Wairarapa fault line 'loaded with pressure' and could cause 'giant' quakes

A large fault line which could cause extensive damage has been "loaded" with pressure and could be at breaking point.

New research has found the Wairarapa fault line was stressed during the 2016 Kaikōura quake, increasing the potential for "giant earthquakes".

The study, published in Scientific Reports earlier this month, found the fault has "repeatedly produced giant earthquakes and is likely able to produce a similarly strong forthcoming event".

By studying previous ruptures of the fault, scientists can predict the size and damage of future quakes.

Despite the research being "well-founded", Geonet has said it is impossible to predict whether a quake will occur from the fault.

"There is no scientific way to accurately predict when and where a big earthquake is going to happen," it said.

The fault line spans 140km from offshore of the Cook Strait to Mauriceville near Masterton.

The last time the fault line ruptured was in 1855 - a magnitude 8.2 earthquake which tore through the Cook Strait, Marlborough, Wellington and Wairarapa. Up to eight people were killed in the quake and it generated the country's largest locally generated tsunami.

The quake raised Wellington's coast line by as much as 2.7 metres.

The 2016 Kaikōura earthquake which loaded the fault line with pressure has been described as "the most complex earthquake ever studied". 

At least 12 seperate fault lines ruptured, some of which had never been mapped before the quake. The quake killed two people and lifted the land by up to eight metres in places.