MPs off to Auckland when the big one hits

Parliament would move to the Devonport naval base if a catastrophic earthquake hit Wellington, a draft report reveals.

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye yesterday released a Cabinet paper and draft plan for the temporary relocation of Parliament to Auckland after a devastating quake.

"The draft arrangements cover a worst-case scenario where the impact of a major earthquake is so severe that Parliament and executive government could not function effectively in Wellington," she said.

The Wellington fault line runs under the central city and could generate quakes of magnitude 8 or larger.

The paper said a severe quake was likely to cut off Wellington's road and rail access for three months, wipe out power, water and sewerage networks for several months, make telecommunications unusable, and severely affect food and housing supply.

Parliament must by law sit within seven days of a national disaster.

The Cabinet has already agreed that the best place for a temporary parliament is Auckland, because several government departments are based there and because of its accommodation capacity.

The paper outlines plans to transport 164 people to Auckland - the Governor-General and family, MPs, ministerial staff and support staff.

But if required, government could operate with a skeleton staff. The minimum attendance required for Parliament to sit was the Speaker, a minister, and the Clerk of the House.

"This relocation would allow the Government to continue to govern effectively, while mobilising national and international support for Wellington," Ms Kaye said.

"The Government must also govern the rest of the country, and in a worst case scenario this may not be possible from Wellington if access was difficult, and communications and facilities were limited."

Parliament would have to move to government-owned land, and an emergency facility at the Devonport naval base was the most likely option.

The paper is part of wider response plans for all Wellington residents.

- Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

Add a Comment