Invisible natural forces at work

Mission critical data for a shaky country

Natural Hazards and Risk

Providing up-to-date, useful information for decision-makers is vital when it comes to managing Aotearoa New Zealand’s risks from seismic events.

This year GNS Science has embarked on a revision of the National Seismic Hazard Model, a model which assesses the likelihood and strength of earthquake shaking occurring at any given point in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Project lead, Dr Matt Gerstenberger, says the model incorporates the best available science to deliver estimates of earthquake shaking over selected time periods.

“It is a really important scientific model, widely used by industry and government to estimate the impact of this shaking on land, buildings and infrastructure, and help with planning.”

He says key users include Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Earthquake Commission, local and regional authorities, New Zealand Transport Agency, structural and geotechnical engineers, land-use planners, seismic hazard consultants and risk modelling consultants, and the insurance sector.

Dr Gerstenberger says the revised model will help us understand the expected shaking that might occur in a specific area over a certain amount of time, for example, the next 10, 50 or 100 years.

“This will provide a better picture of earthquake hazard in different parts of Aotearoa New Zealand."

“This information is essential to build resilience and manage risks to safety, security, and our economy from seismic events. It underpins decisions about road and rail infrastructure development, civil defence planning, assessing risk by insurance companies, determining how buildings need to be built, and more.”

The revision will reflect research knowledge gathered over the past two decades, including from the Canterbury and Kaikōura earthquakes. The scientific team developing the model includes scientists from GNS Science, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, University of Auckland, NIWA, USA, Australia, Canada, UK, Italy and Germany.

“We are excited to be working with a team of local and international scientists and expert end-users, all contributing to the project over the next couple of years,” says Dr Gerstenberger.

The project is a joint initiative by GNS Science, MBIE and EQC. The revised National Seismic Hazard Model is expected to be completed in mid-2022 and will be freely available online.

“This is mission-critical data for decision making to reduce the impact of earthquakes on New Zealand homes, communities, towns and cities.”
Dr Jo Horrocks, Chief Resilience & Research Officer, Earthquake Commission

Thank you for reading this article. GNS Science will donate on your behalf to The Wonder Project, a free school programme designed to get young Kiwis excited about science, technology, engineering and maths.

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Image credit: Tim Little, GNS Science; Julian Thomson, GNS Science. Steve Lawson, GNS Science /EQC. Dick Beetham, GNS Science /EQC.

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