Natural disasters

If there is a disaster, listen to your radio or television, or visit the Civil Defence website for advice about what to do.

If your life or property is at risk, you should call 111 for emergency help.

Emergency services

Be prepared

Disasters can and do happen in New Zealand and there are some basic things you should do to be prepared.

In most emergencies you should be able to stay in your home. Plan to be able to look after yourself, your family and your pets for three days or more.

The Get Thru website has information to help you be prepared. It explains the four most important things you need to understand. You need to:

  1. know how to keep safe before, during and after different types of disaster
  2. create and practise a household emergency plan
  3. put together a kit of emergency survival items and keep things like batteries and water refreshed
  4. have a backpack with essential items in it in case you have to leave in a hurry.

Information is available online in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Samoan, Tongan and Arabic.

You may also find the preparedness guides put out by the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office useful. There are separate guides that cover emergency preparedness for your households, businesses and neighbours.

Get Thru

Preparedness guides | Wellington Region Emergency Management

Earthquakes usually strike without warning, so it is really important to have an idea of what to do, especially if you have never experienced a severe shake


Lying on the boundary of two great and slowly shifting tectonic plates, New Zealand does get earthquakes. We do not feel most of them because they are either too small or too deep within the earth.

However, each year between 150-200 earthquakes are felt in different parts of the country. Mostly, we just carry on, but the big earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, and in Kaikoura in 2016 have made New Zealanders a little more alert to what can happen.

Earthquakes usually strike without warning, so it is really important to have an idea of what to do, especially if you have never experienced a severe shake.

The website has an earthquake section you should look at. The main thing to remember is to DROP, COVER and HOLD – drop to the ground, take cover under a solid piece of furniture, and hold on to it, or shelter against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases and other hazards. Stay indoors until the shaking stops.

Earthquake! | Get thru


A tsunami is a series of waves created when lots of water in the sea, or in a lake, is quickly displaced. Tsunamis can be caused by a number of things, such as coastal earthquakes or volcanic eruptions beneath the sea.

Tsunami waves can be very destructive. They can move a long way onto shore very quickly.

If you are near the coast when there is an earthquake that rolls for more than a minute OR makes it hard to stand up, do not wait for a tsunami warning. Move to high ground or as far inland as you can. Walk if you can. Stay there until you get the all clear.

Warnings that a tsunami is possible may also come through radio and Civil Defence sirens. If you live in a coastal area, make sure your evacuation place is outside of the tsunami zone. Check your local council’s tsunami zone map and be prepared to leave quickly.

Tsunamis | Get thru


Floods are New Zealand’s most frequent natural disaster. Floods can cause injury and loss of life, damage to property and infrastructure, loss of stock, and contamination of water and land.

Floods are usually caused by continuous heavy rain or thunderstorms but can also result from a tsunami or a coastal storm. A flood becomes dangerous if:

  • the water is very deep or is travelling very fast
  • the floods have risen very quickly
  • the floodwater contains debris, such as trees and sheets of corrugated iron or other large objects.

Getting ready before a flood strikes will help reduce damage to your home and business and help you survive.

Floods | Get thru

Disaster relief

Disaster relief is the job of Civil Defence. Their job is to help people get through natural or man-made disasters, including storms or floods, landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions.

Nationally, Civil Defence is co-ordinated by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management. But local Civil Defence is led by your city or district council. For details about who to contact in your area visit the Get Thru website.

Who to contact | Get Thru

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Page last updated: 09/01/2017

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