Tsunami evacuation zones and routes

Find out if and when you need to evacuate using our interactive map and accompanying information guide.

A tsunami evacuation zone is an area you may need to evacuate from if you feel a long or strong earthquake or if there is an official tsunami warning.

Christchurch city’s tsunami evacuation zones changed in November 2019 based on new scientific research(external link) and scenario modelling. In some scenarios, the modelling shows flooding further inland. Subsequently, the evacuation zones have been extended. Our Civil Defence team will be working with affected communities around what the new tsunami evacuation zones mean for them and supporting them with their evacuation planning.

Evacuation zones and when to evacuate

A tsunami evacuation zone is an area that you may need to evacuate from if you feel a long rolling earthquake that lasts more than a minute, or a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or if there is an official tsunami warning. You may be asked to stay out of the evacuation zone for many hours.

There are three tsunami evacuation zones for Christchurch city and Banks Peninsula.

Red evacuation zone: Long or Strong, get Gone

Areas that could be affected by a small tsunami that’s unlikely to flood land but could cause strong surges or currents in the water.

When to evacuate

You should leave this zone immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a long or strong earthquake
  • are told to evacuate by Civil Defence
  • you hear the tsunami sirens

Stay out of this zone until you’re told it is safe to go back.

You can expect to evacuate the red zone several times in your lifetime.

Orange evacuation zone: Long or Strong, get Gone

Low-lying coastal areas that are likely to be flooded in a large tsunami.

When to evacuate

You should leave this zone immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a long or strong earthquake
  • are told to evacuate by Civil Defence
  • you hear the tsunami sirens

Stay out of this zone until you’re told it’s safe to go back.

You can expect to evacuate the orange zone maybe a few times in your lifetime.

Yellow evacuation zone

Areas that could potentially be flooded in a very large tsunami.

When to evacuate

  • You do not need to leave this zone if you feel a long or strong earthquake.
  • If you hear the tsunami sirens turn on the radio or visit the Council website. If you hear or see an announcement by Civil Defence to evacuate the yellow zone you must leave immediately.

Stay out of this zone until you’re told it’s safe to go back.

While it is possible you will have to evacuate this zone sometime in your lifetime, it is unlikely.


If you are not in a tsunami evacuation zone you don’t need to evacuate in a long or strong earthquake. You may wish to open your home to family or friends who need to evacuate from a tsunami zone.

The tsunami evacuation zones were determined by hazard scientists and emergency managers and reflect our best knowledge as at November 2019. As research about earthquakes and tsunami risk continues and further modelling work develops, it is possible that the zones could change. This page will contain the latest information.

Evacuation tips

Residents and businesses in tsunami evacuations zones should have evacuation plans.

Long or Strong, get Gone – if you live in the red or orange zone and you feel a long or strong earthquake don’t wait for an official warning - self-evacuate immediately.

Listen to official tsunami warnings

During a tsunami evacuation, get the latest information via radio, social media and the Council’s website (ccc.govt.nz(external link)). Follow any instructions issued by Civil Defence and emergency services.

Plan your route

Know what to do and where to go. Understand where the evacuation zone boundaries are and in what instance each zone needs to be evacuated. Try to learn local landmarks to help guide you.

Carpool

If you have to drive, try to take extra passengers in your car. Check whether your neighbour needs a ride or help evacuating. Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road and helps with traffic flow.

If you are driving, it is best to go further than the edge of the zone, to make room for those coming behind.

Cycle or walking routes

Sometimes evacuating on foot or bike is faster to get out of an evacuation zone because the roads can quickly become congested. Go for a walk and plan a walk/bike route that suits.

Talk to whānau and friends

If you need to evacuate, it’s often more comfortable to go to a relatives’ or friends’ place who are away from the evacuation zone(s) until the “all clear” has been given by Civil Defence. Talk to them about you or your family visiting during an evacuation.

Secure your home

Secure your home as you normally would when leaving. Make sure to lock your doors and shut windows securely.

Emergency bag

A tsunami warning may be in place for many hours, because the first wave is often not the biggest. You may be out of the evacuation zone for some time, which is why you need an emergency bag.

Before an emergency happens pack anything you may urgently need and can carry. This can be personal items (e.g. medicine, glasses, and sanitary items), supplies for babies and pets, water bottle, snacks, and family documents (e.g. copy of driver licences). Make it a family discussion on what needs to go in the emergency bag. Make sure everyone knows where it’s kept.

Check out the Get Ready website for what should be in your emergency bag.(external link)

Don’t forget your pets

If you are able to, take your pets with you when you evacuate. They are your responsibility. Include what your pets may need (e.g pet food, dog lead) in your emergency bag.

Rockfall

Be aware that if the ground shaking is strong, there may be unstable cliffs and rockfall.

Schools and early childhood centres

Schools and early childhood centres are required to have plans detailing their response to emergency events. Ask at your school or early childhood centre what arrangements they have in place and the steps you are expected to make to collect your child (or children) following an evacuation.

Rest homes and retirement villages

Rest homes or retirement villages may evacuate occupants to pre-arranged safe assembly areas outside the evacuation zone. The pre-arranged safe assembly areas will be identified in their emergency plan.

Find out about the arrangements you are expected to make to contact your family members following an evacuation at a rest home or retirement village.

Tsunami warnings

The warning time for a tsunami to reach our coastline depends on where it originates and how far it has to travel. There may not always be time to issue an official warning. 

Natural warnings

Your best warning for a tsunami is:

  • a rolling earthquake that lasts longer than a minute
  • a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up
  • sudden sea level changes and/or unusual noises coming from the sea – like a jet plane or a train

If you are in the red or orange evacuation zones you must leave immediately if you experience these warnings.

Official warnings and when to return home

Civil Defence official tsunami warnings may be given through the radio, TV, social media, or through an Emergency Mobile Alert to your mobile phone, telling you which zones to evacuate. The tsunami sirens may also be activated.

You must stay out of all evacuated zones until Civil Defence announce it is safe to return. Safe to return, 'all clear' messages will be broadcasted by Civil Defence using radio, TV, social media, and through the Council's website. 

You can also do your bit by sharing official warnings with friends and family in the evacuation zones.

Emergency Mobile Alerts

Emergency Mobile Alerts are messages broadcasted by authorised agencies to keep people safe. The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards, including tsunami. If your phone is on, capable, and inside the targeted location, you should get the alerts. You don’t have to download an app or subscribe to a service, just ensure your phone is capable and updated.

If you are in the orange or red evacuation zones you must evacuate immediately after a long or strong earthquake and not wait for an Emergency Mobile Alert.

The alerts are just one way of finding out about serious threats, so ensure you have an emergency plan and know where to find more information during an emergency.

Visit the Get Ready website to find out if your phone is ready to receive Emergency Mobile Alerts and for more information.(external link)

Tsunami sirens

Tsunami sirens are installed along the Christchurch coastline. These will be activated for a distance source tsunami generated overseas (e.g across the Pacific Ocean) with more than three hours of warning time. 

In some instances, if time permits, the sirens will also be sounded for a regional source tsunami generated in another area of New Zealand. This indicates a tsunami with one to three hours of warning time.

The sirens are not intended to warn you about a local source tsunami created close to our shore. A long or strong earthquake will be your only warning of a tsunami created close to our shore.

If you are in the orange or red zone and hear the tsunami sirens you must evacuate that zone immediately and move well inland out of all evacuation zones.

If you’re in the yellow zone and hear the sirens, check to see if there is an official Civil Defence tsunami evacuation warning in place for your zone.

Primary tsunami evacuation routes

Primary tsunami evacuation routes are suggested driving routes to move out of tsunami evacuation zones. Depending on the warning time, assisted evacuation may be provided for routes that are likely to experience traffic congestion.

Evacuation routes

If you are required to evacuate, below are the suggested primary evacuation routes to take.

  • Harbour Road - Kainga Road - Marshlands Road (Kainga)
  • Lower Styx Road - Marshlands Road (Styx)
  • Beach Road - Mairehau Road (Northshore)
  • Bowhill Road - Travis Road (North New Brighton)
  • Hawke Street – Pages Road
  • Towards city from Wainoni Road
  • Bridge Street - Breezes Road (South New Brighton)
  • Bridge Street - Dyers Road - Linwood Avenue (Southshore)
  • Rocking Horse Road - Estuary Road - Bridge St (Southshore)
  • Marine Parade - Bridge St (Southshore)
  • Main Road - Ferry Road (Redcliffs)
  • Wakefield Avenue - Evans Pass Road - Summit Road (Sumner)
  • Ferry Road (Ferrymead)
  • Bridle Path Road - Tunnel Road (Heathcote Valley)

Tsunami types

Tsunamis are created by underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or landslides, and are made up of waves or surges lasting for several hours. Only the largest tsunamis flood land, most tsunamis are not big enough to flood land but can still cause strong and unpredictable currents and surges in the sea and river mouths.

The first tsunami wave may not be the largest and waves can arrive for hours. So a tsunami warning can be in place for many hours.

The source of a tsunami can be local, regional or distant, depending on where it originates and how long it takes to travel to our coast.

Type of tsunami Risk to Christchurch City and Banks Peninsula Warning time to evacuate

Local source tsunami (or near source tsunami)

There are no known local tsunami sources (off-shore earthquake faults or underwater landslides in Pegasus Bay or the Canterbury Bight) that could cause a damaging tsunami big enough to flood land along the Christchurch coast (Waimakariri River to Sumner) or Kaitorete/Birdlings Flat coast.

There is a small possibility that an earthquake in Pegasus Bay or the Canterbury Bight could cause a tsunami that could flood some land at the heads of Banks Peninsula harbours and bays, because of the way these bays ‘funnel’ incoming waves.

An earthquake that could cause a local source tsunami would be felt as a strong earthquake ( making it hard to stand up) in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula.

A local source tsunami takes less than one hour to reach the coast.

It is unlikely there will be enough time to issue an official warning (including an Emergency Mobile Alert) for a local source tsunami.

The earthquake is your warning.

Regional source tsunami

For Christchurch and Banks Peninsula this includes tsunamis generated by earthquakes off the Kaikōura coast, in Cook Strait, or off the eastern North Island coast.

An earthquake that could cause a regional source tsunami would be felt as a long (longer than a minute) mild or moderate but long earthquake in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula.

This sort of tsunami could flood low-lying areas of Christchurch and the heads of Banks Peninsula harbours and bays.

A regional source tsunami takes one to three hours to reach the coast.

There may be time to issue an official warning for a regional source tsunami (including an Emergency Mobile Alert), depending on how far away it is created, but the earthquake is still your best warning.

Distant source tsunami

This type of tsunami is created by large earthquakes off the coast of southern New Zealand, in the Pacific Islands or across the Pacific Ocean, particularly South America. The most likely tsunami source for Christchurch is a tsunami generated by an earthquake in South America. The earthquake would not be felt in Christchurch but there would be enough time to issue an official warning.

In a worst-case scenario, this type of tsunami could flood significant areas of Christchurch.

A distant source tsunami takes more than three hours, and often more than 12 hours, to reach the coast.

An earthquake across the Pacific Ocean would not be felt in Christchurch or Banks Peninsula.

There will be time for an official warning from Civil Defence.

For more information on tsunamis visit the Environment Canterbury website.(external link)

Drop-in sessions

Come along to a drop-in session where you can meet our Civil Defence staff, learn more about the tsunami evacuation zones and ask any questions you may have.

Date and time Location
Wednesday 4 December, 4pm-6pm New Brighton Library, Ground Floor, 213 Marine Parade
Thursday 5 December, 12.30pm-2.30pm New Brighton Library, Ground Floor, 213 Marine Parade
Friday 6 December, 12.30pm-2.30pm Sumner Centre, 14/16 Wakefield Avenue
Friday 6 December, 4pm-6pm  Sumner Centre, 14/16 Wakefield Avenue
Monday 9 December, 12.30pm-2.30pm Linwood Library, First Floor, Eastgate Mall, Buckley’s Road
Monday 9 December, 4pm-6pm Linwood Library, First Floor, Eastgate Mall, Buckley’s Road
Tuesday 10 December, 2.30pm-6pm Parklands Library, 46 Queenspark Drive

Evacuation zones map

There are three tsunami zones shown below: red, orange and yellow.

Click on the magnifying glass icon on the map to find your property and see if you live in an evacuation zone.

Map Listing