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When devastating earthquakes hit Christchurch and Canterbury in 2010 and the years that followed, the university in the city was already well placed to provide a background of expertise, knowledge and assistance.


With a highly regarded, internationally recognised seismic reputation, the University of Canterbury (UC) contributed significantly to the earthquake response and its rebuild efforts, and is still doing so. 


UC was already known as a research institute that developed astute academics with a passion for seismic engineering. Back when the university was a relatively new establishment in 1888, ‘Canterbury College’ as it was then known, it hosted Professor of Geology Frederick Hutton, an immigrant from London. More than 100 years before the 2010 earthquakes he was talking about what sort of architecture we should prioritise in a quake-prone city.


Our faculty have constantly immersed themselves in this subject, for the wellbeing of citizens both in Christchurch and around the world. Three of its distinguished professors have long been recognised as experts in the field. Professors Nigel Priestley, Thomas Paulay and Robert Park all established stellar reputations in seismic engineering and were internationally recognised for their works.


Between them, they had written books and academic papers, lectured, traveled, won awards for their groundbreaking research - and had made tangible differences to engineering practices and building codes internationally. These gentlemen left an incredible legacy. 


As a hub of research and knowledge, the passion of lecturers and students at UC has only increased since the Canterbury Earthquakes. 


Dr. Mark Quigley, a well-known Senior Lecturer in Active Tectonics and Geomorphology, became a frequent spokesperson for the media when the public wanted to understand what had happened to their city. His clear communication, informing and reassuring the public of the science behind the seismology, led to him writing articles for newspapers, science blogs and magazines and appearing on television hundreds of times. He was awarded the 2011 New Zealand Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Communication and the 2011 New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communication Award for his work after the earthquakes. 


Visiting Geophysicist Professor Kevin Furlong, from Penn State University, USA, never imagined he would witness one of New Zealand’s worst earthquakes while spending his sabbatical in Christchurch. Dr Furlong was consequently one of the first international scientists in the field after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake and the event has thoroughly impacted the direction of his research.


The research currently being undertaken by many postgraduate students in the Civil and Natural Resources Engineering Department is purposefully geared to being as practical as possible for this reason.


No one could have predicted the last five years of the Canterbury region’s devastation, development, innovation and growth. There has been a huge upsurge in both the amount and sophistication of technology now being used in design and construction of the three waters and electrical lifeline networks, roads, bridges and buildings in Christchurch. 


Communities rallied together as new relationships were forged. As the city’s foremost research and development facility, UC has been relied on to provide advice and knowledge in numerous commercial and governmental building projects since 2010. Professor Nigel Priestley used his decades of experience to provide advice and was called as an expert witness before the Canterbury Royal Commission of Enquiry. Dr. Priestley chaired a panel that examined the collapse of the CTV and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings and the damage to the Forsyth Barr and the Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings.


This purposefully cultivated academic excellence was what helped to create the Quake Centre and its high level objectives. UC Quake Centre’s partnership with the commercial organisations involved in the rebuild is one of mutual trust and reciprocated learning. We have been given this opportunity and are committed to making sure that we make the most of it in every capacity – for the betterment of the city, its infrastructure, and people.










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