EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Responsibilities of and Interactions between Tsunami Early Warning and Response Agencies in New Zealand

Carina Fearnley1, Rachel Hunt2, Simon Day3, and Mark Maslin2
Carina Fearnley et al.
  • 1UCL Warning Research Centre, Department of Science and Technology Studies, UCL, London, UK (
  • 2Department of Geography, UCL, London, UK (;
  • 3Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction, UCL, London, UK (

This research examines the responsibilities of and the interactions between the various research institutes, national agencies, regional groups, and local councils involved in monitoring, disseminating, and responding to official tsunami warnings in New Zealand. Specifically, the underlying issues within the separated structure of tsunami early warning and response in New Zealand is examined as to whether this enhances or restricts risk assessment.

In many countries, the same agency is responsible for both monitoring tsunami hazards and issuing tsunami warnings. However, in New Zealand, this process is split. GNS Science is the research institute responsible for monitoring tsunami hazards in New Zealand, if tsunami generation is confirmed GNS Science provides risk information to the nation’s official tsunami warning agency. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the national agency responsible for issuing tsunami warnings in New Zealand. NEMA communicates national tsunami warnings to regional response groups as well as the public and media. The Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups are then responsible for coordinating regional tsunami evacuations, with New Zealand being split into 16 regional CDEM Groups. Within these regional groups, district and city councils can also tailor the evacuation information to communities at a local level.

Online social research methods were used to explore tsunami risk assessments in New Zealand. 106 documents and archives were collected and 57 semi-structured interviews conducted with tsunami researchers, warning specialists, and emergency managers. The majority of the interviewees were from New Zealand, with some participants also being recruited from Australia, the Pacific Islands, the UK, and the USA. This allowed for national, regional, and local responses in New Zealand to be compared to those in different countries to explore how warning systems operate in practice.

Key findings indicate that New Zealand having separate monitoring and warning agencies leads to the potential for error when passing information between organisations and delays can also be caused in disseminating official warnings. The warnings are communicated on a national scale, whilst the responses carried out vary between regions, having separate warning and evacuation agencies means there is a need for consistent messages and coordinated responses. GNS Science is capable of operating 24 hours per day, whereas NEMA and the CDEM Groups do not currently have this capacity. Again, this can cause delays in issuing and responding to official warnings. Variations in funding on a regional level also effect the number of staff and amount of resources in particular CDEM Groups.

These issues are underpinned by the ways in which knowledge is exchanged within the warning system and the lack of integration between national, regional, and local agencies. Tsunami researchers and warning specialists on a national level, and emergency managers on regional and local levels, must work together to effectively disseminate and respond to official tsunami warnings. This research concludes that the separated structure of tsunami early warning and response in New Zealand involves underlying issues which must be addressed in order to improve risk assessment.

How to cite: Fearnley, C., Hunt, R., Day, S., and Maslin, M.: The Responsibilities of and Interactions between Tsunami Early Warning and Response Agencies in New Zealand, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7321,, 2022.


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