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Ohau Point State highway 1 v2

Just after midnight on the 14 November 2016, most of central New Zealand woke following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The Kaikōura earthquake tore through fault lines, demolishing houses, ripping up roads and railways and causing massive landslides as it travelled. As far away as Wellington, people were shaken from their beds to take shelter. 

Mountain Biking

Ohau Point State Highway 1 v3

State Highway 1 north of Kaikōura

In scientific terms, the Kaikōura earthquake was a new phenomenon. Starting 70km south of Kaikōura, the quake ripped across several fault lines and ended 90km north of Kaikōura, only taking two minutes to travel its entire length. The earthquake ruptured along a record 21 fault lines, some of which were previously unknown. GeoNet described the 180km long rupture as the earth "unzipping” itself.


The Kaikōura quake was so powerful, parts of the South Island are now more than 5m closer to the North Island. Near the Papatea Fault, the ground was raised as much as 8m. The Kekerengu Fault had some of the biggest movements, with deep pieces of the Earth's crust shifting up to 25m at a depth of around 15km. 


Given the devastating loss and damage caused by the earthquake, as daylight broke the next morning the Kaikōura community banded together. Locals led an aid effort based out of the local Takahanga Marae and heartening scenes of a “lobster breakfast” and locals helping each other to begin the clean-up process in the quakes aftermath soon dislodged themes of destruction in the news headlines.



Aside from the damage caused on the land, one of the most devastating realisations was that of the local crayfish and paua communities coming under serious threat due to the major coastal uplift. Tens of thousands of sea life was left exposed on the new seabed and so local divers and fishermen quickly worked to save as much marine life as possible and relocated shellfish back to the sea.


One story that got a lot of media attention following the earthquake was that of “Cow Island”, leading three cows to become some of the most famous cattle in the world as they became the global face of the Kaikōura quake. Three cows were left stranded on a small grass island amidst the chaos after the massive tremor. The local farmer lead a rescue effort to save the cows and they now graze peacefully on a lush top paddock on his farm overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

"Close to a million cubic metres of rock and material [fell] onto the coastal transport corridor."




The 2016 earthquake generated the strongest ground acceleration ever recorded in New Zealand. With close to a million cubic metres of rock and material falling onto the coastal transport corridor, Kaikōura and the surrounding rural communities became isolated from the rest of the South Island.


The recovery effort to restore the transport corridor has been a remarkable team effort. On 15 December 2017, exactly one year, one month and one day on from the earthquake, the isolated communities’ north of Kaikōura were finally reconnected. Reopening the road in time for the busy holiday season was a much needed boost for the local community and a testament to the hard work of 1,700 crew members on the ground and the great team work of the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance partners.



Opening of the marina 1 year after the earthquake

Opening of the Kaikōura Marina


Today, Kaikōura has come out the other side of the earthquake as a strong, resilient community. To find out more information on the Kaikōura Earthquake and how it affected the people of Kaikōura, head into to the new Kaikōura Museum.


You are also able to read the stories of the extraordinary people who contributed to this race against time to get the transport corridor reopened again, and then built back stronger and more resilient by visiting the following website


The Cultural Artwork that can now be sighted along the coastal corridor evolved out of a design hui held in November 2018 between NCTIR and the Cultural Advisory Group about the stories that could be told along the Kaikōura coastline – and especially at several Safe Stopping Areas. These initial ideas have since developed into an extensive range of culturally significant artworks including pouwhenua & tekoteko (carved pillars), vapour blasted murals, laser cut corten steel and information panels. The artwork has been installed along the coastline from Oaro to Clarence.


Download this document to learn more about the stop off areas along the coastal corridor and their cultural significance. 


Cultural Artwork Story