Your browser does not support the JavaScript function. If some webpage cannot be used normally, please turn on the JavaScript status of the browser.
Go To Content

New Southbound S&T Cooperation Website logo New Southbound S&T Cooperation Website logo New Southbound S&T Cooperation Website Logo


New Zealand-Disaster Reduction

Date: 2024-06-13


New Zealand experiences significant losses due to many kinds of disasters. Thus, the New Zealand government places high importance on strengthening disaster prevention and recovery. Thanks to rapid developments in this field, preventing disasters with technology has become more feasible for countries around the world. As such, New Zealand also hopes to leverage relevant technology to mitigate the damage caused by natural disasters while ensuring national safety.


 Section:|AgenciesOverviewPolicies & StrategiesTechnologyNZ-TaiwanInternational CollaborationTable






Overview (Natural Disasters)

New Zealand experiences a wide range of natural disasters. According to the country's policy reports, these include earthquakes, tropical cyclones, forest fires, wildfires, tsunamis, volcanic activities, and floods. With climate change, the impact of these natural disasters has intensified. After the national river infrastructure collapsed due to severe winds and heavy rain from Cyclone Gabrielle in 2023, New Zealand declared its third-ever national emergency. Previous national emergencies include the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, the deadliest natural disaster in the country's recorded history. In addition, the phreatic eruption on Whakaari/White Island in December 2019 claimed the lives of 22 tourists.

To address the losses caused by natural disasters, New Zealand has established regulations and promoted more accurate forecasting while utilizing relevant technology to estimate recovery costs. Similarly, Taiwan, which frequently experiences natural disasters, has accumulated substantial experience in this area. As the country’s technology in this field develops, Taiwan has made significant breakthroughs in disaster prevention. These developments have presented a unique opportunity for cooperation between New Zealand and Taiwan on related issues to create safer communities. 

New Zealand’s natural disasters (Screenshot/Source: Natural Hazards Portal - Earthquake Commission)

New Zealand’s natural disasters
(Screenshot/Source: Natural Hazards Portal - Earthquake Commission)




Policies & Strategies

National Disaster Resilience Strategy (NDRS)
In April 2019, the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management announced the National Disaster Resilience Strategy (NDRS), which would integrate the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEM Act 2002) while replacing the 2008 National Civil Defence Emergency Management Strategy. The NDRS is a ten-year policy that focuses on three main objectives: managing risks, effective response and recovery from emergencies while enabling, empowering, and supporting community resilience. Even though technological development is a global issue of growing importance, the New Zealand government stated that its top priority is the safety and welfare of its citizens during natural disasters. Therefore, leveraging technology to develop real-time early warning systems and provide timely information to rescue command units is crucial for making precise rescue decisions.


Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEM Act 2002)
In October 2002, the government of New Zealand launched the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEM Act 2002). As of 2024, the CDEM Act 2002 still remains New Zealand’s primary regulation for disaster prevention. The Act was first adjusted in 2016 and again in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation includes contingency plans and regulations for both man-made disasters (such as wars, nuclear leaks, chemical spills, terrorism, etc.) and natural disasters, which include everything from early warnings to recovery operations. Given its release date, the Act does not specifically address the use of technology. However, the Act mandates it is essential to maintain an early warning system that is capable of efficiently delivering messages between government decision-makers and affected regions.

Following the announcement of the CDEM Act 2002, New Zealand published the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Strategy. This initiative stresses the necessity of using technology in disaster prevention. Even though the National Disaster Resilience Strategy replaced the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Strategy in 2019, New Zealand still uses the CDEM Act 2002 to guide national disaster prevention decision-making. (IFRC, 2021) (NEMA, 2021)




Use of Technology

Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA)
On May 26, 2024, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of New Zealand conducted a nationwide test of the Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA) system. According to NEMA's statistics, approximately 90% of the population received its test messages. The government believes that devices that did not receive the messages were either parallel-imported phones or older models. Overall, the test was deemed successful. However, NEMA Director John Price emphasized that people should take appropriate action based on their specific circumstances. For instance, he noted that for certain disasters, such as tsunamis triggered by earthquakes, the EMA might not be able to provide timely alerts. (NEMA, 2024) (RNZ News, 2024)

Nationwide test of the EMA system (Credit/Source: National Emergency Management Agency)

Nationwide test of the EMA system
(Credit/Source: National Emergency Management Agency)


Volcano Alert System
In December 2019, a phreatic eruption on Whakaari/White Island in New Zealand resulted in the deaths of 22 tourists while injuring numerous people. Currently, New Zealand lacks a real-time alert system for volcanic eruptions. Instead, it relies on the Volcano Alert Level system managed by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS Science), which depends on human interpretation to detect and indicate volcanic activity and abnormalities before an eruption.

To mitigate such disasters in the future, a team from Auckland University published the report Automatic Precursor Recognition and Real-time Forecasting of Sudden Explosive Volcanic Eruptions at Whakaari, New Zealand in 2020. One of the authors, S. J. Cronin noted that previous systems also utilized technology to collect data, but relied on human interpretation, which caused delays and ineffective alerts. By employing machine learning algorithms, the new system can learn from collected data and issue immediate alerts when detecting similar volcanic activity. New Zealand tested its latest volcano alert system for five months before its official release. According to the research team, it successfully predicted at least four different volcanic activities during the trial period. In the future, this system is expected to address potential disasters caused by volcanic activity effectively. (Taiwan Geoscience Portal, 2020) (CNA, 2020) (Nature Communication, 2020)

Volcano Alert Level (VAL) (Screenshot/Source: GNS Science)

Volcano Alert Level (Screenshot/Source: GNS Science)


Disaster Modeling
New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC), the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), and GNS Science jointly funded the development of an open-source spatial data processing application called RiskScape. Launched in early 2022, this disaster modelling tool has enabled the New Zealand government to assess the extent of damage and allocate the necessary resources for recovery efforts by simulating earthquake losses.

In the early 2000s, New Zealand began using Minerva's disaster modelling software. The development of RiskScape aimed to replace the 20-year-old Minerva system with the latest technology. EQC Modelling Director Andrea Gluyas stated that thanks to advances in technology, these new tools could more effectively estimate and predict losses caused by disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami floods, and volcanic activities. (Fintech Global, 2022)

Both New Zealand and Taiwan operate platforms that inform the public about potential disaster information. Both New Zealand’s Natural Hazards Portal and Taiwan’s  3D Disaster Potential Map aim to inform the public about potential local hazards, including flooding, slope hazards, fault lines, soil liquefaction, tsunami inundation, volcano eruptions, and nuclear accidents. 


Screenshot/Source: Natural Hazards Portal: Claims Map

Screenshot/Source: © Natural Hazards Portal: Claims Map


3D Disaster Potential Map  (Screenshot/Source: National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction)

3D Disaster Potential Map 
(Screenshot/Source: © National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction


Tsunami Monitoring
Since 2019, New Zealand has utilized the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) system, also known as the tsunami buoy or tsunami warning buoy system. DART is designed to detect various seabed and offshore events that could potentially trigger tsunamis while providing the collected data to New Zealand's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for assessing potential disaster risks. More specifically, this technology consists of deep-sea monitoring instruments capable of detecting changes in water pressure, with a sensitivity of up to one millimeter. The collected data is promptly relayed to the 24-7 Monitoring, Alerting, and Reporting Centre (MAR Centre) in Wellington. This enables the center to help minimize potential loss of life and property by issuing Emergency Mobile Alerts (EMA) before tsunamis reach land.

As of 2024, the NZ$48.3 million DART system now spans a significant portion of the South Pacific. Since DART launched, the Australian government has also contributed an additional AUD$2.5 million to enhance the system's coverage. (NEMA, 2019) (AIDR, 2021)


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
When thick smoke causes poor visibility during forest fires, approximately 75% of piloted flight activities, including aerial firefighting missions, are grounded due to aviation safety regulations. To address this issue, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand authorized Skybase in 2022 to conduct remotely operated test flights under the supervision of a human pilot. According to Skybase, their UAVs can still fly and deliver substantial quantities of water and fire retardant even when traditional aircraft and helicopters are grounded due to adverse conditions. Thus, UAVs have tackled issues such as poor weather, low visibility, and firefighter fatigue. Skybase’s primary UAV, which has a payload capacity of up to 1,500 kilograms, can also be utilized in various disaster scenarios, such as air-dropping essential supplies after floods or cyclones or when weather conditions are too hazardous for manned flights. Skybase's UAV technology has also helped achieve greater success in disaster relief efforts by addressing regulatory limitations. (The New Zealand Herald, 2023)




Collaboration: Taiwan and New Zealand

National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE)
In June 2023, New Zealand's earthquake research center, QuakeCoRE, visited the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) to collaborate on testing for a Whole-of-Building Seismic Performance project. The tests were conducted by National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST) Professor Min-Yuan Cheng, NTUST Associate Professor Rick Henry, and PhD candidate Ren-Jie Tsai from the University of Auckland. During the collaboration, the teams conducted six coupling beam tests, which studied the changes to coupling wall systems during earthquakes. By extending the results of the 2019 QuakeCoRE and NCREE 7-story building shake table test, this collaboration aimed to further validate structural systems and design procedures by the following year. (QuakeCoRE, 2023)

In June 2023, Professor Chung-Che Chou, then director of NCREE, led a team to organize a seminar titled New Techniques for Earthquake and Flood Disaster Prevention in Auckland, New Zealand. The seminar focused on Taiwan's construction regulations for earthquake response, smart city disaster prevention applications, and the latest pre-warning technologies. During this visit, NCREE demonstrated its On-Site Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) by installing it in the assembly hall of the Taiwanese Hwa Hsia Society of New Zealand. NCREE stated it hopes that these monitoring devices will aid in the enhancement of earthquake prevention measures by providing the New Zealand government with valuable earthquake-related information.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland Foreign Representative Kendra Chen recently stated that Taiwan has extensive experience in earthquake and flood prevention. She noted that Taiwan's advanced Earthquake Early Warning Systems (EEWs) can alert the public 25 seconds before an earthquake strikes and collect disaster information from various regions within 2 minutes. The seminar not only showcased Taiwan’s technology but also served as a significant foundation for bilateral communication on disaster prevention topics. (OCAC News, 2023)


New Southbound Program: On-Site Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) | Duration: 2018-2022
NCREE has created an overseas version of its on-site Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) by applying it to New Southbound countries such as New Zealand and India. In New Zealand, NCREE set up an on-site EEWS demonstration station in Christchurch on the South Island and one in Wellington on the North Island. 

On March 5, 2021, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 and a depth of 19.4 kilometers struck the Kermadec Islands, which is located approximately 500 kilometers from the Wellington demonstration station. The EEWS successfully detected the earthquake’s seismic waves and provided a warning one minute in advance. The system’s predicted intensity and real-time intensity differed by less than one magnitude unit. Even though NCREE developed its on-site EEWS with local earthquake data, the Kermadec Islands earthquake demonstrated that its system was also effective in conditions outside of Taiwan. (NCREE, 2021)

Seismic Experiment on Mid-rise to High-rise Buildings| Duration: 2018-2020
QuakeCoRE, and the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Auckland partnered with NCREE to conduct seismic resistance research on mid-rise to high-rise buildings. To understand the seismic behavior of reinforced concrete buildings, the team used NCREE’s shake table to test a 1/2 scale model of a mid-to-high-rise structure. The results allowed for the development of more sophisticated nonlinear pushover and dynamic analysis methods by examining the seismic response of structures with irregular characteristics, such as weak stories and torsional effects.

Past earthquakes have shown that mid-to-high-rise buildings with irregular properties, such as soft or weak bottom stories and torsional effects, often lack sufficient seismic resistance. Older reinforced concrete buildings that were not designed with modern seismic considerations often suffer serious damage or even collapse during strong earthquakes. Recent disaster surveys have also revealed that even modern buildings designed for resilience can suffer damage or become difficult to repair due to torsional effects and weak stories.

To determine whether existing mid-to-high-rise buildings are earthquake-resistant, it is essential to establish accurate structural analysis and simulation tools. These tools can identify buildings with irregular characteristics and develop effective retrofitting strategies or countermeasures. Addressing these issues are crucial for improving the earthquake resilience of such buildings. After a large earthquake struck Christchurch in 2011, the New Zealand government also recognized the need to reassess the seismic resistance of its mid-to-high-rise buildings. (NCREE, 2020)


National Fire Agency, Ministry of the Interior (NFA)
For the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Chi-chi earthquake, the Ministry of the Interior National Fire Agency (NFA) presented medals to New Zealand rescuers who assisted Taiwan during the disaster. The rescuers were invited to participate in the 2019 International Conference on Urban Disaster Reduction, where they delivered a presentation titled “Rescue Capabilities of New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue”.

This event also provided an opportunity for personnel exchanges between the two countries. Accompanied by their local New Zealand counterparts, a team from the NFA traveled to Auckland and visited Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), Auckland City Fire Station, the Control Tower of Auckland Airport, FENZ Auckland Central Fire Station, and the FENZ National Training Centre. The visit aimed to enhance understanding of New Zealand’s disaster management strategies and foster deeper collaboration and communication between the two countries. (MoFA, 2019) (NFA, 2019)




International Collaboration

United Kingdom
In April 2024, the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and New Zealand's Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology signed an MoU to strengthen scientific collaboration. As such, the UK agreed to utilize £750,000 from the International Science Partnerships Fund to support the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and New Zealand's Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) in developing enhanced earthquake and tsunami warning systems. Prior to this collaboration, New Zealand had already implemented Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) technology. However, the new UK-New Zealand initiative will improve New Zealand's tsunami monitoring capabilities by installing fiber-optic cables and utilizing optical interferometry to monitor seabed changes. (DIST, 2024) (Innovation News Network, 2024)


In August 2023, the New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Fiji National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance emergency management cooperation between the two countries. New Zealand Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty stated that the MoU primarily aims to bolster disaster resilience, response, and recovery capabilities of both countries. In addition to the MoU, New Zealand also held a Coin Presentation ceremony to commemorate the contributions of a 34-member team deployed by the Government of Fiji to provide support in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle. Furthermore, New Zealand contributed FJD$3.45 million to Fiji's NDMO to support and enhance Fiji's emergency management initiatives. (, 2023)


United States
In August 2022, the New Zealand National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance the framework of emergency management cooperation between the two countries. This MoU aims to strengthen disaster resilience, reduce disaster risk, and enhance recovery capabilities through the regular sharing of best practices and lessons learned from past emergencies. Additionally, the agreement will increase opportunities for joint research in emergency management, as well as participation in conferences, workshops, and exercises. (NEMA, 2019)

In February 2022, due to a lingering front that caused relentless heavy rainfall, New South Wales, Australia faced severe flooding in coastal areas (2022 New South Wales Floods). For the first time, New South Wales State Emergency Services (NSW SES) requested international assistance. The Fire and Emergency Incident Management Team (FENZ), comprising personnel from Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), responded by sending three groups to Australia. Their mission was to analyze the flood's impact, issue emergency alerts, and air-drop supplies, and plan future flood mitigation solutions. (NEMA, 2022) (FENZ, 2022)




New Zealand's Policy on Natural Disaster Reduction

Agency Policy, Strategy, Project & Initiative

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)

National Disaster Resilience Strategy (NDRS)

National Civil Defence Emergency Management Strategy (National CDEM Strategy)

Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA)

Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management

Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 (CDEM Act 2002)

National Disaster Resilience Strategy

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)

24-7 Monitoring, Alerting, and Reporting Centre (MAR Centre)

Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART)

Emergency Mobile Alert (EMA)

Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS Science) - GeoNet

Volcano Alert Level

Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART)

New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC)

Natural Hazards Portal

New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission (EQC)

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS Science)


Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), UK

Gov.NZ-Science, Innovation and Technology

National Physical Laboratory (NPL)

New Zealand's Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL)

International Science Partnerships Fund

Earthquake Warning System

Early Tsunami Warning System

National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE)


Auckland University

New Southbound Program

On-site earthquake early warning system (EEWS)

Seismic Experiment on Mid- to High-rise Building Model

Earthquake Early Warning Systems (EEWs)


Keywords: #New Zealand  #Environment


Reference / Sources:

NZ Sources


Foreign Sources


Other Sources


Domestic Sources

首頁  /  Policy Analysis of Partner Countries