Disasters (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about disasters in New Zealand?

Junior Secondary

(Years 7-10)

Colour photo showing the Strongman Mine Disaster memorial near Rapahoe, West Coash, Aotearoa NZ. A plaque on the stone memorial remembers the 19 lives lost in the 1967 disaster.

Image: Strongman Mine Disaster memorial MRD 02 by Mike Dickison on Wikimedia Commons.

Entry last updated: 12/12/23


This entry focuses on New Zealand disasters like shipwrecks, mining disasters and transport disasters. These disasters are often referred to as accidents and tragedies, and sometimes have memorials set up to remember those who died. Disasters can also be used as reasons to try to improve safety.

Well-known disasters

Here are some well-known disasters that happened in New Zealand.

Influenza pandemic (1918)

Ballantyne's fire (1947)

Tangiwai rail disaster (1953)

Wahine Disaster (1968)

Mt Erebus plane crash (1979)

Cave Creek platform collapse (1995)

Pike River mine accident (2010)

If you are looking for natural disasters like earthquakes, try our Many Answers entry Natural disasters (New Zealand).

Facts and pictures

Here are some good places to find out what happened and see pictures of New Zealand disasters.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.


NZHistory is another great website from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage. To find information on disasters:

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have .govt, meaning they are from government organisation. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries is part of Christchurch City Council. It has a page that has a list of New Zealand disasters.

  • At the top of page use the menus to search the Website for All Content for 'disasters'.

  • Go to New Zealand Disasters.

  • The list is arranged under headings like Epidemics, Mining and Transport.

  • Choose a disaster from the list to read the most important facts.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link to find out what the Library's mission and values are.

News and articles

These resources are information reports about New Zealand disasters covering when and why they happened and their impact.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats (eg articles, books, images, videos, primary sources, sets, websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  • Choose Disasters, Man-Made from the topic list.

  • Go to Articles to find reports on man-made disasters worldwide including in New Zealand.

  • Also, check out the Disasters New Zealand topic to read an article from Papers Past on the 1896 Brunner Mining Disaster.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre Plus

This is one of the EPIC databases, a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

  • Enter keywords like 'Erebus', 'Pike River', 'Wahine disaster' or 'Influenza 1918' into the search box.

  • This will find lists of newspaper and magazine articles.

New Zealand Geographic Archive

The New Zealand Geographic Archive is another EPIC resource. It is an online collection of the New Zealand Geographic magazine which includes news stories, stories with an opinion, and stories about the outdoors.

  • Enter keywords like 'Erebus', 'Pike River', or 'Wahine disaster' into the search box to find lots of information, pictures and videos.

  • For example the article Disaster on the Wahine.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.


This is a good website for finding out about news and events in New Zealand. There has been a lot of discussion about some of the more recent disasters and what is being done to improve safety practices.

  • Try searching for 'Pike river' or 'Cave creek' to find articles, opinions and press releases.

  • You can narrow your search by using the filters on the side of the results.

Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from eg .au is from Australia or .nz is from New Zealand. You can check the About Us link on the website for more information.

Documentaries and videos

Disasters can have an enormous impact on people, communities and the environment. In this section, you will find documentaries and videos that show some major New Zealand disasters and what it was like for the people involved.

NZ On Screen

NZ On Screen has made New Zealand television, documentaries, short films and news footage available online.

  • Search for 'disasters' or for the particular disaster you are looking for.

  • Choose NZ Disasters from the heading Collections.

  • This has videos you can watch such as Then Again - Strongman Mine or Cave Creek: The Full Story of a National Tragedy.


DigitalNZ is a search site and an easy way of searching online resources from many different organisations in New Zealand all at once. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles, and research papers.

  • Search for a particular disaster you are looking for eg 'Pike River Mine disaster'.

  • Choose Videos to find links to news clips and documentaries.


There have been a number of books written about disasters that have happened in New Zealand. Check your school or local library to see what they have.

Here are some recommended titles:

SCIS no: 1832459

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