Hazard Landslide 172x172 pictogramNew Zealand’s mountainous land, loose volcanic soil and frequent earthquake activity make landslides common in many parts of the country. The weather and people cutting into hills can also cause landslides that can endanger buildings, livestock and people.

A landslide is the movement of rock, soil and vegetation down a slope. Landslides can range in size from a single boulder in a rock fall to a very large avalanche of debris with huge quantities of rock and soil that spreads across many kilometres. Landslides are a serious geological hazard in many parts of New Zealand.

Heavy rainfall or earthquakes can cause a landslide. Human activities, such as removal of trees and vegetation, steep roadside cuttings or leaking water pipes can also cause landslides. Some warning signs are:

  • small slips, rockfalls and sinking land at the bottom of slopes
  • sticking doors and window frames, which may mean the land is slowly moving under the house
  • gaps where window frames are not fitting properly
  • steps, decks and verandas moving or tilting away from the rest of the house
  • new cracks or bulges on the ground, road, footpath, retaining walls or other hard surfaces; and
  • tilting trees, retaining walls or fences.

It’s important to recognise the warning signs and act quickly.

What do we do before a landslide?

  • Find out if there have been landslides in your area before, and where they might occur again.

  • Check for signs that the ground may be moving.

What do we do during a landslide?

  • Act quickly. Getting out of the path of a landslide is your best protection.

  • Evacuate, taking your grab bag and your pets with you. 

  • Warn neighbours who might be affected and help those who may need assistance to evacuate.

  • Contact emergency services to inform them of the hazard.

What do we do after a landslide?

  • Stay away from any landslides until they have been properly checked and officials give the all-clear.

Find out more about what to do before, during and after a landslide.

Home learning

wtps tamati 127x127 pictogramMake sure your school has the names of three people who could pick you up if your usual person can’t be there.

Make a plan with your family to get through an emergency. Think about the things you need every day and work out what you would do if you didn't have them. 

Make your plan — print it out, stick it on the fridge and make sure everyone knows the plan. 

Find out about past landslides that have happened in your region.

Digital resources

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Learnz provides virtual field trips. In this field trip, experts take you to remote locations to help you better understand what causes natural disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes and landslides, and how you can manage the risk of these events.

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Watch this GNS Science video where geologist Simon Cox explains some of the processes and features of the Dart landslide, including some mysterious 'dust bubbles' at the base of a mud waterfall.

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A New Zealand perspective on landslides from Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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Read this question and answer page on landslides.

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Landslides 101 is part of a series of natural disaster videos produced by National Geographic.

Learn about emergencies

Earthquakes, floods, landslides, storms, tsunami and volcanic activity can be frightening because they can strike at any time and often without warning. Explore the types of emergencies below and learn better ways to prepare.