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Hikurangi Response Planning

Planning for a large Hikurangi subduction zone earthquake and tsunami

Project Period: July 2018 - June 2021

Project Funders: Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management

Organisations: Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu/Wanganui & Wellington Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups, Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management & East Coast LAB

Project Location: North Island's East Coast

Planning for a rupture of New Zealand’s largest fault, the Hikurangi subduction zone, has kicked into motion, with scientists certain it’s a case of when, not if.

We know the Hikurangi subduction zone can produce large earthquakes and tsunamis, and that these events have occurred in the past. This knowledge, combined with current research suggesting there is a greater likelihood of a rupture following the Kaikoura/Hurunui earthquake in 2016, and increased pressure building on the fault is the driving force behind this project. 

Emergency managers, scientists, and key stakeholders are working together to develop the Hikurangi Earthquake and Tsunami (HEAT) Framework. The framework identifies what responding agencies and organisations can do before an event to increase their resilience, and response concepts which could be applied after a large Hikurangi subduction zone earthquake and tsunami.

The framework has communities at its heart, and has been developed for the five Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups likely to be the first and most impacted by a future event on the subduction zone - Tairāwhiti (Gisborne), Hawke's Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui and Wellington. 

It uses a credible magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami scenario as a tool to identify the consequences of a large Hikurangi subduction zone earthquake and tsunami on the North Island east coast.

Scenario-based planning is a common approach used by emergency planners when writing response plans. It is important to note however that the magnitude 8.9 scenario, whilst scientifically credible, is one of many possibilities- scientists cannot predict when or how any real event will occur.


Check out the video below to see the credible scenario being used:



The project led by East Coast Life at the Boundary will involve:

  1. Developing, exercising and refining a Civil Defence Emergency Management response framework, titled the Hikurangi Earthquake and Tsunami (HEAT) Framework, to improve preparedness and resilience to such an event. 
  2. Determining the impacts and implications of such an event for the most ‘at risk’ communities on the North Island East Coast.

Communities are at the centre of all response planning, and we want this project to be a collaborative effort. We are all responsible for ourselves and our families – we are all part of Civil Defence in New Zealand. For information on how to prepare for an earthquake or tsunami, visit

Got a question? Check out the Hikurangi Response Plan FAQs

Want to know more about the credible scenario? The GNS Science credible scenario report can be found here.

For further information, please contact the Project Leader, Natasha Goldring - 




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