Earthquake record in 2016

Earthuakes were prominent in news in 2016 and for good reason – not only was there on of the biggest recorded earthquakes in New Zealand history, there were a record number of earthquakes recorded.

Number of earthquakes:

  • about 20,000 on average per year
  • 29,000 recorded in 2011 (a bad year in Christchurch)
  • 38,828 earthquakes recorded in 2016

This is a big jump but it’s not really surprising given the chain reaction across multiple faults in the North Canterbury shakes last year.

Most of those were recorded by sensitive instruments and wouldn’t have been felt, but there were still quite a few that shook enough to be noticed.

  • 7.0 or more – 2 (7.8 and 7.1)

Geonet: 2016 in review: The Groundbreaker

The M.7.8 Kaikoura earthquake will not go into the global history book of earthquakes because of its magnitude; the Ring of Fire regularly gets that size and much larger earthquakes. What makes it unique is two things: how it ruptured across the faults through the North Canterbury and Marlborough Fault areas and the slow-slip earthquakes triggered by M7.8.

  • 6.0-6.9 – 10
  • 5.0-5.9 – 122

Geonet Facts and Stats:

Frequency of New Zealand Earthquakes (1960 to 2015)
Magnitude Annual Average Minimum Maximum “Rule of Thumb”
4.0 – 4.9 451 184 1,343 1 per day
5.0 – 5.9 51 19 127 4 per month
6.0 – 6.9 2.7 0 9 5 per 2 years
7.0 – 7.9 0.4 0 2 1 per 2.5 years
8.0 or over 0 0 0 1 per century*
* Based on geological investigations and historical record of earthquakes.

So there were significantly more than average in 2016.

There have been many images of the many fault lines, land slips and broken land.

The latest images were taken from planes by Land Information New Zealand (Linz) and the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), and are  here.

Stuff has some before and after slide views in Before and after the Kaikoura quake: images show colossal damage.

 

Earthquakes haven’t gone away

People in North Canterbury, Marlborough and the Wellington region, and further afield,  were reminded that the earthquake onslaught isn’t over yet. The more significant quakes over the weekend:

  • 4.6 (strong) 30 km south-west of Wellington – Sat, Nov 26 2016, 3:22:03 am
  • 5.1 (severe) 35 km north of Wairoa – Sat, Nov 26 2016, 8:21:42 pm
  • 3.9 (moderate) 20 km south-east of Culverden – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 8:25:29 pm
  • 4.5 (moderate) 35 km west of Paraparaumu – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 9:31:11 pm
  • 4.1 moderate) 20 km south-east of Seddon – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 9:33:28 am
  • 3.7 (moderate) 10 km south-west of Kaikoura – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 7:46:44 pm
  • 4.8 (strong) 15 km east of Seddon – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 9:42:16 pm
  • 4.1 (moderate) 20 km south-east of Seddon – Sun, Nov 27 2016, 10:05:32 pm

The latest from 7 am update:

  • 125 earthquakes in last 12 hour
  • 220 earthquakes in last 24 hrs (4 over M4)
  • 6159 earthquakes since the M7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake.

geonet2016november28

So while in general the frequency and size of the quakes is gradually easing off it is not all over yet, and periodically some bigger quakes come back to remind those in the shaking region.

Geonet still predicts an 81% chance of an M6-6.9 shake in the next 30 days and 99% in the next year, and a 34% chance of a greater than M7 in the next year.

Geonet: Latest Updates and Scenarios and Probabilities

No imminent ‘large aftershock’ threat

The multi region structure of Civil Defence showed it’s weakness again yesterday when West Coast Civil Defence warned people to prepare for a ‘large aftershock’, but this was talked down by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Geonet, who said their information had been misinterpreted.

West Coast Civil Defence have since retracted their warning.

Aftershocks are normal after large earthquakes. So far there have been over 5,000 aftershocks following the Culverden-Kaikoura-Seddon M7.8 earthquake on Monday last week.

6.30am update: 7 eq in last hour, 156 eqs in last 12 hrs ( only 2 over M4) and 5456 eqs since the M7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake – @Geonet

They seem to be following a normal pattern of reduced frequency and size with a few bigger  blips.

Geonet have made general predictions of aftershocks based on statistics, which includes the likelihood that there will be large aftershocks some time. But it is not possible to accurately predict how big, nor when.

Regardless of the uncertainty people throughout New Zealand should be prepared for any earthquake event.

Newshub: National Civil Defence says no imminent ‘large aftershock’ threat

West Coast Civil Defence Public Information Manager Andy Thompson earlier said the aftershock activity in the area been “suspiciously quiet”.

“The GeoNet seismograph drums have been very quiet for the last day or so and the normally higher aftershock sequence of large quakes has not been occurring in the Kaikoura area,” said a statement from West Coast Civil Defence.

West Coast Civil Defence regional manager Chris Raine said another worry is that an area in Arthur’s Pass slightly west of the divide has experienced a number of small tremors in the last few days.

He said it’s an area they have been monitoring closely, with Mr Thompson describing it as “highly sensitive”.

West Coast Civil Defence has staff on duty this weekend to be available in the case of aftershocks and the forecasted heavy rain that is expected to start tomorrow morning.

They are urging locals to stock up on enough food, water, cash and medicine to last a week, and to ensure they have an emergency plan in place.

“If an earthquake is so strong that people can’t stand up, or rolling lasts more than a minute, they should evacuate inland,” regional manager Chris Raine said.

 The problem isn’t with the advice, but with the warning of an imminent large aftershock in their region.

But GeoNet say the science they’re using to authenticate the warning is simply incorrect.

“Just because the drums have been quiet for a day means absolutely nothing,” GeoNet seismologist John Ristau said.

“We kind of want to distance ourselves from this – we don’t know why they’ve gone out and done this.”

Mr Ristau says it is not usually Civil Defence’s policy to issue a warning without checking in with them first.

“Civil Defence would talk to us, we advise them, and they would never release anything without talking to us.

“What [West Coast Civil Defence] have done is looked at our [seismograph] drums, and taken the information we’ve put out and made their own interpretations.”

The Ministry of Civil Defence’s head office was also bemused by what was put out by the West Coast offshoot when contacted by Newshub, with a spokesperson saying they’re not aware of any increased risk of a strong aftershock.

The spokesperson reiterated that they are in regular contact with GeoNet, and would seldom issue a warning without consulting them first.

@Geonet tweeted at 7:13 last night:

Reminder: We produce forecasts and scenarios NOT specific eq warnings regarding aftershocks. if you see an eq warning, it’s not from GeoNet

Followed by

Contrary to some reports the Ministry of Civil Defence has not issued an earthquake threat warning for West Coast

On Facebook yesterday at 7:18 pm::

Please share this with anyone you know who is worried.

Contrary to some reports there is no “imminent threat” to the West Coast from earthquakes. Neither have we issued an earthquake threat warning.

After a large earthquake there is always an increased likelihood of aftershocks, some of which may be large.

Remember: drop, cover and hold until the shaking stops.

If you feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a rolling earthquake that lasts longer than a minute, or observe strange sea behaviour such as the sea level suddenly rising and falling, or the sea making loud and unusual should move immediately to high ground, or as far inland as possible.

Since Monday GeoNet have been issuing earthquake forecasts based on the best science they have available – their most recent one can be found here: http://info.geonet.org.nz/…/M7.8+Kaikoura+Quake%3A+Future+S…

 And they followed up at 22:05 pm:

On our previous post: West Coast Civil Defence Emergency Management have retracted their urgent warning around large aftershocks on the West Coast. Media ran their stories in good faith and we thank them for running clarifications.

Remember – after a large earthquake there is always an increased likelihood of aftershocks, some of which may be large. Check out our previous post for more advice on what to do in quake.

You can find the latest earthquake forecasts from the good folk at GeoNet

The disjointedness between Geonet, national Civil Defence and all the Civil Defence regions is messy and needs to be tidied up.

West Coast Civil defence have now retracted their urgent warning.

Stuff: Large aftershocks a possibility, but there are no ‘urgent warnings’

West Coast Civil Defence Regional manager Chris Raine initially refused to answer questions from the media about the release, saying he was not prepared but was dealing with the fallout with the ministry. 

From his home in Greymouth, he said he accepted people were concerned after the release was issued and apologised.

“I apologise. It was done in the best interests of the West Coast people,” he said.

“I withdraw the urgent warning completely.”

He added Thompson, who issued the release, may have “misinterpreted” the risk of aftershocks.

This is ridiculous. The only thing missing is a full moon.

Each local emergency management office was responsible for its region, Clifford said. The Ministry for Civil Defence was a “central coordinator” for emergency responses, she said.

“The West Coast have a responsibility for their community and they have acted in what they think is the best for their community,” Clifford said.

She urged people to follow the information and advice issued by GNS Science and the Ministry of Civil Defence.

“The press release that has come from West Coast was not sent on behalf of the ministry,” she said.

The current disjointed way that Civil Defence advises the public is hopeless. And poor.

The West Coast Civil Defence website gives no obvious indication of any of this, it seems to have all happened via media.

This is hopeless. Where should we look for up to date information and warnings on earthquakes? I have no idea.

The national Civil Defence website has general information but nothing specific. Their last News and events ‘new update’ is remarkably dated 10 November, before any of these earthquakes occurred.

We should all know exactly where to go online for the latest information and advice.

Press gallery (on top of thousands of public servants) evacuated

The earthquake aftermath continues in Wellington with the latest evacuation being from the Parliamentary press gallery building.

Political journalists have been complaining about their offices for a few days.

Stuff: Political reporters vacating Parliamentary press gallery office over earthquake concerns

Fairfax Media political reporters were told by their managers on Thursday to vacate the press gallery building behind Parliament, which has been yellow stickered as an earthquake prone building since 2014.

Fairfax Media executive editor Sinead Boucher said numerous factors underpinned the decision to remove reporting staff from the parliamentary press gallery annex.

There had been engineer’s reports since the major quake on November 14, which indicated the building had suffered no major damage and was safe to occupy.

However, the same building had been under a yellow sticker since 2014 and as recently as Thursday, there was confirmation that parts of the building met only 20 per cent of code.

It is understood Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand staff have also been told by their managers to leave.

She said she was aware that Radio New Zealand held similar concerns and had earlier today confirmed that its parliamentary reporting staff would be moving out.

“The fact that two major news organisations feel this level of concern for where their staff are currently operating from should not be under-estimated. We urgently need Parliamentary Services to work with us on safer options,” Boucher said.

This follows news today that the Wellington City Council will demolish three of their own buildings.

And Radio NZ reports that at least 3,000 of the capital’s 18,000 public servants are out of their offices. Quake aftermath: 1 in 6 public servants forced out:

The 15-floor Asteron Centre, on Featherston St opposite the railway station, was evacuated yesterday after an engineer’s report found quake-damaged stairwells could be unusable in a major aftershock.

The building is six years old, and is home to 2700 workers, including hundreds of Inland Revenue and Civil Aviation Authority staff.

An IRD spokesman said engineers confirmed today there was a safety issue.

He said the building houses 2000 IRD workers and some have already been relocated to temporary office space.

The Government Property Group is already dealing with about 2000 displaced public servants, following the closures of Defence House, Statistics House and a series of buildings around the condemned block at 61 Molesworth St.

Going by those numbers there must be many other workers evacuated on top of the public servants.

 

Cross-party support for earthquake legislation

Parliamentary parties are working together on emergency legislation to help sort things out after the earthquakes.

NZ Herald: Emergency quake legislation on the way after cross-party meeting

The Government has today met with opposition parties to discuss what emergency legislation could be introduced to skirt usual consenting processes and aid the earthquake recovery.

A spokeswoman for Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed the approach.

“There was a cross-party meeting this morning to discuss legislative options but it is very early days.”

Labour Party leader Andrew Little, speaking to the Herald from Kaikoura, has indicated his party will support the emergency legislation.

“The Government put up the things they have in mind. All the parties were there. There are more meetings to go before legislation is introduced, which the plan is to be next week.

“We have indicated support, subject to appropriate checks and balances…but our people who were [at the meeting] described it as constructive.”

It’s good to see this inclusiveness, putting the needs of the affected people and regions first.

Little said he believed the Government had learned lessons after the introduction of emergency legislation following the Canterbury earthquakes.

“I think it [emergency legislation] is natural in order to get stuff done – particularly now you have a town the size of Kaikoura and its importance to the tourist industry totally isolated at the moment, you do want some expedited powers.

Little has taken a responsible approach to the earthquakes, and has been included from the start by the Government in assessing the damage and the problems.

The Whale Watch boat berths have been uplifted and can now only be used at high tide.

Yesterday Little said that repairs to the harbour at Kaikoura should be fast tracked rather than go through a lengthy consent process so that tourist and fishing businesses can resume as soon as possible.

But there may be some tensions.

The road freighting industry has lobbied the Government not to be “sensitive” about repairing SH1 and to bulldoze rubble into the sea.

Some of the slips have already covered sea shores. If they were left to weather naturally there would be further subsidence into the sea, it is part of normal erosion processes. But:

Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage said today that view was shortsighted.

“Fixing the road and rail links is obviously quite critical and urgent, but dumping thousands of tonnes of rubble into the sea risks killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

“Nature-based tourism, whale-watching, swimming with dolphins and fisheries like the cray and paua fisheries are absolutely critical to Kaikoura’s economy.”

Whales and dolphins shouldn’t be an issue, they are found further out to sea.

Seals congregate and breed on the rocky shores. They will have been affected but their numbers have increased markedly over that last fifty years so should have no trouble re-establishing themselves.

The crayfish and paua fisheries have already been badly affected by the natural affects of the earthquakes, in the main by uplift of shallow shores.

“We don’t want to reestablish the transport link at the expense of a healthy coastal marine environment and healthy fisheries.”.

In the main it’s unlikely that pushing slip debris a bit further out into the sea will have a major effect. Obviously they will have to take care if any of the slips are in ecologically sensitive areas, but the vast majority of the coastline will remain unaffected by slip debris.

It will be good if all parties are on board with emergency legislation.

Earthquake problems continue

Most of New Zealand has more or less put the earthquakes behind them,  but there are significant ongoing problems.

An aftershock in North Canterbury yesterday evening seriously damaged houses and forced evacuations, and also held up access to Kaikoura via the inland route.

There is no sewerage system in Kaikoura, they are running out of water and fuel, and frustration grows for those who want to get out by road but aren’t allowed.

This afternoon Goose Bay was evacuated after a warning a slip created dam might burst.

The NIWA building in Wellington was shut today pending a proper building inspection.

And tonight another building in Wellington was evacuated due to fears that it’s stairwells were damaged.

RNZ: Wgtn’s Asteron Centre evacuated over quake risk

Wellington’s 17-storey Asteron Centre has been evacuated over possible earthquake damage to its stairwells.

The high-rise, described by its designers as the capital’s largest single office building, is located opposite the Railway Station.

Updates from Geonet continue.

This simulation shows how the seismic waves of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake were propagated across New Zealand.

This also shows how the initial quake dominoed it’s way up the South Island from Culverden to Seddon: Watching the M7.8 Kaikoura Quake Dominos Fall in Real Time

And  How is the Kaikoura aftershock sequence behaving compared to the forecast?

By noon on Wednesday 23 November we had detected 4879 aftershocks from the M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake (with the area of detection being the forecast area represented by the box). 

Most of these aftershocks have been small (4828 earthquakes <M4.9) and would have only been felt close to the epicentre.

As of Monday 21st, there were also 47 aftershocks in the M5.0-5.9 range, and 3 aftershocks in the magnitude M6.0-6.9 range.

That sounds a lot but:

At the moment, the aftershock sequence is falling within the lower end of our forecasted range.

What does this mean?

In summary, the aftershocks are at the lower end of the forecasted range. It is a bit puzzling and we are scratching our heads at this one. What we can say is that just because we are in lower end of the forecast, it doesn’t mean that this will stay that way.

Pretty much anything could happen from here, from less and less to substantially more.

All we can do is be wary and be prepared.

Earthquake repairs and immigrant workers

There are obviously a lot of rebuilding and repairs required after the Culverden, Kaikoura, Seddon and Wellington earthquakes. This will require workers. Who is available?

The building industry is already stretched as house building increases to meet demand, although there may be some wind down in Christchurch that can move north.

New Zealand doesn’t have a large pool of road rebuilding workers on standby.

It would take years to train up youth and the unemployed, even if there were enough capable and willing to do this sort of work.

So will we have to look to immigrant workers to help out again? Some think this will be essential.

RNZ: Wanted: 1000 workers to rebuild earthquake-hit roads

Construction bosses say at least 1000 workers will be needed to rebuild roads and buildings after last week’s earthquakes.

Scott Mathieson, of recruitment and immigration firm Working In, said those skills were already scarce in New Zealand.

He was already looking for more workers from the Philippines, he said.

He guessed repairing the earthquake-damaged roads and buildings would need more than 1000 extra workers.

“Most employers feel they’ve tapped out the local resource, so a good proportion of that will have to come from overseas to get the job done on time.”

He said “definitely hundreds” of migrant workers would be needed.

The Building Construction Industry Training Organisation said the industry was caught short on skilled workers after the global financial crisis.

It was struggling to fill gaps created by the building boom.

Chief executive Warwick Quinn said thousands more construction workers were already needed over the next five years – before last week’s destructive earthquakes.

“It’s all of the people right through the supply chain, its not just people on the ground, its the oversight, its the management… They are highly technically skilled people and the sector’s struggling to find those.”

Can current contractors cope with the workload?

Civil Contractors New Zealand boss Peter Silcock agreed hundreds if not thousands of workers would be needed.

As the Canterbury rebuild tapered off, contractors could cope, he said.

Infrastructure New Zealand chief executive Stephen Selwood said major contractors and the government were already talking about forming an alliance to speed up the work.

“I think there’s months of work here. It would be great if it could be done quicker, but I would be expecting early new year at best.”

There may be enough civil contracting companies, but are there enough workers available?

Mr Selwood said other major projects, like Transmission Gully, would go ahead as planned, but maintenance and renewal jobs could be delayed as resources were put into earthquake work.

Local potholes may grow. I know that Dunedin resources are already moving up to North Canterbury, and are already causing delays here.

‘Tax and family’ package planned

Tax cuts may still happen but these seem likely to be limited by the need to spend on things such as earthquake repairs and prisons, plus signalled increased assistance for families.

The Government seems to be reacting to the growing discontent over inequality and the difficulties faced by the poorest in New Zealand, of which there is a substantial number who really struggle for a variety of reasons.

John Key has revealed the Government is preparing a ‘tax and family’ package.

National will be wanting to deliver on promises of tax cuts but seem to be wanting to balance that with further assistance to the less well off.

But large spending items such as prisons and on earthquake repairs will have an impact.

Vernon Small at Stuff: John Key reveals plans for ‘tax and family’ package, but quake might affect plans

The Kaikoura earthquakes have not demolished the Government’s tax cut plans but they may force Treasury to delay its half-year update while it crunches the numbers, Prime Minister John Key said.

Speaking to reporters in Peru, where he is attending the Apec Summit, he also revealed the Government is preparing a “tax and family” package for the 2017 campaign and beyond.

Key said the earthquakes were a factor that could have some impact on the Government’s plans “and we can’t say that wouldn’t”.

But they would not completely rule out the Government’s ability “to consider a range of things that we would want to either campaign on or carry out in a fourth term,” Key said.

“We’ve identified from our own perspective if there was more money where would be the kinds of areas we want to go, not what is the make up … for instance, of a tax or family package, what is the make up of other expenditure we want?”

Cash would be required for capital items, such as fixing roads and other infrastructure, but they were not recurring costs.

The difference for the “tax and family package” was that it was a recurring cost over future years.

As usual there will be a balancing act between essential expenditure, current and imposed, and policy driven changes – with an obvious eye on next year’s election.

 

Earthquakes continued

News coverage of the earthquakes is slowing down, as are the earthquakes, but there are still many shakes.

5.30am update: 9 earthquakes in last hour, 238 earthquakes in last 12 hrs (only 2 over M4) and 3646 earthquakes since the M7.8 Kaikoura Earthquake

The pattern is the same, scattered along the Hope fault line where the initial quake was, and clusters around Kaikoura and Seddon.

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That looks very similar in pattern and number to yesterday morning. There are still some sizeable shakes (for those close enough to feel them).

There’s a few reaching up into Wellington and also another near the Alpine faultline.

The bigger shakes over the last day and a half:

  • 3.8 (moderate) 10:11:48 pm 5 km north-west of Seddon
  • 4.6 (strong) 2:30:10 am 20 km west of Kaikoura
  • 3.8 (moderate) 3:21:22 am 5 km north-west of Culverden
  • 5.0 (strong) 3:22:58 am 20 km north-east of Cheviot
  • 4.4 (moderate) 4:17:32 am 15 km south-east of Seddon
  • 4.8 (strong) 4:55:34 am 25 km east of Hanmer Springs
  • 4.2 (strong) 4:08:10 pm 20 km north-east of Kaikoura

They mightn’t seem much but to those feeling them they are repeat reminders of what is still going on beneath them. I’m sure some aree wondering with each one if it is going to be an anticipated big aftershock.

Stuff interactive: The Mountains Moved 14.11.16

Stuff: Timeline of the 7.8 quake and response reveals plenty of room for improvement

The huge earthquake that hit New Zealand this past week, buckling roads, uplifting sections of coastline and killing two people, also exposed problems in how the country monitors its earthquake risk and prepares for tsunamis. And it raised questions about whether the city of Wellington put people at risk by reopening buildings too soon.

The nation was spared the devastation of five years ago when 185 people were killed in the Christchurch earthquake. But some consider it was more by luck this time than by good planning.

Here’s what happened, minute by minute, after the quake hit early Monday, with details on how officials intend to improve

RNZ coverage:

Aid convoy forced back

A large convoy of army trucks carrying urgent supplies used the rural road yesterday, but Civil Defence said there was still a significant threat of landslides.

Military vehicles could not longer use the inland road because of the threat of more slips.

One aid convoy arrived in Kaikoura last night, but a second had to turn back.

Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the route would like open in the middle of next week.

The earthquake aftermath in pictures

RNZ visual journalist Rebekah Parsons-King has captured the cracked roads, landslips, and damaged railway lines from the air and ground, after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit early on Monday morning.

Cordon in Wellington CBD to be reduced

One of the cordons in central Wellington will be reduced, as city authorities defend the handling of the risk of quake-damaged buildings in the capital.

 

 

Constitution promoted on earthquakes and Brexit

Geoffrey Palmer is pushing his case for a written constitution again, this time using earthquakes and Brexit as justification.

Stuff: New Zealand is one of three countries without a written constitution: time for change

A constitution could enshrine property rights, which were poorly protected in the red zone following the Christchurch earthquakes, writes Geoffrey Palmer.

OPINION: In our recently published book, A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand, Andrew Butler and I propose a written constitution for New Zealand.

New Zealand is one of only three countries without a written constitution.

That might be sort of correct. Most countries have single document constitutions. There are conflicting claims about exceptions. One Wikipedia page lists:

  • Codified (in a single document) most of the world constitutions
  • Uncodified (fully written in few documents) San Marino, Israel, Saudi Arabia
  • Uncodified (Partially unwritten) Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom

To understand the principal rules of how public power is exercised in New Zealand you have to wade your way through a jumble of statutes – some from New Zealand, but quite a few very old ones from England; a plethora of obscure conventions, letters patent and manuals; and a raft of court decisions. How they all mesh together is obscure and unclear. 

We share this untidy approach to constitutional law with the UK. Anyone who thinks that that’s a situation worth preserving just needs to look at what’s happening over there at the moment.  Brexit has created a massive constitutional crisis. A significant factor is that the constitutional rules there are so unclear, no one knows who has the power to get the UK out of the EU.

In the UK it is more a crisis of confidence in government being dictated to by the European Union.

Ironically the European Union wrote a draft constitution that was signed by the 25 states that were members in 2004 and ratified by 18 of them, but French and Dutch voters rejected it in 2005.

This evolved into the Treaty of Lisbon that was ratified in 2009.

The Treaty of Lisbon (initially known as the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement which amends the two treaties which form the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU). The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states on 13 December 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009.

– Wikipedia:

BBC: Q&A: The Lisbon Treaty

The Lisbon Treaty became law on 1 December 2009, eight years after European leaders launched a process to make the EU “more democratic, more transparent and more efficient”.

Like the proposed European constitution before it, the treaty is often described as an attempt to streamline EU institutions to make the enlarged bloc of 27 states function better. But its opponents see it as part of a federalist agenda that threatens national sovereignty.

I don’t think the EU was known for efficiency, and it’s lack of democracy for member states  and threats to sovereignty, perceived or real, were significant factors in the Brexit debate and vote.

Back to Palmer:

“How is any of this constitutional stuff relevant to my life?” is a question we are often asked. Cantabrians know the answer. It’s when the chips are down and there is a crisis in place, that the dangers of short-term politics can overpower longstanding rights and principles. Not because those rights and principles shouldn’t apply, but because the political imperative is to be seen to do something and do something radical and urgent. The rights of individuals can get lost.

In its recently released report “Staying in the Red Zones”, the Human Rights Commission calmly and coolly assessed the Government’s treatment of homeowners in the red zone. The report concluded: “The right to property is fragile in New Zealand. Property rights need to be better enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act”.

But I haven’t seem much sign of Cantabrians, nor the rest of New Zealanders, clamouring for a written constitution.

The latest earthquakes north of Christchurch (Culverden, Kaikoura, Seddon and Wellington) and the lengthy sorting out of the problems created by them are more likely to distract from rather than drive people to setting up a constitution.

The earthquakes have broken a lot of things. These need fixing.

New Zealand’s lack of a single written constitution (the Treaty of Waitangi is sometimes referred to as a constitution but it is far from comprehensive) seems for most people to be in the ‘if it ain’t broke why fix it?’ category.

And there are fears that trying to debate and formulate a constitution will create seismic fractures in our society.

Constitutional Advisory Panel: A Written Constitution

The Panel recommends the Government:

  • notes that although there is no broad support for a supreme constitution, there is considerable support for entrenching elements of the constitution
  • notes the consensus that our constitution should be more easily accessible and understood, and notes that one way of accomplishing this might be to assemble our constitutional protections into a single statute
  • notes people need more information before considering whether there should be change, in particular information about the various kinds of constitution, written and otherwise, and their respective advantages and disadvantages
  • supports the continued conversation by providing such information, and notes that it may be desirable to set up a process whereby an independent group is charged with compiling such information and advancing public understanding

Palmer’s project: A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand

Our proposal: a modern constitution that is easy to understand, reflects New Zealand’s identity and nationhood, protects rights and liberties, and prevents governments from abusing power.

The United States of America, with a famous constitution, is struggling with all of those things right now in the aftermath of a very divisive democratic election, during the transition to power of president-elect Donald Trump.