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Blog – Why Auckland’s quake even made the news

Friday night’s small earthquake in Auckland may have been small on the Richter Scale but it was still something for the history books.

It was similar in force to about five aftershocks that hit Christchurch yesterday but unlike Christchurch, Auckland not only rarely has earthquakes, it rarely feels them from surrounding regions either.

GeoNet said that in suburbs near the epicentre the tremor was felt as a 5 on the modified Mercalli intensity scale, which measures an earthquake’s effects on people and their environment, reported the NZ Herald.

It runs to 12; the disastrous February 22 earthquake in Christchurch rated at 9 – “destructive”. 

So the quake was moderately felt in some suburbs.

But comments to and on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook seem to have divided people with attacks on Aucklanders and a bit of one-up-manship from people who have felt bigger.

The thing is, feeling an earthquake in Auckland is extremely rare.  While every few years a small quake will give the city a brief jolt the majority of Aucklanders never feel a thing. 

So to feel an earthquake in Auckland can, in fact, be a once in a lifetime thing. 

It’s for that reason that it made the headlines. 

Similar sized quakes have been known to make the headlines in Australia, England and Canada too – in areas that aren’t used to them. 

Add on top of that many Aucklanders, who have had huge empathy for those in Canterbury, also feel some of the emotion stemming from Christchurch.

I don’t blame people in Christchurch for feeling like this belittles what they are going through.  But again, Aucklanders are told time and time again that a volcanic eruption is something they should be prepared for – there was even a movie earlier this year depicting a dramatic volcanic eruption right in the CBD.  

The Herald has had a story that surfaces from time to time since February 22 about the 5000 buildings in Auckland at risk from collapse in an strong earthquake.

Rangitoto Island only erupted around 600 years ago – and Maori witnessed it.  In historical terms this is a newborn volcano.   Many of the comments that I read last night were from people concerned this might have been something related to volcanic activity – the good news is that it wasn’t.

So I understand why some who felt it were a little bit freaked out. 

This coming from someone who not only lived through the Edgecumbe earthquake but also feared for my life in the September 4 earthquake in Christchurch last year and since then I have visited Christchurch almost every month to report on the city.   I am accutely aware of what is serious and what is not.  This was not serious by a long shot – but you simply can’t dismiss the way some people reacted to feeling it – or the fear of it being linked to volcanic activity…this city has as many as 50 volcanoes dotted across it.

Aucklanders were quick to mock themselves too, with people posting funny comments and photos on Facebook.  One photo I saw showed a t-shirt that read “I survived Auckland’s 2.9 earthquake” and another showed a latte that had been spilt.

I’ve lived in Auckland for 11 years and most of my friends from this city weren’t born here.  In fact the majority of my Auckland friends are actually from Christchurch, so I kinda get tired of people slagging off Aucklanders.   I was born in Te Puke, Bay of Plenty, and now I live here.  

The small earthquake was simply something rare that gave some people a bit of a fright – after 9 months of hearing and seeing just how deadly and destructive an earthquake can be it’s not surprising.

But while most Aucklanders today will be discussing the fact they never felt anything at all, there will be others that may never feel another earthquake again. 

So yes, absolutely small, absolutely nothing compared to Christchurch – but it’s not a competition, it’s simply news.  And this news story will be mostly forgotten in the near future unlike the horror that has unfolded further south in Christchurch which will never be forgotten in our lifetime.

– Homepage image Chris Gin

– Blog written by Philip Duncan,


Guest on 2/07/2011 9:56am


I like your post for different reasons.
a) @, we experience almost daily oversensitive reactions like in Auckland. I think this is normal. People in Chile need a M 6.5 before they wake up, but small tremors are making people panic with a 2.9 quake elsewhere. The main reason will certainly be : used to it or not (although nobody can get used to earthquakes i guess)
b) every earthquake is felt differently. The focal mechanisms are completely different in every earthquake which make people feel it totally different.
c) I have a hard time however to understand the V MMI from Geonet (moderate shaking) as mentioned in your article. If the depth they published is correct (9 km) combined with a magnitude of 2.9, the max. MMI should be more a III than a V. So, I guess the mentioned MMI are the individual opinions of some people.
d) i have included your article in our daily “Earthquake Related News” as it is very typical for areas with few earthquakes all over the world, and not only in Auckland

earthquake-Report dot com

Guest on 2/07/2011 7:58am

I knew the comments would start flowing this morning when I initially read about the 2.9 quake in Auckland. Being from Canterbury, and having experienced all the earthquakes, I guess the initial reaction is “what…this is news?”. But Phil is right, and so are a number of other people commenting. We all appreciate what everyone has done for us down here, and we all need to stick together as New Zealander’s. Most people are still stressed out about everything that has happened, and I guess that is where most of the negative comments come from. No earthquake is a good earthquake :(.

WW Forecast Team on 2/07/2011 10:33am

Out of all the comments I’ve read over the past 24 hours, this is my favourite.  A nicely written, balanced, point of view.

Hope you tell us your name?!

Kind regards

Philip Duncan

Sue on 2/07/2011 6:55am

Cmon ppl enuf Jafa slagging. We need to stand by each other not ridicule , label or judge,

Zelda Wynn on 2/07/2011 3:06am

I thank you for your well written blog. I do wish people could stop attacking each other, though it may be because of mental illness as people have been quaked out.
I hail from Napier a city of many quakes 🙂

Jessica on 2/07/2011 2:34am

I’ve lived in Auckland since I was four and we’ve always known that the many volcanoes that make up our landscapes are like sleeping giants. Also we this volcanic field is not extinct! Also chances are another eruption will likely come from a new volcano which could emerge from our backyard! Anyway how come Auckland is prone to Volcanoes and not earthquakes?

nate on 2/07/2011 12:52am

Fair article Phil but perhaps it wasn’t breaking news as you had on here and could have been written as a tremor instead of an earthquake to try and stop some of the hysteria and over reaction?


WW Forecast Team on 2/07/2011 1:26am

Fair point Nate – although most of the media lead with it as a breaking story for about an hour, which we did too before pushing it off our lead story space. 

Interestingly we actually had more comments posted to our site and our Facebook site than all the Christchurch earthquakes combined – a reflection of the size of Auckland probably – plus the quake wasnt big enough to disrupt lives like Christchurch, so easy for people to jump on to the internet.

Appreciate your comment

– WeatherWatch Weekends

Guest on 1/07/2011 11:58pm

Yes, the comments from some Cantabs leave a lot to be desired. I’m not in/from Auckland by the way.

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