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Story: Natural hazards – overview

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and landslides are part of life in New Zealand. They have shaped the country’s beautiful landscape, but also caused devastation and loss of life.

Story by Eileen McSaveney and Simon Nathan
Main image: Snowboarding on a volcano

Story Summary

All images & media in this story

Many hazards can be linked to New Zealand’s location. It lies across two moving sections of the earth’s crust, which are pushing against each other.

Earthquakes

The country is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Most are small, but some have caused major damage and people have died.

Volcanoes

There are many volcanoes in the country, and Auckland is built on a volcanic field. The volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park have erupted many times over the last 200 years. The molten rock that leads volcanoes to erupt is also the heat source for geysers, hot springs and mud pools.

Tsunamis

Tsunamis happen when the sea floor moves during earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides. Some tsunamis in New Zealand have been 10 metres high.

Landslides

Land that has been lifted by earthquakes in New Zealand erodes quickly. This makes deep valleys and steep hillsides that are likely to collapse. Many landslides happen because of heavy rain or earthquakes.

Weather

Flooding is the natural disaster that occurs most often in New Zealand. Parts of the country sometimes have heavy rain or strong winds. The mountains intensify the rain from storms and cyclones.

The wind gets faster as it funnels over mountains and through Cook Strait. It has blown trains off tracks and flattened forests.

Being prepared

Stopbanks have been built along rivers that often flood, so that when the water is high it stays in the river channel.

Buildings, bridges and overpasses are designed so that they will not collapse when there is an earthquake or storm-force winds. People are not allowed to build over active fault lines or where landslides are likely.

Services give warnings of severe weather, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis.

Civil defence

The regions of the country handle their own emergencies. They try to reduce the possible damage from natural hazards and train people what to do in an emergency. When there is a disaster, they save lives and property, and rebuild the community.

A National Crisis Management Centre organises help when there is a disaster that affects the whole country.

How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney and Simon Nathan, 'Natural hazards – overview', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/natural-hazards-overview (accessed 27 July 2017)

Story by Eileen McSaveney and Simon Nathan, published 12 Jun 2006