The 85th anniversary of one of the worst disasters in New Zealand’s history.
On 3 Feb 1931, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in the Hawke’s Bay, causing extensive damage to much of Napier and Hastings. 256 people died in the quake and much of Napier’s CBD was destroyed following fires that rapidly swept through the city.
This event amounted to the largest loss of life and most extensive damage of any quake in New Zealand’s history.
Behind the tragedy however is a remarkable recovery story.
The Hawke’s Bay we see today is a reflection of some cutting edge thinking for its time, not to mention it occurred in the struggle of the Great Depression.
The 1931 disaster emphasised how important the layout of a city and the design of buildings and lifelines is in shaping the vulnerability of built-up areas.
It was made clear very early in the recovery process that the new Napier should not only be a beautiful city but also a safer place in the event of future disasters.
Hence, it was decided that the rebuilding of all infrastructure would adopt a different layout and uniform style of architecture, which harmonised beauty, cost effectiveness (due to the economic depression) and safety… Art Deco Napier was born.
This event not only had an impact on the Hawke’s Bay region, but also the whole nation. It was a catalyst for much cornerstone national legislation. It was the birthplace of our national building code standards, jurisdiction to local authorities to implement regulations on design standards, and a nationwide insurance scheme that covered all New Zealanders (most people did not have insurance at the time).
Today is a day to remember those who lost their lives, their family and their friends in this disaster. A day in which changed the future of New Zealand. It is also a reminder to us how important it is to be prepared. – Mischa