AF8 [Alpine Fault magnitude 8] is an award-winning programme of scientific modelling, coordinated response planning, and community engagement, designed to build resilience to the next Alpine Fault earthquake.
While we can’t predict when earthquakes will occur, scientific research indicates there is a 75% probability of an Alpine Fault earthquake occurring in the next 50 years, and that there is a 4 out of 5 chance that it will be a magnitude 8+ event. Geological evidence also shows that the Alpine Fault has a remarkably regular history of producing large earthquakes. Over the last 8000 years, the Alpine Fault has ruptured 27 times, on average that’s every 300 years. The last significant quake on the Alpine Fault was in 1717. The next severe earthquake on the Alpine Fault is likely to occur within the lifetime of most of us, or our children.
AF8 aims to share Alpine Fault hazard and impact science and preparedness information widely, through communication and engagement activities, to increase awareness, enable conversation and build societal preparedness to natural hazard events in Te Waipounamu our South Island.
Aotearoa New Zealand is aware of the Alpine Fault hazard risk and is enabled to take action to build resilience.
Emergency management and science working together to enable informed decision-making and increase Te Waipounamu our South Island’s readiness and response capability for the next Alpine Fault earthquake.
AF8 is best understood as a ‘boundary organisation’: an interdisciplinary partnership between research, policy and practice designed to support, build and coordinate readiness and response capability for the next great Alpine Fault earthquake, across the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. The programme was established and continues to be led by the 6 South Island Emergency Management (EM) Groups and key Alpine Fault hazard risk science partners Resilience to Nature’s Challenges (RNC) and QuakeCoRE: NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience.
Governance and leadership for the programme is provided by the AF8 Steering Group comprising the 6 South Island Group Managers, science leaders and a National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) representative. Emergency Management Southland acts as the chair and the administrative authority for AF8. West Coast Emergency Management currently acts as the deputy chair.
While AF8 has no statutory role, nor will it take on the role of managing a response to an Alpine Fault earthquake – these responsibilities lie with the EM Groups, NEMA and their partner agencies – the programme provides a critical platform to enable planning and preparedness and has several key roles:
We are more resilient when we work together and AF8 collaborates closely with other organisations aimed at increasing New Zealand's resilience to natural hazard events, including: Toka Tū Ake EQC who co-fund the AF8 Roadshow: The Science Beneath Our Feet and other public education activities, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University and GNS Science whose diverse research strengthens our understanding of the Alpine Fault and how we can be better prepared for natural hazard events.
AF8 is also a founding member of the Plate Boundary Network: a group of regionally branded natural hazard programmes actively involved in sharing natural hazard and impact science and supporting public education and engagement in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The short answer is (spoiler alert) no. Research shows that while there are periods of heightened activity, the overall occurrence rates are stable. But let’s take a look at why it might seem like earthquakes are on the rise...
Our Earth is a constantly changing and evolving beast shaped over millions of years by tectonic forces – like earthquakes and volcanoes – and weather. Like our bodies, the events of its long life leave scars and wrinkles, fractures, and wounds at every scale from the mighty mountain ranges to microscopic mineral structures. All of this is evidence to a keen geological eye...
Like the bogeyman lurking in the basement in a horror movie, the next big earthquake hides in our collective conscious – too scary to consider for many. Earthquakes are unpredictable and scary and the impacts of significant past earthquakes are etched into our history. But there is no avoiding it, we live on shaky islands – New Zealand records an average of 20,000 earthquakes each year – and the more we know, the better prepared we can be for the next ‘Big One’, whenever and wherever it comes.