Kaikōura earthquake recovery work wins Prime Minister’s Award for excellence


The collective efforts of Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, KiwiRail, the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura to restore and improve Kaikōura’s transport networks following the devastating November 2016 earthquake have been recognised at the Public Services Commission Spirit of Service Awards.

The recovery and improvement of the Kaikōura transport networks won the Outstanding Public Sector Leadership in Governance Award which recognises a governance group delivering outstanding results for New Zealand. The project also went on to win the overall Prime Minister’s Award, which was selected by the judging panel from the winners of each of the four award categories.

“Inspirational leadership and governance was essential to manage the response to this extraordinary event and make sure it was delivered effectively, while working closely with local communities and iwi, and taking care of the precious coastline,” says Waka Kotahi Chief Executive Nicole Rosie.

“When the earthquake occurred on 14 November 2016, the massive damage to the transport network left communities completely isolated, cutting off vital social and economic connections. The scale of the damage was unprecedented, the challenge of rebuilding seemed insurmountable, and the job required a completely different approach to governance and implementation. The project team literally had to move mountains to achieve their goal.

“This project has been a collaborative effort between many organisations and people, so a huge thank you to everyone involved. We are delighted to be recognised.”

KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller says the massive disaster reconstruction effort was much more than just a rail and road opening.

“Families and friends were reconnected, businesses welcomed tourists back, and freight could move to and across the South Island.

“The team of more than 1,700 workers tackled the rebuild with enormous grit and dedication, working around the clock and in all weathers. The team can be proud of what they achieved and appreciate the recognition of this award.”

Recovery from the 7.8 magnitude Kaikōura earthquake presented unique logistical challenges for the transport networks due to the extent of the damage and the remote location. Transport networks were reopened in late 2017 and since then work has continued to make them safer and resilient. 

The NCTIR Alliance’s work in Kaikōura is coming to an end, with the majority to be completed by December 2020. A Cultural Artwork Package, developed in partnership with Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura, is being completed along the coast that will leave a lasting legacy for Kaikōura. This extensive range of artwork tells the story of the unique coastline, reflecting whakapapa and connection, and features on rail tunnel shelters and at new Safe Stopping Areas on State Highway 1.

One remaining project, a new rockfall protection canopy on the highway south of Kaikōura, which is the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere, will be completed early in 2021.

Spirit of Service Awards(external link)


Prime Ministers Award Winners

The Chief Executives of Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail accepted the Prime Minister’s Award along with representatives from both organisations, NCTIR and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura.

Ohau Point

A massive landslip covers the road and railway at Ōhau Point, north of Kaikōura – November 2016.

Road and rail working in parallel at Ohau Point north of Kaikoura

Road and rail working in parallel at Ōhau Point, north of Kaikōura – October 2020.