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Case Study

Emergency Response

Christchurch Earthquake February 2011

The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake was a powerful natural event that severely damaged New Zealand's second-largest city, killing 185 people in one of the nation's deadliest peacetime disasters.

The earthquake caused widespread damage across Christchurch, especially in the central city and eastern suburbs, with damage exacerbated by buildings and infrastructure already being weakened by the 4 September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, producing around 400,000 tonnes of silt.

Citycare had about 400 staff working on the water and wastewater networks around the city during the emergency response phase. Normally we have around 75 staff working on water and wastewater activities in Christchurch.

Over 370km of open drains/tributaries, 64kms of rivers, 175 grates and other waterways structures were inspected for damage within the first week. Staff commenced silt clearance within 48 hours following earthquakes based on established priorities. Work was undertaken seven days a week The equipment used included 8 leak detection units, 20 tonne diggers, 24 suction trucks, 17 jetting trucks, 3 combos units, 37 water tankers, 52 static water tanks, loaders, excavators, EPVs and sweeping trucks.

Client Communication

  • Clear communication lines were immediately set up between contractor, Emergency Operations Centre and client
  • A maintenance contractor was required for response work, therefore we involved them at the highest possible level of the response planning phase
  • Contingency plans were in place for extended outages, including how we were going to provide services and how we were going to rebuild
  • Trained staff on front-line call centres ensured accurate classification of Request for Service (RFS) notifications and priority levels so major issues were dealt with promptly and allowing for RFS into logical work categories

Key event outcomes

  • We refined our Business Continuity Plan post-earthquakes
  • Subsequent actions included the setting up of fully kitted emergency response water and wastewater teams such as our Emergency Rural Firefighting team
  • Approximately 400,000 tonnes of silt were removed Over 30,000 sandbags were prepared
  • We developed an Incident Management Team to deal with the ‘operational’ management of the emergency
  • We developed a Strategic Emergency Management Group to deal with the ‘strategic’ management of the event
  • We ensured welfare systems are in place (communications, accommodation, catering, rostering and support)
  • We rewarded staff efforts
  • We ensured staff maintained vigilance around health and safety, particularly during a sustained event
  • We are building a fleet of specialist plant over time, ensuring emergencies can be responded to quickly
  • We developed a contingency plan for fuel supplies and back up plant, as well as further investment in additional emergency management IT systems to ensure the ability to provide accurate information of what is happening