New tsunami database shows east coast of New Zealand most at risk

A new tsunami database shows the east coast of New Zealand is the part of the country most at-risk from a tsunami.

The database holds records of hundreds of past events, which researchers hope will help predict future hazards.

In 2011, the world watched in horror as Japan's east coast was hit by a devastating tsunami.

There's no record of New Zealand being hit by waves that big.

But, thanks to data compiled by GNS Science and the Earthquake Commission, we now know which part of the country is most at risk.

"When you look at the map its quite heavily distributed around our east coast in particular," said Canterbury University researcher Tom Robinson.

An interactive online map shows that historically the east coast has borne the brunt of most tsunamis. That's possibly because it runs parallel with a faultline.

"New Zealand sits astride the Pacific and Australian plates and it's quite a complex very active boundary," said University of Otago earthquake science Professor Mark Stirling.

"We've got the potential for very big tsunamis to be generated very close to New Zealand's shoreline."

The largest locally-generated tsunami on record was in 1855 and produced waves of up to 11 metres at Palliser Bay - east of Wellington. This historical data helps researchers to plan for future tsunamis.

"The data is useful to understand the frequency and magnitude of tsunami in New Zealand, we can get an idea of how far a tsunami might reach inland when they come to New Zealand," said GNS Science risk scientist Finn Scheele.

"You see tsunami evacuation lines around parts of Wellington, tsunami sirens in Sumner, in parts of Christchurch and ongoing work in Hawke's Bay," Robinson added.

Just two weeks ago the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) set up a 24/7 centre to monitor tsunamis before they appear. But NEMA says New Zealand is ready.

"New Zealand is very well-prepared, we have certainly learnt from the past in terms of preparedness," deputy CEO Gary Knowles said.

Learning from the past to prepare for the future.