Disasters (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about disasters in New Zealand?

Image: Pike 29 Memorial by Shellie Evans on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 13/01/21


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 shipwreck (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.

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.


NZHistory is another great website for information about New Zealand topics. To find the information on Disasters:

Tips: 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.

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries has a list of disasters arranged under headings like Epidemics, Mining and Transport on their New Zealand Disasters pages. Choose your disaster from the list to read the most important facts.

Tips: Websites that have .com 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 have more in-depth information about New Zealand disasters and debate about why they happened.

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.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

This is one of the EPIC databases. EPIC is 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.

Tips: Search for the name of the disaster you're looking for to find lots of 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.

Search for disasters like Erebus, Pike River, Wahine disaster and Influenza 1918 to find lots of information.

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 safe practices.

Try searching for 'Pike river' or 'cave creek' to find articles, opinions and press releases. You can focus the search by using the limiting options on the side of the results.

Documentaries and videos

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


NZOnScreen has made New Zealand television, documentaries, short films and news footage available online. Choose Collections from the tabs along the top to find the tile for NZ 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 us link on this website to find out what the company’s mission and values are.


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

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

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