Natural disasters (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about natural disasters in New Zealand?

Junior Secondary

(Years 7-10)

Colour photo of a two-storey house severely damaged by the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. A pile of debris lies in front of the house.

Image: Christchurch Earthquake 2011 by Bernard Spragg on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 1/12/23


Natural disasters are major, sudden events caused by nature that injure people and damage property. New Zealand is prone to a number of natural disasters. This entry will give you pointers on where to find information about natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods and tsunamis.

Natural disasters in New Zealand

Here are some natural disasters that can happen in New Zealand. In this entry you will find information about these and other natural hazards.

Earthquake: A shaking of the earth's surface caused by movements within the earth's crust or volcanic activity.

Volcanic eruption: When molten rock, gases and ash erupts from a vent in the earth's surface.

Landslide: The movement of a large amount of earth, rock and other materials down a slope, due to gravity.

Flood: An overflow of water on an area of land that is usually dry.

Tsunami: A large wave caused by a volcanic eruption or an underwater earthquake.

Storm: These can happen at any time of the year and include strong winds, heavy rain, snowstorms, tornadoes, cyclones, and more.

These Government websites have been set up especially to provide current information about natural disasters.


GeoNet is an excellent website to use to stay up to date with natural disasters around New Zealand.

  • Use the tabs at the top of the page to find current information about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes in New Zealand.

  • Choose from the drop down list at the top of the page (eg Volcanoes) to find more information.

Tips: This site has great maps and diagrams too!


This website has the latest New Zealand weather forecasts and has information about extreme weather and storms happening in New Zealand.

  • Go to Warnings.

  • The Warnings & Watches tab has a map of New Zealand and the current warnings and what the impacts might be.

  • Look for Marine for information about heavy swells (waves) or high seas warnings.

  • Tropical Cyclone Activity tracks current cyclones.

Tips: The About Us page tells us that MetService is New Zealand's national weather authority and is owned by the New Zealand Government.

Get Ready

This website has been put together by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). It has information on what to do before, after, and during different types of emergencies.

  • Select the In an emergency tab and choose a type of emergency.

  • Or select Get prepared to find out what to do to get your household ready.

EQC (Earthquake Commission)

The government set up the Earthquake Commission (EQC) to provide home insurance and to fund research to help reduce the impact of natural disasters. This website gives you information about the programmes and initiatives the EQC provide.

There are several ways to find information on this website:

Tips: Although the information on this site is very useful, it has been written for adults so parts of it may be a bit hard to understand. Ask an adult for help if you need to!

Historic disasters

Natural disasters greatly affect humans as they shape our planet and affect where and how we live. They can also be extremely dangerous. Did you know that earthquakes are the deadliest of all disasters? Here are some websites that contain useful articles, videos and facts about natural disasters.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

There are two ways of searching for information on this site. You can enter your keywords into the search bar at the top of the page or do a topic search, following these steps:

  • Select Topics.

  • Then Topics A-Z.

  • Choose the first letter of the disaster you're looking for eg if you're looking for information about floods, select F.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we look 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.

  • On the homepage choose the section Earth, Sea and Sky.

  • Then select Natural hazards and disasters.

  • From here you can choose the natural disaster you are looking for.

  • If you are looking for information about a particular natural disaster, try searching for it by name in the search box near the top of the page.

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

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries has information about some well known natural disasters that have happened in New Zealand on their kids homework pages. Each entry includes facts and information about the impact of the disaster.

  • Choose the Explore tab.

  • Then Tamariki - Kids.

  • Go to Homework on the menu on the right.

  • Look down the page for New Zealand disasters.

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 link on this website. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

How natural disasters happen

Natural disasters happen because of changes in the Earth's physical environment. They can happen suddenly, but often there has been lots of activity behind the scenes before the disaster occurs.

Topic Explorer (National Library)

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.

  • Select the topics Earth Sciences Earthquakes and Earth Sciences Volcanoes to find out about the causes of earthquakes and volcanoes.

  • Choose the tile Disasters: naturall to find information on some notable New Zealand natural disasters as well as the impact of natural disasters, how we can prepare for them, and cope with them when they occur.

Tips: These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

Science Learning Hub

This website has articles and videos especially for New Zealand students

There are two ways of searching this site:

  • Select Topics and then choose from the list topics like Tsunamis or Volcanoes.

  • Or enter your keywords into the search bar at the top of the page.

  • Searching for 'cyclones' will find the article Cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes. This also talks about how they get their names.

Tips: We like websites like this because it's from a trusted organisation. You can tell this by looking at the bottom of the webpage - they are supported by the New Zealand Government. This means we can trust the information on this site!

GNS Science

GNS Science is a research organisation which specialises in earth science and has information on seismic activity like earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and tsunamis. There is also a glossary to explain geoscientific terms.

  • Go to the Our Science tab and under Natural hazards and risks choose from the list of science areas.

  • These pages have information and videos.

  • Look for the heading Want to know more? for more information.

Tips: Remember to check the reliability of a website by reading the About Us page.


There are a number of books that have been written about natural disasters in New Zealand - check out your local public or school library to see what they have there.

Here are a few recommended titles:

SCIS no: 1832682

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