Trophy Icon2The Kaikoura emergency joint rail and road project recovery response was awarded the highest honour by the Institute of Civil Engineers.


Natural Disasters: the most complex earthquake ever. 

On 14th November 2016, Kaikoura and the North Canterbury region was hit by a Magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Local communities were severely affected by its wide-ranging damage.

The quake struck just after midnight, 15km north-east of Culverden, North Canterbury, starting near the town of Waiau. The earthquake caused thousands of landslides and damaged a number of community and transport lifelines.

Landslides cut the town of Kaikoura off from road and rail access, and the initial emergency response was limited to air and sea.

Emergency road access was first restored through Route 70, the Inland Kaikoura Road.  State Highway One, and the Main North Railway line were affected by approximately 90 slips along the Kaikoura coast. However, the impact of the earthquake stretched beyond the transport network; it also severely affected the regions agriculture and tourism industries.

Geologically, the earthquake is unique in being the greatest recorded number of faults to rupture in a single event. It was considered ‘the most complex earthquake’ ever recorded with modern instruments.

WSP Opus were brought in as an emergency response team alongside NZTA maintenance contractors Downer, to re-establish road access through the Inland Road (Route 70) and State Highway 1 South.

We worked together with the North Canterbury Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) team to rebuild and reopen the Main North Railway Line by September 2017, and State Highway One North of Kaikoura by December 2017.

Presently, WSP Opus continues to contribute to the NCTIR team, assisting to complete the core recovery and rebuild projects and to improve the reliability and future resilience of these networks.

WSP Opus Engineering Geologist, Frances Neeson and Major Projects Leader, Simon Robertson discuss the three response phases WSP Opus have contributed to, following this natural disaster.

Project Breakdown



Project Budget

1.2 Billion NZD (total project budget)

Start date

Nov 2016


Services Sub-Alliance – WSP Opus, Aurecon and Tonkin and Taylor.