Massive earthquake, tsunami in New Zealand inevitable in our lifetime - experts

Kiwis should prepare for a massive earthquake and tsunami, according to experts.

Researchers at the East Coast LAB's (Life at the Boundary) Hikurangi Response Plan Project believe there is credible evidence a magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami could hit New Zealand if there is a rupture in the Hikurangi subduction zone.

A video released on Thursday by East Coast LAB says the chances of a rupture of the Hikurangi fault may be "higher than initially understood".

"We know a large earthquake and tsunami is something we will face in our lifetime, or that of our children and grandchildren.

"The reality is it isn't a matter of if, but when."

The video explains that the Hikurangi subduction zone is New Zealand's "largest and most active fault".

It is found just off New Zealand's east coast, running from Gisborne to the top of the South Island, and is where the Pacific plate is subducting beneath the Indo-Australian plate.

"New Zealand sits on a subduction zone just like Japan, and people should be prepared for the next large earthquake and tsunami," said a statement from East Coast LAB.

Massive earthquake, tsunami in New Zealand inevitable in our lifetime - experts
Photo credit: GNS Science

The project's lead, Natasha Goldring, says a massive earthquake will inevitably strike New Zealand and encourages Kiwis to understand the risks.

"While emergency managers are working to develop a response plan to such an event, we want people to make a household emergency plan, practise their drop, cover, and their tsunami hikoi, and become involved in their community resilience planning," said Goldring.

The video provides several tips for people to prepare for the inevitable quake, like practising drills and making household emergency plans.

"We know that practising these two things works, as it helped save more than 95 percent of people who safely evacuated in time in the 2011 Japan tsunami," said Goldring.

"We want to spark informed and practical conversations about what kiwis will do if they have to evacuate, can't get home, have no power, phone or internet."

East Coast LAB is working with five Civil Defence Emergency Management groups from across the North Island's east coast to develop the plan, which will set how Civil Defence responds to the worst hit areas in the aftermath of a quake.

But it says the community must also come together and work to prepare for future events.

New Zealand Geoscience Society (GNS) scientist Dr Laura Wallace said in January that new insights gained from the 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes was helping understand the risk from the Hikurangi fault.

Thirty sensors were placed at the Hikurangi zone in October to collect crucial data. Dr Wallace said it was necessary with evidence pointing to the Hikurangi zone possibly being responsible for the Kaikōura quakes.