The aftermath: a first-person report

Text and images by Leicester Murray

Leicester Murray surveys the damage from his family home outside Kaikoura. 

I am Christchurch-based landscape architect Leicester Murray. Until 2009 my wife Laura and I lived and farmed ‘Wharanui’ at the north end of the Kaikoura Coast. Wharanui is about 70km north of Kaikoura and 60km south of Blenheim.

State Highway One and the main trunk railway pass through the property.

The property is currently leased to my cousins James and Becky Murray who continue to run sheep and beef cattle on the steep hill country complemented with irrigated flats along the narrow coastal strip of land. 

My family retreat to the farm, which we still call home, as frequently as possible. I am the fourth generation of Murray to be steward of this land and its genis loci runs pretty deep in my veins.

The earthquake of November 14th 2016 changed many factors of the property.

On the surface, the family homestead and the other farm buildings appear structurally sound. St Oswald’s Church, the small stone landmark chapel is damaged - although the stained glass windows are still intact - but we’re sourcing as much information as we can from experts around the country to see if a repair strategy can be put in place.

St Oswald’s Church was built in 1927 from locally-sourced stone by Charles and Jessie Murray, in memory of their son, and later gifted to the Anglican diocese. This photo was taken before the earthquake.

A horizontal crack in the base of the building, along with loose and fallen stones has restrict- ed any unauthorised access to the church. 


Cracks and slips in the land, broken water pipes and fences are the most urgent repairs needed.
Access to Wharanui from Christchurch is restricted due to road and rail line damage. 

More urgent has been the repair of stock water pipe lines and repairing cracks in the land following around hillsides. Wire stock fences that have been torn apart due to excessive strain as the earthquake twisted and stretched hilltops are also a priority.

Cracking in the land requires urgent filling before rain fills the crevices and threatens the land with slumping and slipping.

Significant changes can be seen at the water’s edge

Damage to SH1 limited access to Kaikoura for nearly two weeks. 

The foreshore has dramatically changed. Through small beach gravels the uplift has produced a dominant limestone reef.