Natural Hazards and RisksNgā Matepā me ngā Tūraru ā Taiao

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GNS Science has a national leadership role in monitoring and researching the causes, risks and consequences of geological hazards in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Aotearoa, a nation of hazards

Aotearoa New Zealand is a unique place on the Earth’s surface. It is positioned along the collision zone of two of the Earth’s major tectonic plates – the Pacific plate and the Australian plate. The forces that have created our dramatic and beautiful landscapes also make New Zealand extremely prone to natural hazards, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunami and landslides.

Natural hazard events can cause damage and disruption across our nation. At the same time, the impacts of hazard events are intensifying through population growth and ageing, increased urbanisation, and business vulnerabilities associated with fast-moving consumer goods and just-in-time supply chains. Risk is increasing, and Aotearoa New Zealand’s ability to manage future impacts from natural hazards is being tested.

Ngā Matepā e ngā Tūraru ā Taiao | the Natural Hazards and Risks Theme is the largest science theme within GNS Science.

The purpose of our research is to generate important scientific knowledge and tools for the benefit of New Zealand that can be used to improve resilience to natural hazards at national, regional, business, community and individual levels.

Hazards we research

Fundamentally, if we understand more about the size, frequency and location of our geophysical hazards and what triggers geohazard events, we will be better prepared for the future, have more effective responses when they do occur and will recover more quickly from them.

The main natural hazards we research are:


Much of our science is underpinned by GeoNet, an extensive hazard monitoring network owned and operated by GNS Science. As an integral component of GeoNet, Te Puna Mōrearea i te Rū | The National Geohazards Monitoring Centre provides active monitoring of Aotearoa New Zealand’s geological hazards, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is New Zealand's most trusted and referenced source of geohazard knowledge and public information.

Reducing risk and building resilience

Resilience has many dimensions: societal and infrastructural, built and natural, cultural and economic. Our impact, risk and social science research seeks to understand how people, communities and society can plan for, respond and adapt to the threats we face. 

Our science is used to inform the development of a national picture of risk, which enables informed decisions to be made about disaster risk reduction. Our science is also enabling a societal conversation about what is acceptable risk – and then what we need to do to manage that risk and determine who is responsible for decision-making.

We cannot deliver the best science without working with others. We have strong strategic partnerships across the natural hazards risk management system and with other research organisations, government agencies and international collaborators.

Leonard Graham 2545

Graham Leonard Natural Hazard and Risk Theme Leader

Graham is a Principal Scientist within the Earth Structure and Processes Department. His particular research interests are in Taupo Volcanic Zone volcanic mapping; New Zealand volcanic geology, stratigraphy and geochronology; developing effective response to warning systems, especially for volcanic, tsunami & landslide/debris-flow processes; and quantifying/characterising & mitigating the impacts of natural hazard events.

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  • Our tohu (icon)

    Our tohu (icon) – named Moko – for this theme is a combination of a koru, a well-known symbol of growth and development in te ao Māori, and a close-up look at the skin of mokomoko (lizards/skinks). Lizards are an icon of caution throughout the Pacific, and represent being alert and paying attention to the many signals and signs nature can offer us. Together these designs embody our goal to develop and further our ability to detect, understand and prepare.

Science Areas

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