Tsunami line proves no bar to a good house price

THE THIN BLUE LINE: The family home of Tom Dunn, with his son Eddie, 2, falls into the tsunami evacuation zone.
THE THIN BLUE LINE: The family home of Tom Dunn, with his son Eddie, 2, falls into the tsunami evacuation zone.

Hazard zone markings appear to have no negative impact on house prices - which will be a relief to residents of Wellington's south coast suburbs as new tsunami lines are drawn.

Fourteen blue lines will be painted on roads, and information boards will be put up, across Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie today by the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office, or Wremo.

The first markings were in Island Bay, after the community contacted emergency planners in 2010 about computer flood maps.

New Wellington tsunami risk line
New Wellington tsunami risk line

Some people were concerned the move could affect property values.

But Real Estate Institute data showed house prices in Island Bay rose after the lines went down in 2011, Wremo community resilience manager Dan Neely said. Most people had realised the blue lines simply highlighted a natural hazard, not an introduced one.

This was supported by international university studies, one of which looked at house sales in Thames and Te Aroha before and after flooding hazard maps were published, and showed property prices were unaffected.

The news may be a surprise to Kapiti Coast residents, who have campaigned against erosion lines affecting 1800 properties.

First National real estate agent Grant Longstaff said the modelling had affected some Kapiti Coast buyers but not others. "In terms of prices, they dropped back a little bit, but that can come and go with the market."

Harcourts Wellington City agent Marty Scott agreed with research saying the tsunami lines had no discernable impact on property prices in south coast suburbs.

He also doubted homeowners in Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie would notice any differences.

Insurance premiums should also be unaffected, Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said. "We haven't been given any information there's any special consideration given to tsunami zones in New Zealand, in terms of how the premium is made up."

Tsunami damage is covered by the Earthquake Commission.

Neely said interest in rolling out the blue lines peaked after the Japanese tsunami three years ago. "We got calls from across the region. People wanted to know the safety zones in their coastal communities."

Planners consulted the communities before the markings went in, he said. The biggest input was often over the best evacuation routes, painted as arrows.

"It's not on our GPS, but everybody in the community knows the track behind Bob's house goes up the hill."

Neely said Island Bay residents came up with the "brilliant, elegant, simple" idea of painting lines on the roads at the maximum water height of a projected worst-case tsunami.

The lines also meant Island Bay and neighbouring areas were far more aware than other coastal suburbs about tsunami risks, a study overseen by GNS Science found. "They're a strong piece of education - they're really obvious," GNS natural hazard scientist Graham Leonard said.



Lyall Bay homeowner Tom Dunn thought the new markings across the Kilbirnie and Melrose hills would be good for tsunami preparedness, but more was needed. "I'd rather have a civil defence alert system than a blue line telling me where we should run to. We pretty much had that figured."

The firefighter was unconcerned about any effect the marking might have on his Puru Cres house, because his family had no plans to sell. "Though I could imagine some people might do."

Kilbirnie resident Adele Trezise was one of those who worked with the regional emergency management office on the Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie routes. Her house in Ross St is also in the evacuation zone. "It's kind of nice to know - whether people are in a safe zone or where to find a safe spot if I have to."

Through the project, she discovered there was a lot of misinforrmation around, such as the idea that evacuees could use their cars after a major shake. "Most people thought they were in a safe zone in the Kilbirnie shopping centre but, no, they're not."



If shaking lasts longer than a minute and/or If a quake knocks you off your feet


Don't wait for the siren or official warnings

Leave immediately on foot or by bicycle – do not drive

Check your vulnerable neighbours – but don't dawdle

Wremo advises people living below the blue lines to practise their safety routes at least once.

The Dominion Post