In 2011, the world watched in horror as the east coast of Japan was hit by a devastating tsunami.
There is no record of New Zealand being hit by such big waves.
But, thanks to data compiled by GNS Science and the Earthquake Commission, we now know which part of the country is most at risk.
“When you look at the map, it’s quite heavily spread over our east coast in particular,” said University of Canterbury researcher Tom Robinson.
An online interactive map shows that historically the east coast has borne the brunt of most tsunamis. This may be because it is parallel to a fault line.
“New Zealand sits astride the Pacific and Australian plates and it’s quite a complex and very active boundary,” said University of Otago seismic science professor Mark Stirling.
“We have the potential for very large tsunamis to be generated very close to the New Zealand coastline.”
The largest locally generated tsunami on record occurred in 1855 and produced waves of up to 11 meters at Palliser Bay – east of Wellington. This historical data helps researchers plan for future tsunamis.
“The data is useful for understanding the frequency and magnitude of tsunamis in New Zealand, we can get an idea of how far a tsunami could reach inland when they arrive in New Zealand,” said Finn Scheele, risk specialist at GNS Science.
“You see tsunami evacuation lines around parts of Wellington, tsunami sirens in Sumner, parts of Christchurch and construction going on in Hawke’s Bay,” Robinson added.
Just two weeks ago, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) set up a 24/7 center to monitor tsunamis before they hit. But NEMA says New Zealand is ready.
“New Zealand are very well prepared, we have certainly learned from the past in terms of preparation,” said assistant general manager Gary Knowles.
Learn from the past to prepare for the future.