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Tsunami information

Earthquake and tsunami advice

If you're near the coast or inside a tsunami evacuation zone...

and you feel a big earthquake long (goes for a minute or longer) or strong (it's hard to stand up) or a weak, rolling earthquake shaking for a minute or more - self-evacuate - go immediately to higher ground or as far inland as possible, as soon as the shaking stops.

If you're outside the tsunami evacuation zones - then you don't need to move.
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Resource - Earthquake and tsunami advice for Gisborne / Tairāwhiti region

Local tsunami

You will feel a big earthquake and have up to 15 minutes to evacuate

A big earthquake such as a 8.9 magnitude centred in the Hikurangi subduction zone, off East Cape will be long and strong - so get gone.

Tsunami could arrive soon after the earthquake - there won't be any time for an official warning.

It's important to recognise the natural warning signs and act quickly.

In some areas it's best to walk or bike if possible, rather than getting stuck in traffic.

If you have family inside the evacuation zone don't try to enter the zone to find them - this can cause traffic jams and slow down the safe evacuation of the area.

If there's no tsunami generated after 2 hours (for a local event) or Civil Defence advise you sooner, it will be safe to go home.

Listen to a local radio station for updates.

Get ready - you should make plans with your family before an emergency like this happens

Discuss and organise to stay with family or friends living outside the tsunami evacuation area. Make sure all family members know where you will go. If you have children in a school or childcare centre within a tsunami evacuation area you should find out what their plans are – don't wait until an earthquake happens to find out.

Natural warning signs

Natural warning signs

If you're on or near the coast and feel an earthquake that's long or strong, or you see

  • a sudden rise or fall in the sea level
  • or hear loud and unusual sounds from the sea

Walk immediately to the nearest safe zone - higher ground or as far inland as possible.

Don't wait for an official warning - evacuate immediately.

Tsunami can arrive in minutes or take an hour. Take your grab bag with enough supplies in case you can't get home for 3 days.

Hikurangi subduction zone and being prepared

"1 in 4 chance of a magnitude 8 or greater earthquake in the next 50 years" In this video Tairāwhiti Civil Defence Emergency Manager Ben Green talks about our region's risk and about being prepared.
Read the article on the the Hikurangi Subduction zone - where it is and why scientists in Aotearoa and overseas are interested in it - visit East Coast LAB's website

17 June 2022
Hikurangi Subduction Zone - Regional Preparedness

Evacuation zones

All of the tsunami maps have both local and distant evacuation zones.

You only need to get clear of the evacuation areas not miles inland or on top of the highest peak.

If you're on a part of the coast that isn't covered by one of the maps, you should get as far inland or as high as you can within a 20-30 minute time frame (that's walking quickly not driving).

If you can take a transistor radio you can listen for the all clear or otherwise you should wait 2 hours before returning home - if no tsunami has been generated.

Distant or regional-source tsunami

Distant tsunami are made by a very strong earthquake on the other side of the ocean or as close as the Kermadec Islands.

The only real credible threat from a distant tsunami to Gisborne communities is from Chile/Peru with around 11-15 hours warning.

A tsunami generated by an earthquake in the Kermadec could take more than one hour for the inundation to hit and there'll be no natural warning signs.

You'll know when they're coming as Civil Defence will send public messages telling you what you need to do.

The primary means of warning people to evacuate will be by door knocking in the areas identified on the maps.

There's no need to panic as authorities will have between 10-12 hours to do this. Those at risk will be advised by Civil Defence volunteers, Police and Fire & Emergency NZ.

There will be information on our local radio stations, Civil Defence webpage and Facebook page.

It's possible that evacuations for a distant event could last for 10 -12 hours, as there are many surges in a distant tsunami event. If inundation does occur then some areas may be closed for sometime.

Inundation zones - red, orange, yellow

Everyone in all 3 zones - red, orange, yellow must self-evacuate following a long or strong earthquake

Red zone = the highest risk zone. Evacuate from this zone in all types of tsunami warnings - natural or official, generated from near or far. Red zone is like to be inundated by a tsunami generated by a distant earthquake as far off as Chile. There may be many hours before the inundation hits and no natural warning signs.

Orange zone = evacuate from this zone in most, if not all distant and regional-source official warnings.
This zone is likely to be inundated by a tsunami generated by an earthquake as close as the Kermadec Islands. It could take more than one hour for the inundation to hit and there may be no natural warning.

Yellow zone = local threat, you will feel a big earthquake and have up to 15 minutes to evacuate.
A big earthquake such as an 8.9 magnitude centred in the Hikurangi subduction zone, off East Cape, will be long and strong - so get gone.

All zones must evacuate immediately.

Tsunami Inundation Assessment - Q&As

Tsunami Inundation Assessment Report for Gisborne / Tairawhiti region.

The report and maps are based on new research into modelling of local tsunami generated from a magnitude 8.9 earthquake centred in the Hikurangi Subduction Zone off the East Coast.

Yes, there's always a chance the earthquake will be more significant and generate a larger tsunami.

Everyone in an inundation zone who feels a long (1 minute or more) or strong (difficult to stand up) earthquake should evacuate to higher ground as fast as possible.

The magnitude of an earthquake is not the only indication of its strength, depth and length are also key indicators. If it feels big to you, trust your instincts and self-evacuate immediately.

It could take several hours to drain away on land that's normally well drained, ie connected to culverts etc.

Water may pond for several days or weeks in poorly drained areas, leaving silt, rubbish and debris,

Appropriate hygiene precautions should be taken including gloves and face mask for cleaning up.

The maps show inundation zones for the entire East Coast.

We're working through evacuation plans for each community starting with the city, where the potential for the greatest loss of life is present.

Evacuation routes will be added to the maps as they're completed.

Computer modelling generates an inundation which is independent of property boundaries.

The tsunami zones were developed by NIWA and eCoast Limited, who have experience with tsunami events in Palu Sulawesi Indonesia, Anak Krakatoa, Japan and Sumatra.

GNS Science also reviewed the report to confirm the zones identified are acceptable.

Tsunami warning Q&As

The earthquake is the only tsunami warning you may get, trust your instincts and evacuate to higher ground as fast as possible.

If you feel and earthquake that's long (1 minute or more) or strong, get gone.  

Tsunami generated by a localised earthquake may arrive within 15 minutes. Do not wait for official warnings.

Recognise the natural warnings signs - if it feels like a big one or a long rolling one - move as quick as you can after the shaking has stopped.

LONG is 

One minute or longer.


A strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up and causes damage to structures and buildings.

If you're near the coast and experience any of the following, you should evacuate immediately:

  • Feel an earthquake that is long or strong.
  • See sudden changes in sea level.
  • Hear unusual loud noises coming from the ocean.
  • Receive an alert.

The earthquake that generated the tsunami in Japan caused damage to many of the tsunami sirens which resulted in zero warning.

Do not wait for an official warning, if it’s long (1 minute or more) or strong earthquake evacuate to higher ground as fast as possible.

You may or may not receive an Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA), don’t wait – heed the warning and self-evacuate.

If the earthquake throws you to the ground or makes it hard to stand up, self-evacuate.

Magnitude is only one indication of earthquake strength, depth and length are also key factors.

The earthquake will have a wider impact across the region.

But the tsunami will cause more damage in the inundation zones.

There's no exact number.

A tsunami is a series of ocean waves with very long wavelengths, typically hundreds of kilometres, caused by large-scale disturbances of the ocean.

The deeper the water, the greater the speed of tsunami waves will be.

The red and orange zones indicate how far a tsunami could come inland as a result of a distant tsunami.

The yellow zone is based on a magnitude 8.9 earthquake centred in the local Hikurangi Subduction Zone

With this report, we're gathering information about who will be affected.

Approximately 900 people will become casualties from an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude. Casualties caused by tsunami are unknown.

Evacuation Q&As

You should plan to evacuate the inundation zone within 15 minutes, walking quickly.

Avoid driving as the roads may not be safe

As soon as the shaking stops, move immediately to the nearest high ground - up a hill - or go inland, keep moving as far as you can walking or biking. Avoid driving as roads and bridges may not be safe.

A tsunami surge will contain a potentially lethal mix of large and dense objects like debris, toxic substances and electricity.

No. Evacuate to the nearest high ground quickly, that's walking not driving.

Do not travel any further than necessary. See the evacuation map for your area.

No. Do not drive through water.

We're currently reviewing the welfare centres based on the revised inundation zones and will update our communities as soon as possible.

Check the evacuation maps for routes.

Your emergency kit should include everything you need to survive for 3 days.

In an emergency event, once response efforts are complete the next focus is recovery, including services.

There's a number of air landing options outside the inundation zone.

The first priority is your survival.

Include your pets in your evacuation plan and emergency kits.

Pets can accompany you to a welfare centre but resources are prioritised for human survival first.

Communication Q&As

Your emergency kit should include a battery operated radio with extra batteries.

In an emergency event, many of the local radio stations will broadcast information about how to access help. Tune in and stay informed.

Yes. Emergency services will relocate to and operate out of Gisborne Hospital.

Discuss evacuation plans with your neighbours and neighbourhood network.

Find out now if you have neighbourhood watch or a network set up.
We can provide advice and support the development of a neighbourhood group. Contact us to discuss email service@gdc.govt.nz

More advice