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Revision of the science model for future earthquake shaking in New Zealand

A scientific model that estimates the likelihood and strength of earthquake shaking in different parts of New Zealand is being revised to reflect the latest research knowledge.

GNS Science, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and EQC announced today that they are revising the National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM).

It is widely used by government and industry to estimate the likely impact of earthquakes on the country’s land, buildings and infrastructure.

The model incorporates the best available science to deliver scientific estimates of earthquake shaking.

GNS Science’s General Manager of Science, Peter Benfell, says the NSHM is vital for providing a picture of New Zealand’s seismic hazards. 

“It helps 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 information is essential for New Zealand to build resilience and manage risks to safety, security, and the economy from seismic events.”

John Sneyd, MBIE General Manager of Building System Performance, says the model is used by many decision makers for assessing and mitigating risk.

“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.”

Originally created in the 1980s, the most widely used version of the model was developed in 2002.

“While the NSHM is important for so many parts of New Zealand, a revision to the model doesn’t mean there will be immediate changes for the systems that use the model, like the Building Code,” says Mr Sneyd.

“We will make sure any changes are well-planned, align with Government policy and are introduced over time.”

GNS Science says a lot has changed since the last full revision of the NSHM with advancements in science and developments in international best practice. 

“The new model will reflect what we’ve learned from the past two decades of scientific research, including from the Canterbury earthquake sequence and the Kaikōura earthquake,” says Peter Benfell.

EQC says that an updated NSHM will help deliver a better picture of earthquake risk in different parts of New Zealand. 

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

MBIE and GNS Science are leading the revision of the model. They are working closely with EQC, engineers, universities and other Crown Research Institutes, with input from international scientists and expert end users. The end result will be freely available online.

The revised model is expected to be completed in mid-2022. GNS Science will continue to be the custodian of the model.

More information about the NSHM is available on the GNS website: www.gns.cri.nz/NSHM

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