Explore the Science

The Alpine Fault is the longest natural straight line visible from space,
without it and the large earthquakes it generates Te Waipounamu, our beautiful South Island would look very different or not even exist.

The Alpine Fault runs for over 800km up the spine of the South Island. It’s the part of the active boundary between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates where they intersect on land. The Southern Alps have been formed over millennia by upthrust from successive earthquakes on the Alpine Fault. The fault is estimated to move horizontally up to 10m at a time during an earthquake. GNS scientists calculate that the Southern Alps have been raised by 20km over the last 12 million years, and it’s only the effect of constant erosion that has kept the tallest peaks in this mountain range from being over 4000 metres high.

Planning for the next earthquake is based on scientific research and modelling to establish what will happen to our communities and our infrastructure when the Alpine Fault ruptures again.

While we can’t predict when earthquakes will occur, scientific research has shown that the Alpine Fault has a remarkably regular history of producing large earthquakes. By analysing sediment deposited at two sites in Fiordland – John O’Groats and Hokuri Creek – during previous earthquakes, scientists have established that the Alpine Fault has ruptured 27 times over the last 8000 years. That’s every 300 years on average. The last significant quake on the Alpine Fault was in 1717. There is no reason why the pattern should change now: in other words the next severe earthquake on the Alpine Fault is likely to occur within the lifetime of most of us, or our children.

Earthquakes & Lakes: The tsunami you weren’t expecting

What happens when you shake a lake? Hear from the experts and learn more about how lakes behave in large earthquakes, some of the key things to keep in mind when you’re out enjoying the water and how we can keep ourselves safe.

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Whats On Our Plates?

What’s On Our Plates? is a set of multimedia learning modules designed to enable anyone to explore Aotearoa New Zealand’s active plate boundary online, including the Alpine Fault and Hikurangi subduction zone.

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AF8 Roadshow: The Science Beneath Our Feet

The AF8 Roadshow provides South Island communities, in areas most likely to be affected by an AF8 earthquake, with direct access to Alpine Fault science and hazard impact information relevant to them and their region.

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AF8 Video Resources

Hear from the experts and learn from local experiences. These videos explain why we are taking the Alpine Fault so seriously and help you understand how you can be prepared for the disruption to normal life that a severe earthquake will cause.

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AF8 Scenario StoryMap

This StoryMap shares a credible science-based hazard scenario for a major Alpine Fault earthquake. Scenarios bring together all our available knowledge to paint a picture of what we might experience so we can be better prepared for it.

*StoryMap is best viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet, it is not suitable for viewing on mobile phones or small screens.

Explore the StoryMap

Faultlines: Preparing for the rupture

Faultlines is an immersive documentary, featuring AF8's science partners and South Island communities. Published May 2022 and produced by Vanishing Point Studio & North & South Magazine with funding from NZ On Air.

Explore Faultlines.nzHear from Communities

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