Natural disasters (New Zealand)

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

Entry last updated: 12/03/19


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 is a list of some natural disasters that can happen in New Zealand. This entry includes information about a number of different natural disasters, including ones that are not on this list.

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.

There are some government websites that 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.

  • Click on the tabs at the top of the page to find current information about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes in New Zealand.
  • Click on the drop box at the top of the page (eg Volcanoes Info) to find more information about the natural disaster.

This site has great maps and diagrams too!

Earthquake Commission

As New Zealand has a history of earthquakes, the government set up the Earthquake Commission (EQC). This website gives you information about the programmes and initiatives the EQC provide. It also contains information about what the EQC are doing to help the people affected by the recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura.

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 natural disasters that have taken place in New Zealand Aotearoa.

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

  1. Click Topics and then Topics A-Z
  2. Select the first letter of the type of disaster you're looking for (eg if you're looking for information about floods, click on 'F')
Tips: 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, eg Earthquakes. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is another excellent website for information about New Zealand's history and environment.

  1. Scroll down to the different sections and go to Earth, Sea and Sky.
  2. Then select Natural hazards and disasters.
  3. From here you can choose the type of natural disaster you are looking for.

If you are looking for information about a particular 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.

New Zealand Disasters

This page from Christchurch City Libraries has entries about some well known disasters that have happened in New Zealand.

  • The top section of the page is about natural disasters, and you can choose which one you would like to read about.
  • Each entry includes facts and information about the impact of the disaster.

How disasters happen

Disasters happen because of changes in the earth's physical environment. Disasters can happen suddenly, but often there has been lots of activity behind the scenes before we see the results.

One Geology

This is a fabulous site to use when you're looking for information about the earth. It has been written especially for kids which makes it even better!

There are two ways of searching for information on this site:

  • Click on the different characters at the top of the page to find information about Earthquakes and Volcanoes.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page and type your keywords (eg 'landslides') into the search bar.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net 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 organisation’s mission and values are.

Science Learning Hub

This is also a great website to use because it's from a trusted organisation and it's a New Zealand website. 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!

There are two ways of searching this site as well.

  • Click Topics and choose from the list of topics on the page.
  • Type your keywords into the search bar at the top of the page.

GNS Science

GNS Science is a research organisation which specialises in earth science so this is a useful website to use when you're looking for information about natural disasters in New Zealand.

  • Click on the natural disasters listed under the heading Natural Hazards.
  • If the disaster you are looking for is not on the list, try searching using the search bar in the top right-hand corner of the page.
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:

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