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Wellington Earthquake Hazards

CDEM Wellington

The Wellington region is located within of the region of highest seismicity in New Zealand, located within the plate boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, with major strike-slip faults and the Hikurangi subduction interface below. The principal active faults bisect highly populated areas including Wellington, Porirua, Upper Hutt, and Masterton and major infrastructure lifelines cross the faults. The faults extend into the marine area surrounding the region, and hence there is a significant tsunami hazard arising from fault movement on these offshore sections of faults or because of submarine landslides triggered by the earthquake shaking.

The region has been impacted by major earthquakes ever since human settlement. Early events impacted upon Maori settlements appear to have occurred along the Wairarapa coast and since European settlement major earthquakes causing damage in Wellington occurred in 1848 (Awatere Fault in Marlborough), 1855 (Wairarapa Fault), and two earthquakes in 1942 for which the causative faults are not known.

Many of these faults are still active and present a significant hazard. The five faults that could potentially cause the most damage are; the Wellington Fault, Ohariu Fault (north & south), Wairarapa Fault, Carterton Fault and the Masterton Fault. A map of the faults in the Wellington region can be viewed below.

A number of these faults have an offshore component that adds an additional tsunami risk to a rupture event.

The following links provide further regional earthquake information:

Further information about the tsunami risk in the Wellington region can be found here:

  • Tsunami (Wellington Region Emergency Management website)


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