List of earthquakes in New Zealand

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Major active fault zones of New Zealand showing variation in displacement vector along the PacificIndo-Australian plate boundary (left) and the distribution of earthquakes (magnitude 5 or greater)

This is a list of large earthquakes that have occurred in New Zealand. Only earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 or greater are listed, except for a few that had a moderate impact. Aftershocks are not included, unless they were of great significance or contributed to a death toll, such as the M 6.3 2011 Christchurch earthquake and the M 7.3 aftershock to the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake.

Earthquakes occur frequently in New Zealand as the country is situated in the collision zone between the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, part of the Pacific Basin Ring of Fire, where many earthquakes and volcanoes occur. Most events occur along the main ranges running from Fiordland in the southwest to East Cape in the northeast. This axis follows the boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates. Large earthquakes are less common along the central Alpine Fault, where the plates are not subducting and the forces are accommodated in different ways.

The largest city within the highest-risk zone is the nation's capital, Wellington, followed by Hastings then Napier. All these cities have experienced severe earthquakes since European settlement. About 14,000 earthquakes occur in and around the country each year, of which between 150 and 200 are big enough to be felt.[1] As a result, New Zealand has very stringent building regulations.

Quite early on, European settlers were faced with the reality of earthquakes in their new home. On 26 May 1840, the new settlement at Port Nicholson was struck by the first of a number of earthquakes and tremors.[2] Early settlers learned fairly quickly the importance of using appropriate building methods in an earthquake-prone country. The 1848 earthquake, centred in Marlborough, caused great damage to the brick and masonry buildings in Wellington, and the city was rebuilt mainly in wood; consequently it suffered comparatively little damage in the 8.2 magnitude earthquake of 1855, which lifted the land 2–3m.[3] Many buildings in Hastings and Napier were damaged in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake. New building regulations meant that any new buildings constructed afterwards attempted to take earthquake shaking into account in building design.[3]

Pre-19th century[edit]

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
1100 Alpine Fault South Island 7.6–8.3 [4]
1460 Wellington Region Wellington 8.0 8.0 25 km 41.39°S 174.80°E [5]
1610–20 Alpine Fault South Island 7.6–8.3 [4][6]
1717 Alpine Fault South Island 8.1 [4][6]

19th century[edit]

Information for earthquakes before 1840 are later estimates.

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
1815 New Plymouth Taranaki 7.0 [7] 25 km 38.99°S 174.00°E
1817 Fiordland South Island 7.0 [8] 25 km 45.99°S 167.00°E
1826 Fiordland South Island 8.0 [9] 8.0 25 km 44.99°S 167.00°E
1835 South Auckland Auckland 7.0 [10] 25 km 36.99°S 175.00°E Apparently a large shallow earthquake followed by aftershocks. Evidence rests on a single report that has so far not been verified[11]
1838 Waitotara Forest Manawatu 7.0 [12] 25 km 39.39°S 176.10°E
26 May 1840 Paraparaumu Wellington 6.0 [13] 25 km 41.00°S 175.00°E
8 July 1843 Near Taihape Manawatu 7.6 [14] 7.6 12 km 39.59°S 176.20°E 2 1843 Wanganui earthquake
13 July 1846 Snares Islands Southland 6.3 [15] 25 km 47.00°S 166.00°E
19 November 1846 Karamea West Coast 6.5 [16] 25 km 41.00°S 172.00°E
4 December 1846 Wellington Wellington 6.0 [17] 25 km 41.00°S 174.50°E
16 October 1848 Blenheim Marlborough 7.4 [18] 7.8 12 km 41.89°S 173.60°E 3 1848 Marlborough earthquake
27 July 1851 Motueka Tasman 6.0 [19] 25 km 41.00°S 173.00°E
23 January 1855 Lake Wairarapa Wairarapa 8.2[20] 8.2 33 km 41.198°S 175.20°E 9 1855 Wairarapa earthquake[21][22][23][24]
23 February 1863 Waipukurau Hawke's Bay 7.5[25] 25 km 40.00°S 176.50°E 1863 Hawke's Bay earthquake[26][27]
19 October 1868 Cape Farewell Tasman 7.2 [28] 12 km[29] 40.20°S 173.00°E Felt throughout Central New Zealand
5 June 1869 Christchurch Canterbury 4.7[30]–5.7[31] 5 km 43.55°S 172.60°E 1869 Christchurch earthquake
18 July 1876 Palmerston North Manawatu 6.8 [32] 50 km 40.19°S 175.80°E Felt strongly in Palmerston North
25 June 1881 Palmerston North Manawatu 6.7 [33] 33 km 40.39°S 175.60°E Felt strongly in Palmerston North
5 December 1881 Castle Hill[34] Canterbury 6.0 [35] 12 km 43.13°S 171.77°E Damaged stone buildings in Christchurch, including ChristChurch Cathedral[36]
1 September 1888 Lewis Pass Canterbury 7.0 [37] 7.1 12 km 42.59°S 172.55°E 1888 North Canterbury earthquake
23 June 1891 Port Waikato Auckland 6.2 [38] 12 km 37.43°S 174.43°E Felt in Auckland/Waikato
12 February 1893 Nelson Tasman Bay 6.7 [39] 70 km 40.99°S 173.80°E Felt throughout Central New Zealand
18 August 1895 Taupo Bay of Plenty 6.0 [40] 12 km 38.80°S 176.80°E Felt throughout Central New Zealand
8 December 1897 Wanganui Manawatu 6.5 [41] 40 km 39.99°S, 175.00°E Felt throughout North Island, Strong in Wanganui

1900–1949[edit]

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
16 November 1901 Cheviot North Canterbury 6.8 [42] 12 km 42.74°S 173.35°E 1 1901 Cheviot earthquake
9 August 1904 Cape Turnagain Hawke's Bay 7.0 [43] 7.2 16 km 40.40°S 176.40°E 1904 Cape Turnagain earthquake
7 October 1914 East Cape Gisborne 6.6 [44] 12 km 37.80°S 178.20°E Felt throughout eastern North Island
1 May 1917 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 8.0 50 km 29.00°S 177.00°W Felt throughout New Zealand[45]
6 August 1917 Castlepoint Manawatu 6.8 [46] 12 km 40.80°S 176.00°E Felt throughout North Island
3 November 1918 Puysegur Trench South of New Zealand 6.8 [47] 50 km 47.00°S 165.40°E Felt throughout Southland
29 June 1921 Kaweka Forest Hawke's Bay 7.0 [48] 80 km 39.29°S 176.40°E Felt throughout North Island
25 December 1922 Motunau North Canterbury 6.4 20 km 42.99°S 173.00°E Felt throughout Upper half of South Island
9 March 1929 Arthur's Pass Canterbury 7.0 [49] 12 km 42.83°S 171.83°E 1929 Arthur's Pass earthquake
17 June 1929 Murchison West Coast 7.3 [50] 7.8 20 km 41.69°S 172.20°E 17 1929 Murchison earthquake
23 June 1929 Murchison West Coast 6.5 [51] 12 km 41.78°S 172.32°E
12 February 1930 Porangahau Hawke's Bay 6.2 33 km 40.39°S 176.55°E Felt throughout lower half of North Island
3 February 1931 North of Napier Hawke's Bay 7.4 [52] 7.8 20 km 39.29°S 177.00°E 256 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake
13 February 1931 East of Napier Hawke's Bay 7.3 [53] 30 km 39.55°S 177.31°E Aftershock to M 7.4 event
16 September 1932 Wairoa Hawke's Bay 6.9 [54] 12 km 38.95°S 177.59°E Caused further damage to the already devastated Hawke's Bay.
5 March 1934 Pahiatua Manawatu 7.2 [55] 12 km 40.54°S 176.29°E 2 1934 Pahiatua earthquake
15 March 1934 Wairoa Hawke's Bay 6.3 25 km 39.31°S 177.23°E Felt strongly in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne
24 May 1936 Whakatane Bay of Plenty 6.5 [56] 150 km 37.99°S 177.00°E Felt in North Island
16 December 1938 Fiordland Southland 7.0 60 km 44.99°S 167.00°E Felt throughout South Island
11 February 1939 Fiordland Southland 7.0 [57] 25 km 45.00°S 167.50°E Felt throughout South Island
26 February 1940 Hastings Hawke's Bay 6.0 25 km 39.50°S 176.50°E Felt throughout North Island
24 June 1942 Masterton Wairarapa 6.9 [58] 12 km 40.96°S 175.69°E 1[59] June 1942 Wairarapa earthquake
1 August 1942 Masterton Wairarapa 6.8 [60] 40 km 41.01°S 175.52°E 1 August 1942 Wairarapa earthquake
17 February 1943 Te Anau Southland 6.5 123 km 45.29°S 168.00°E Felt throughout South Island
2 August 1943 Te Anau Southland 6.1 [61] 33 km 45.64°S 166.67°E Felt throughout South Island
2 September 1945 Stewart Island Southland 6.5 [62] 12 km 47.47°S, 166.12°E Felt throughout Southland and Otago
26 June 1946 Lake Coleridge Canterbury 6.5[63] 12 km 43.30°S 171.47°E Mainshock
26 March 1947 Offshore Poverty Bay Gisborne 7.1 38.55°S 178.42°E 1947 Gisborne earthquakes and tsunami
17 May 1947 Offshore Tolaga Bay Gisborne 7.1 38.21°S 178.60°E 1947 Gisborne earthquakes and tsunami
22 May 1948 Hanmer Springs North Canterbury 6.4 12 km 42.49°S 173.00°E Mainshock
22 May 1948 Cheviot North Canterbury 6.2 12 km 42.83°S 173.05°E Separate event triggered by the M 6.4 earthquake 5 minutes prior
9 February 1949 Hawera Taranaki 6.4 199 km 39.67°S 174.35°E Felt throughout North Island

1950–1999[edit]

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
10 February 1951 Porangahau Hawke's Bay 6.1 33 km 40.21°S 177.04°E Felt throughout North Island [64]
24 June 1951 Toaroa Junction Manawatu 6.3 33 km 39.45°S 176.20°E Felt throughout North Island
29 September 1953 Tauranga Bay of Plenty 7.2 [65] 273 km 37.59°S 176.48°E Felt throughout North Island
27 February 1955 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.8 18 km 28.40°S 175.37°W Felt in the East half of North Island
29 December 1956 Matawai Gisborne 6.1 6.1 33 km 39.72°S 176.87°E Felt strongly along the East Coast of the North Island
31 January 1958 Waipawa Hawke's Bay 6.1 12 km 30.30°S 177.50°E
14 September 1959 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.8 35 km 28.82°S 177.07°W Felt in the East half of North Island
28 March 1960 Mokau Taranaki 6.6 [66] 237 km 39.04°S 174.81°E Doublet earthquake to 6.5 event
28 March 1960 Mokau Taranaki 6.5 [67] 209 km 39.04°S 174.77°E Doublet earthquake to 6.6 event
25 May 1960 Milford Sound Southland 6.3 12 km 44.17°S 167.72°E
27 December 1961 Martinborough Wellington 6.2 12 km 41.51°S 176.11°E Struck offshore, 65 km east of Martinborough
18 December 1963 Raoul Islands Kermadec Islands 7.7 35 km 24.77°S 176.52°W Felt in the East half of North Island
11 April 1965 Kaikoura North Canterbury 6.1 12 km 42.76°S 173.87°E Felt in Kaikoura/North Canterbury
21 May 1965 George Sound Southland 6.4 101 km 44.94°S 167.36°E
4 March 1966 Gisborne East Cape 6.0 33 km 38.73°S 178.11°E Felt in Gisborne
23 April 1966 Cook Strait Marlborough 5.8 5.8 12 km 41.64°S 174.54°E Caused damage in Wellington
24 May 1968 Inangahua Junction West Coast 6.7[68] 7.1[68] 12 km 41.75°S 172.04°E 3 1968 Inangahua earthquake
6 January 1973 Taupo Waikato 7.0 163 km 39.03°S 175.26°E Felt throughout New Zealand
5 May 1976 Milford Sound Southland 6.6 12 km 44.67°S 167.38°E
15 January 1976 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.8 43 km 29.21°S 177.63°W Foreshock to M 8.2 event
15 January 1976 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 8.2 31 km 29.17°S 177.31°W Main shock
18 January 1977 Cook Strait Marlborough 6.0 33 km 41.84°S 174.58°E
12 October 1979 Puysegur Trench South of New Zealand 6.5 12 km 46.70°S 166.03°E
31 December 1984 White Island Bay of Plenty 6.3 12 km 36.59°S 177.55°E Felt around the Bay of Plenty
21 October 1986 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 8.3 33 km 28.15°S 176.29°W Felt throughout New Zealand[69]
2 March 1987 Edgecumbe Bay of Plenty 6.1 6.5 10 km 37.88°S 176.80°E 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake
4 June 1988 Te Anau Southland 6.1 73 km 45.12°S 167.29°E
24 May 1989 Puysegur Trench South of New Zealand 8.2 Felt in the South Island
31 May 1989 Doubtful Sound Southland 6.1 23 km 45.33°S 166.87°E
13 May 1990 Weber Manawatu 6.2[70] 6.4[70] 29 km 40.42S 176.47°E Mainshock
28 January 1991 Buller Ranges West Coast 6.1 9.9 km 41.90°S 171.65°E Foreshock to M 6.3 event
29 January 1991 Buller Ranges West Coast 6.3 17.3 km 41.90°S 171.72°E Mainshock
8 September 1991 South Taranaki Bight Manawatu 6.3 86 km 40.24°S 175.16°E Felt throughout North Island
27 May 1992 Wairau Valley Marlborough 6.8 79 km 41.60°S 173.66°E Felt in Central New Zealand
21 June 1992 White Island Bay of Plenty 6.1 5 km 37.57°S 176.82°E Felt in Bay of Plenty
10 August 1993 Secretary Island Southland 6.7 7.0 5 km 45.21°S 166.70°E Felt as far away as Australia
10 August 1993 Gisborne East Cape 6.3 45 km 38.52°S 177.90°E Felt strongly in Gisborne.
11 April 1993 Hastings Hawke's Bay 6.1 37 km 39.72°S 176.71°E Felt strongly throughout Hawke's Bay
18 June 1994 Arthur's Pass Canterbury 6.7 [71] 6.7 4 km 43.00°S 171.47°E Mainshock
19 June 1994 Lake Coleridge Canterbury 6.1 5 km 43.16°S, 171.47°E Triggered from the M 6.7 Arthur's Pass event
24 November 1995 Arthur's Pass Canterbury 6.3 7 km 42.95°S, 171.81°E Felt strongly in the South Island
6 February 1995 NE of New Zealand East Cape 7.0 12 km 37.7°7S 179.68°E Mainshock
10 February 1995 NE of New Zealand East Cape 6.6 12 km 37.92°7S 179.51°E
25 May 1997 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.9 339 km 33.61°S 177.80°E Felt throughout North Island and upper half of South Island
20 April 1998 Taumaranui Manawatu 6.7 [72] 232 km 39,02S 174.92°E Felt throughout the North Island
25 October 1999 Taupo Waikato 7.0 160 km 38.56S 175.91°E Felt throughout New Zealand

2000–2009[edit]

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
15 August 2000 L'Esperance Rock Kermadec Islands 7.6 [73] 436 km 31.94°S 178.55°E Felt in Christchurch
1 November 2000 Fiordland Southland 6.2 [74] 9 km 45.12°S 166.95°E
21 August 2001 NE of New Zealand East Cape 7.1 [75] 7.1 33 km 36.98°S 179.16°E Felt in the Gisborne area
21 October 2001 NE of New Zealand East Cape 6.3 12 km 36.89°S 179.86°E Felt in the Gisborne area
8 December 2001 Haast West Coast 6.2 5 km 44.11°S 168.60°E Mainshock
22 August 2003 Fiordland Southland 7.0 [76] 7.2 24 km 45.19°S, 166.83°E Felt throughout South Island
22 November 2004 Puysegur Trench South of New Zealand 7.1 [77] 7.0 12 km 46.57°S 165.08°E Reportedly felt as far north as Hamilton.
14 March 2005 Opunake Manawatu-Wanganui 6.4 154 km 40.17°S 173.63°E Felt strongly throughout central New Zealand
16 May 2006 L'Esperance Rock Kermadec Islands 7.5 [78] 7.4 150 km 31.56°S, 179.30°W Felt in East half of New Zealand
16 May 2006 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.1 33 km 31.98°S, 177.21°W Felt in East half on North Island
16 October 2007 Fiordland Southland 6.7 [79] 6.7 5 km 44.72°S 167.39°E Felt lower half of South Island
9 December 2007 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.8 152 km 25.99°S 177.51°W Felt in East half of New Zealand
20 December 2007 Gisborne East Cape 6.7 [80] 6.6 44 km 38.89°S 178.44°E 2007 Gisborne earthquake
15 July 2009 Puysegur Trench South of New Zealand 6.1 [81] 33 km 46.07°S 165.75°E Felt throughout Southland and Otago
15 July 2009 Dusky Sound Southland 7.8 [82] 12 km 45.76°S 166.58°E 2009 Fiordland earthquake

2010–present[edit]

Date Location Region Magnitude (ML) Magnitude (MW) Magnitude (Mb) Depth Latitude Longitude Fatalities Further information
4 September 2010 Darfield Canterbury 7.1 7.0 6.4 11 km 43.52°S 172.16°E 2010 Canterbury earthquake[83][84]
22 February 2011 Christchurch Canterbury 6.3 6.1 6.1 6 km 43.58S 172.67E 185 [85] 2011 Christchurch earthquake[86][87]
13 June 2011 Christchurch Canterbury 6.4 5.9 6.0 7 km 43.56°S 172.73°E 1 June 2011 Christchurch earthquake[88][89]
5 July 2011 Taupo Waikato 6.5 5.5 5.4 153 km 38.65°S 175.70°E Felt throughout New Zealand.[90][91]
7 July 2011 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.6 7.6 7.0 20 km 29.31°S 176.20°W Felt as far away as Christchurch.[92][93]
22 October 2011 Raoul Island Kermadec Islands 7.3 7.4 6.5 33 km 28.99°S 176.18°W Felt in eastern half of the North Island.[94][95]
23 December 2011 Christchurch Canterbury 6.0 5.9 5.7 7 km 43.52°S 172.74°E Caused damage in the Christchurch region.[96][97]
21 July 2013 Cook Strait Marlborough 6.5 6.5 6.1 17 km 41.61°S 174.33°E 2013 Seddon earthquake[98][99]
16 August 2013 Lake Grassmere Marlborough 6.6 6.5 6.0 8 km 41.73°S 174.15°E 2013 Lake Grassmere earthquake[100][101]
16 August 2013 Lake Grassmere Marlborough 6.0 5.9 5.8 8 km 41.67°S 174.26°E Largest aftershock to 2013 Lake Grassmere earthquake[102][103]
20 January 2014 Eketahuna Wairarapa 6.2 6.1 5.8 34 km 40.62°S 175.85°E 2014 Eketahuna earthquake[104][105]
13 October 2014 Fiordland Southland 6.2 5.8 5.4 9 km 46.29°S 165.87°E [106][107]
14 October 2014 NE of Whakatane Bay of Plenty 6.5 5.7 82 km 34.90°S 179.65°E [108][109]
17 November 2014 NE of Gisborne Gisborne 6.5 6.7 6.2 22 km 37.68°S 179.68°E Felt strongly across the North Island[110][111]
6 January 2015 W of Arthur's Pass Canterbury 6.0 5.6 5.5 5 km 43.06°S 171.25°E Felt throughout the South Island[112][113]
24 April 2015 SE of St Arnaud Marlborough 6.2 6.1 6.0 52 km 42.09°S 173.07°E Felt throughout New Zealand[114][115]
2 February 2016 E of Macauley Island Kermadec Islands 6.6 6.2 6.3 366 km 31.65°S 177.74°E Felt widely in the North Island.[116]
14 February 2016 Christchurch Canterbury 5.7 5.8 15 km 43.5°S 172.83°E 2016 Christchurch earthquake[117][118]
2 September 2016 NE of East Cape East Cape 7.1 7.1 55 km 37.01°S 179.63°E 2016 Te Araroa earthquake[119][120]
14 November 2016 Culverden North Canterbury 7.8 7.8[121][122] 15 km 42.757°S 173.077°E 2[123] 2016 Kaikoura earthquake[124]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Dench, Alison (2005). Essential Dates: A Timeline of New Zealand History. Auckland: Random House. ISBN 978-1-86941-689-8.
  • Eiby, G. A. (1957); Earthquakes (London, Frederick Muller) Page 159 has Table of (16) Major Earthquakes in New Zealand 1848–1942, from R. C. Hayes.
  • Henderson, J (1937); The West Nelson Earthquakes of 1929, Bulletin No. 55 of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (Wellington, Government Printer)
  • Rogers, Anna (2013) [1996]. The Shaky Isles: New Zealand Earthquakes (2 ed.). Wellington: Grantham House. ISBN 978-1-86934-119-0.
  • Wright, Matthew (2014). Living on shaky ground: The science and story behind New Zealand's earthquakes. Auckland: Random House (New Zealand). ISBN 978-1-77553-688-8.

External links[edit]