Specialist monitoring of geological hazards, including tsunamis, has been given the go-ahead after cabinet approved the implementation of a 24/7 system.
It will give Kiwis better long-term and real-time information about hazards, better protecting lives and properties, Civil Defence Minister Nathan Guy said on Monday.
The improvements, which include the ability to more quickly communicate hazards, will cost $19.5 million over four years.
"It's an important shift away from simply managing the after effects of disasters," Mr Guy said while visiting a geotechnical drill site at St Gerard's Monastery in Wellington.
"There is so much we can do when we are equipped with both long-term and real-time information about natural hazards."
Work to implement the new system has been under way since December, when the government spent $3m on interim measures after the Kaikoura earthquake.
The full system is expected to be in place by the end of this year.