Weaving Mātauranga Māori and western science to strengthen our understanding of the Alpine Fault

Published: Fri Jun 28 2024 10:23 AM

The weaving together of different knowledge strands, Mātauranga Māori and western science, strengthens our understanding of our whenua (land) and supports conversations on how we can be better prepared for natural hazard events, such as an Alpine Fault earthquake, together.

The Alpine Fault is the longest naturally forming straight line on earth. It marks the meeting of two large tectonic plates and has formed over millions of years, stretching longer, lifting our landscape up out of the ocean, and creating the peaks of Kā Tiritiri o te Moana (Southern Alps) with every large earthquake it generates.

According to Ngāi Tahu creation stories, earthquakes are caused by Rūaumoko, the son of Ranginui (the Sky Father) and his wife Papatūanuku (the Earth Mother). Māori have experienced rū whenua, which means ‘the shaking of the land’ for centuries.

Science tells us that Rūaumoko rumbles the Alpine Fault about every 300 years, and the last time was in 1717. These big earthquakes have been happening for millions of years and the next one is not a case of if, but when. The next large Alpine Fault earthquake will be long and strong and significantly alter the landscape of Te Waipounamu as we know it. Landslides, liquefaction, river changes, flooding, tsunami, and aftershocks are all likely.

Don't be scared, be prepared!

Don't be scared, be prepared!

Don't be scared, be prepared!

A large Alpine Fault earthquake happening in our lifetimes is no doubt a scary thought! However, understanding how our whenua has moved in the past helps us prepare to move with it in the future. While we can’t predict when it will happen, we can work together to be better prepared for it by sharing our mātauranga (knowledge), science, and experiences of past earthquakes and emergencies to raise awareness, build understanding, and strengthen our relationships. The better connected we are beforehand, the easier it will be to support each other during and after a catastrophic event.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and the AF8 Programme have co-produced a video series to raise awareness and encourage whānau and communities to take steps to be better prepared. Join the Manawatu whānau as they travel to Te Tai Poutini (West Coast) to explore stories of the Alpine Fault and our whenua. Find out what it means for our future and how we can work together to share our knowledge, prepare our homes, and protect our whānau.

Kauraka e Mataku, kia Takatū! Don't be scared, be prepared!

Matariki is an important time for all New Zealanders. This is the time when whānau ensure their pātaka (food storehouses) are full. It is a time for us to reflect on the past and plan for our future.

Get your whānau together for a kōrero, discuss what you will do in emergency situations, make a plan together and test it. Review and restock your emergency supplies and perhaps think about how you can work with your community to be better prepared together.

Visit: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu’s website for more information about the video series, and tips on how to prepare for natural hazards that are common in Aotearoa.

Read: A future Alpine Fault earthquake and the AF8 Programme

Earthquakes can occur anywhere in New Zealand at any time. In the event of a large earthquake: Drop, Cover and Hold.

Drop, Cover and Hold

Drop, Cover and Hold

Drop, Cover and Hold

Remember Long or Strong, Get Gone : If you are near the coast, lake, or any large body of water and feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up OR a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more move immediately to the nearest high ground or as far inland as you can, out of any coastal tsunami evacuation zones.

Know what to do?

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has a great website with information on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Prepare your home. Protect your whānau.

There’s a lot we can do to make our homes safer and stronger for natural hazards. EQC Toka Tū Ake's website has key steps to get you started.

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