembla’s Northern Division, volunteered to join the taskforce. The crew landed in CHC on 28March 2011, which coincided with the disembarking of the three Kembla trucks, which had spent 10 days on a freight vessel crossing “the pond”. The arrival of the two CCTV/Jetting units and the Combination truck enabled the crews to get straight to work.
The majority of main lines were blocked due to liquefaction and the lateral lines that fed from residential properties to the main lines were also blocked, depriving residents of adequate wastewater management. The situation was dire and a seemingly immeasurable amount of work needed to be done. The sheer quantity of liquefaction within the sewer lines had a major impact on the time spent on every line, so progress was slower than hoped leaving the crews feeling there was not enough time in the day to get the city back up on its feet as quickly as it needed to be. Work plans were frequently interrupted with emergency work priorities being issued by Christchurch City Care, and the logistics of getting in and around the city to work sites proved challenging with road closures and detours. This was compounded by the vast numbers of contractors from various industries all trying to rehabilitate the city together at the same time.
The Kembla crew have now been living and working in the earthquake affected region since March. Due to the collapse of many buildings and the resultant shortage of accommodation, they’ve been calling campervans and RV’s home since arriving. Despite the cramped living conditions, frequent aftershocks and constant homesickness, the Kembla crew remain positive and committed to their ongoing work in and are looking forward to returning the wastewater system to being fully functional.