Hawke's Bay earthquake 1931

Where can I find information about the Hawke's Bay earthquake in 1931?

Image: 1931 Napier earthquake by [unknown]. Collection: Upper Hutt City Library.

Entry last updated: 16/02/21


The Hawke's Bay Earthquake (also known as the Napier Earthquake) occurred in the morning of Tuesday 3 February 1931. The quake devastated the region, injured thousands and killed at least 256 people, making it New Zealand's deadliest quake. The Art Deco rebuild has lead to Napier and Hastings being iconic for this architectural style.

General Websites

Starting from the morning when the quake hit, the following entries provide facts, personal memories and photos. These cover not just the earthquake but the fires which came shortly afterwards, the aftershocks, the notable buildings destroyed, the lives lost, the rescue work and the rebuilding effort involved. These sites show how the landscape of the region has been forever altered.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. To find information about the 1931 earthquake:

  • click on the Sections area and choose Earth, Sea and Sky
  • scroll down the page to Historic Earthquakes
  • select The 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake in the contents.
Tips: We like Te Ara because it comes from a government organisation. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry of Culture & Heritage, so the information is well researched and reliable.


This is a great website for information about history in New Zealand Aotearoa. Here are the steps to helping you find more information about the Hawkes Bay earthquake:

  • go to Events at the top of the homepage
  • browse by date and select 1900's and from there choose 1930's
  • scroll down until you find 1931 - Hawkes Bay earthquake strikes.
Tips: We like NZHistory because it comes from a government organisation. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry of Culture & Heritage, so the information is well researched and reliable.

Hastings District Libraries

Hastings Library like most public libraries has dedicated some of their website to areas of local history which includes the 1931 earthquake.

Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch libraries website has a list that covers all significant New Zealand earthquakes, including the Hawkes Bay earthquake.

  • Select the Learning tab at the top of the homepage.
  • Choose Homework resources for kids in the drop down menu.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page to New Zealand Disasters.
  • Under Earth, Landslides & Volcanoes is Hawkes Bay earthquake.
Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

Articles and Videos

Here are our favourite sites which provide articles, videos and other digitised content on the earthquake.


DigitalNZ is a portal for all digitised New Zealand content and culture and would be a good place to look for any information relating to the Hawkes Bay earthquake.

  • Type in the keywords 'earthquake' and either 'Napier' or 'Hawke's Bay'.
  • Choose from the options along the top of the results (images, audio, videos, etc).

This site provides an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.

Papers Past

This website is great for historic newspaper articles published in New Zealand about the Hawkes Bay earthquake.

  • Go to Newspapers to find articles about the earthquake.
  • You can choose to search by title, region or date, or by using your keywords.
  • Narrow your results by date or type of content to find the most relevant articles.
Tips: We like Papers Past because it is from a government organisation (the National Library of New Zealand). You can tell this by their web address, which includes .govt. It is also a New Zealand site, so it's relevant for us.


This is a good website to look for news stories about New Zealand topics in recent times. There are press releases, articles, speeches and more from government departments and other organisations.

  • In the search bar type in Hawkes Bay or Napier earthquake.
  • At the top of the page choose between sorting by date or relevance.
  • Use the options on the side to limit the results to a particular topic, like Disasters and Natural Events or a particular section, like New Zealand Politics.
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 the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

EPIC resources

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. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

Look here for newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australian newspapers and magazines.

  • Enter 'Hawkes Bay earthquake' (or 'Napier earthquake') into the search bar.
  • Tick the box Full text to see the articles you can read online.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g Napier earthquake. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

New Zealand Geographic

New Zealand Geographic is a magazine published bimonthly with the focus of New Zealand's biodiversity, geography and culture. This online resource gives access to the entire archive of the magazine.

  • Search and select the article called The architecture of tragedy.
  • This article has information not just about the earthquake but how the quake shaped the Hawkes Bay especially in terms of Art Deco architecture.
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.


Your local or school library may also have some books about the Hawkes Bay earthquake.

Tips: When searching on a library catalogue, books which are best for research are called 'non-fiction.' These are fact or information books rather than stories.

A good information book about the Hawkes Bay earthquake is:

There are also a number of junior books about the earthquake such as:

You can search your library's catalogue for these books or just search 'Hawkes Bay earthquake' to see what you find.

SCIS no: 1836098

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