Tsunami evacuation zones

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

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. Check our interactive map(external link) to see what zone your property may be in.

Christchurch city’s tsunami evacuation zones changed in November 2019 and Banks Peninsula's in November 2020 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.

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

This is an area that is most likely to be affected by tsunami. It includes the sea, estuaries, rivers, beaches and harbours. A tsunami of any size could cause strong currents and surges in the water.

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

You should leave this zone immediately, if:

  • You experience a long or strong earthquake
  • You see sudden sea level changes or hear unusual noises coming from the sea
  • You receive an official warning from Civil Defence Emergency Management

    Official warnings may be given through an Emergency Mobile Alert to your phone, on ccc.govt.nz, radio, television, or social media. If there is an announcement to evacuate the zone you are in, follow the instructions immediately.

    If you hear the tsunami warning sirens, check any of the above sources for further information.

    Stay out of this zone until you are told by an official source that it’s safe to go back.

Orange evacuation zone: Long or Strong, get Gone

This is an area that is less likely to be affected by tsunami. This includes areas on land that could be flooded in a large tsunami.

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

You should leave this zone immediately, if:

  • You experience a long or strong earthquake
  • You see sudden sea level changes or hear unusual noises coming from the sea
  • You receive an official warning from Civil Defence Emergency Management

    Official warnings may be given through an Emergency Mobile Alert to your phone, on ccc.govt.nz, radio, television, or social media. If there is an announcement to evacuate the zone you are in, follow the instructions immediately.

    If you hear the tsunami warning sirens, check any of the above sources for further information

    Stay out of this zone until you are told by an official source that it’s safe to go back.

Yellow evacuation zone

This is an area that is least likely to be affected by tsunami, but could be flooded or isolated in a very large tsunami.

It is possible this zone will be evacuated sometime in your lifetime, however it is unlikely.

You do not need to leave this zone if you feel a long or strong earthquake.

You should leave this zone immediately, if:

  • You receive an official warning from Civil Defence Emergency Management.

    Official warnings may be given through an Emergency Mobile Alert to your phone, on ccc.govt.nz, radio, television, or social media. If there is an announcement to evacuate the zone you are in, follow the instructions immediately.

    If you hear the tsunami warning sirens, check any of the above sources for further information.

    Stay out of this zone until you are told by an official source that it’s safe to go back.

    Note: In most other parts of New Zealand, yellow zones need to be evacuated in a long or strong earthquake. You should check local tsunami evacuation zones when spending time on the coast.

No zone

This area is outside the tsunami evacuation zones. If you’re in this area:

  • You don’t need to evacuate in a long or strong earthquake
  • You don’t need to evacuate during an official tsunami warning from Civil Defence Emergency Management
  • You may wish to open your home to family or friends who need to evacuate from a tsunami evacuation zone.

 

The tsunami evacuation zones were determined by hazard scientists and emergency managers and reflect our best knowledge as at November 2020. 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.

Where you'll go 

Talk to your household about a safe place to go to outside of the tsunami evacuation zones. If you have friends or family that live outside of the evacuation zones, talk with them now about whether you can go to their place during an evacuation. 

How you'll go 

Once you know where you’re going, talk with your household about how you’ll get there. Plan what route you will take and what form of transport you will use. Think about routes from your home, workplace or any other place you could be within a tsunami evacuation zone.

Remember to secure your home as you normally would when leaving.

Travel actively 

If you’re able to, walk or cycle to evacuate. Evacuating on foot or bike could make your evacuation faster. 

Carpool

If you have to drive, plan to take extra passengers with you. Have a chat with your neighbours to see if they need a ride or help evacuating. Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road and helps everyone evacuate faster.

Public transport

Public transport, like buses, may not be operating during an evacuation. If you normally use public transport to get around, plan other options to evacuate. 

How you'll stay informed

Information could change while you are evacuating, so make sure you have a way to stay up-to-date with official information, like a portable radio, or your mobile phone.

Official information will be available on:

  • This website (ccc.govt.nz)
  • National Radio – 101.7 FM or 675 AM
  • Classic Hits – 97.7 FM or 96.5 FM
  • Newstalk ZB – 1098 AM
  • More FM – 92.1 FM
  • Magic – 99.3 FM or 738 AM
  • The Breeze – 94.5 FM
  • Plains FM - 96.9FM

What you'll take

Grab bag

A tsunami warning may be in place for many hours so take some things with you. Pack anything you urgently need and can carry. Or keep these things in an accessible place so you can get them quickly when you’re evacuating. This could 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). 

Pets

Plan to take your pets, and anything they need (e.g. food, lead) with you. You may not be at home, so make a plan for your pets for when you’re not there. Talk to your neighbours or friends/family that live close, about whether they could take your pets when they evacuate. 

Practice

The most important part of making a plan is talking about it with your household, and people you care about. Everyone should know what to do in case of a tsunami. The more you practice your evacuation plan and the routes you will take, the more comfortable everyone will feel.

Check out the Get Ready(external link) website for more information on how to make your plan.

 

In the event of a possible tsunami threat, warning signs and messages can come from several sources – natural and official. 

Natural warnings

A natural warning may be the only warning for tsunami generated close to our shore. Natural warnings are:

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

If you are in the red or orange evacuation zones you should evacuate immediately if you experience these warnings. Do not wait for an official warning.

Official warnings 

Official warnings will normally be issued by Civil Defence Emergency Management and/or emergency services.

Official warnings will only be issued if there is enough time.  The time it takes for a tsunami to reach our coastline depends on where it originates and how far it has to travel.

Official warnings may be given through an Emergency Mobile Alert to your phone, on ccc.govt.nz, radio, television, or social media. If there is an announcement to evacuate the zone you are in, follow the instructions immediately.

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.

Visit the Get Ready website to find out more information.(external link)(external link)

Tsunami sirens

Tsunami sirens are installed along the Christchurch coastline. These could 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 could 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 for this type of tsunami.

If you hear the tsunami sirens check if there is an official tsunami warning for your zone.

Primary tsunami evacuation routes are suggested routes to move out of tsunami evacuation zones. 

  • 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 are created by underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or landslides, and are made up of powerful waves or surges lasting for several hours or even days. Only the largest tsunami flood land; most tsunami are not big enough to flood land but can still cause strong and unpredictable currents and surges in the sea, which can be dangerous for people in the water, on beaches and at 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 Risk to Banks Peninsula Things to remember

Local source tsunami

Known local tsunami sources (off-shore earthquake faults or underwater landslides in Pegasus Bay) would not cause a tsunami big enough to flood land and cause damage along the Christchurch coast (Waimakariri River to Sumner). However, a local source tsunami could create strong, unpredictable and dangerous currents and surges in the sea, estuaries, rivers, beaches and harbours.

Known local tsunami sources (off-shore earthquake faults or underwater landslides in Pegasus Bay) 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.

There are no known tsunami sources in the Canterbury Bight that would cause a local source tsunami along the Kaitorete/Birdlings Flat coast.

A local source tsunami will take 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.

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

Regional source tsunami

For Christchurch City this includes tsunami generated by earthquakes off the Kaikōura coast, in Cook Strait, or off the east coast of the North Island (the Hikurangi subduction zone).

This type of tsunami could flood low-lying areas of land along the Christchurch City coastline. In the worst case scenario, significant areas of land could be flooded.

For Banks Peninsula this includes tsunami generated by earthquakes off the Kaikōura coast, in Cook Strait, off the east coast of the North Island (the Hikurangi subduction zone, or off the coast of southern New Zealand (the Puysegur subduction zone).


This type of tsunami could flood land at the heads of Banks Peninsula harbours and bays. In the worst case scenario, significant areas of land could be flooded.

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.

An earthquake that could cause a regional source tsunami could be felt as rolling earthquake shaking of unusually long duration (longer than a minute).

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 distant tsunami source for Christchurch City is a tsunami generated by an earthquake in Central or South America.

This type of tsunami could flood low-lying areas of land along the Christchurch City coastline. In the worst case scenario, significant areas of land could be flooded.

This type of tsunami is created by large earthquakes in the Pacific Islands or across the Pacific Ocean, particularly South America. The most likely distant tsunami source for Banks Peninsula is a tsunami generated by an earthquake in Central or South America.


This type of tsunami could flood land in the heads of Banks Peninsula harbours and bays. In the worst case scenario, significant areas of land could be flooded.

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 Emergency Management.

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

Evacuation zones map

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