Port Hills building damage

Building damaged by rockfall in the Port Hills following the Christchurch earthquake sequence.

Our aim is to understand the fundamental mechanisms, causes and consequences of landslides both in space and time. To achieve this we study the factors that trigger landslides (earthquake, rain and temporal change); their properties and mechanisms of development, rates and processes of movement and their probability and social and economic impact of occurrence.

Research Themes & Questions


  • How do earthquakes and rainfall pre-condition slopes to fail and what are the thresholds for failure?
  • What controls the variation in occurrence and size of landslides over time?
  • How do site conditions impact landslide susceptibility?

Movement mechanisms
Landslide dam Nelson

  • What controls run-out distance and how fast landslides move?
  • How do cascading hazards affect landslide mobility over time?
  • How do volcanic edifices, submarine slopes and giant landslides catastrophically collapse?


  • How do the geotechnical properties of slopes influence the causes and mechanism of landslide development?
  • How do the soil and rock properties of slopes change through time?

Probability and impacts

  • What are the magnitude – frequency characteristics of landslides in different parts of NZ and can these data be incorporated into robust landslide risk models?
  • How do hazards cascade in time and space – awareness, preparedness and planning?
  • What factors should be used for the design of safe slopes and how can these be used for develop nation-wide standards and guidelines?