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Understanding tsunami risk on the East Coast of New Zealand


Many people in Napier do not understand the difference between local and distance source tsunami events the different types of warnings they will receive.

Coastal communities along the East Coast are vulnerable to earthquake and tsunami because of the subduction zone marked by the Hikurangi plate boundary; however, there is little direct experience with tsunami events so the risks and required responses are not widely known.

A group of Napier Girls’ High School students has been researching tsunami preparedness and awareness in Hawke’s Bay, as part of a project developed by East Coast LAB, teachers from the school and scientists from GNS Science and Massey University. The scientists will use the information collected as part of their science research programmes.

The students took part in the ‘Life at the Boundary’ education programme at the LAB, National Aquarium of New Zealand, before undertaking surveys, looking at tsunami awareness and preparedness and tsunami evacuation routes. Their results match a 2015 study by GNS Science and Massey University.

East Coast LAB Community Science Coordinator Kate Boersen says research shows community understanding of natural hazards has improved over time but there are still concerns that many people do not understand the difference between local and distance source events, nor do they know the natural warning signs.

 Ms Boersen says a local source tsunami will arrive in less than an hour and most probably, the only warning there will be is a natural warning such as feeling a long or strong earthquake, seeing a sudden rise or fall in sea level or hearing unusual noises from the sea. While, a distance source tsunami, will arrive between three to 12 hours and for this there is plenty of time for official warnings.

Any other schools interested in being part of a Citizen Science project should contact us

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159 Dalton Street, Private Bag 6006 Napier, 4142
P: 06 835 9200

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