The Need for GeoNet
New Zealanders live on the edge. Depending on their location, it might be the edge of the Australian Plate or it might be the edge of the Pacific Plate. The active Pacific-Australian Plate boundary passes through New Zealand producing earthquakes, volcanoes, steep terrain and active deformation. In places the active boundary between the interacting plates is quite narrow, for example the Alpine Fault and Southern Alps in the central South Island. In other regions, such as most of the central and eastern North Island, it is a broad zone of deformation.
Nowhere in New Zealand is immune from the possibilities of damaging earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions could distribute ash anywhere over the North Island. A major event almost anywhere in the country would affect the whole society and economy because of the small size of the country and the interdependencies of infrastructure, logistics and business.
When GeoNet was conceived, New Zealand had not suffered major social disruption or serious economic setback due to geological hazards since the 1930s and early 1940s, a period in which large shallow earthquakes struck repeatedly. However, historical evidence and scientific research convincingly showed that risk to the population and economy from geological hazards was significantly greater than the experience of those 'quiet' years would indicate.
International Strategic Reviews
The first strategic review of GeoNet completed in October 2004 concluded that the project met the best international standards and was poised to make a valuable contribution to public good. However, the review recommended additional investment to realise this opportunity and in June 2005 the Commission announced it would increase its funding to NZ$8 million a year to ensure GeoNet was built and operated to the originally-recommended specification.
The second strategic review of GeoNet took place in October 2008, with the panel reporting, "GeoNet has delivered on the original proposal in March 2000, and in some cases exceeded requirements. Its cautious, staged roll-out of equipment has been a wise approach to ensuring the long term stability of the networks and the data collected. EQC has shown unique leadership for GeoNet in providing the backbone for other agencies to extend so that New Zealand has a leading edge integrated hazard monitoring network.".
For the future direction, it recommended special attention be given to:
- Increased investment in the area of urban strong-motion instrumentation, including representative structures.
- Improved strong-motion coverage along selected, major fault lines in the South Island.
- Extending regular surveying of volcanic centres using InSAR and diffuse CO2 monitoring.
- Installing a small network of tiltmeters high on Ruapehu.
- Priority testing the information delivery systems for emergency managers at all levels of government.
- Increasing the skill level of tsunami interpretation for GeoNet on-duty officers.
- Improving the capacity of the website to serve information.
The panel also recommended the following technical enhancements:
- Increase instrumentation and upgrade networks and monitoring, especially at Mount Taranaki.
- Faster serving of earthquake event information.
- Additional support for routine provision of requested/required higher-level data products.
- Improved data access tools for research scientists and engineers.
Just before Christmas 2009, EQC and GNS Science signed a new 10 year agreement which commenced in July 2010, funding GeoNet at approximately NZ$9 million a year over the first five years.
Further information about our sponsors EQC and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).
Five years of equipment trials and formal reviews by GNS Science culminated in a plan presented in 2000 that would provide high quality and timely data and information for emergency management and research. A further 12 months of deliberation by the Earthquake Commission and other agencies included international technical review, science policy review, a financial review, and consultation with end-user groups and two parliamentary select committees (Education and Science, and Finance and Expenditure).
In March 2001 the Earthquake Commission announced it would provide NZ$5 million a year for 10 years, sufficient to launch the GeoNet project and meet 60% of the required long term funding. The major focus of the first three years was the upgrading of the old national earthquake monitoring system for strong and weak-motion recording, the addition of data communication links, the modernising of data management practices and the introduction of new initiatives for volcano surveillance, landslide response and earth deformation monitoring. Formal reviews by international panels of experts would regularly set the direction for the project thereafter.
The GeoNet website provides public access to hazards information, including earthquake reports and Volcanic Alert Bulletins. It also allows the retrieval of fundamental data sets, such as GPS Rinex files, earthquake hypocentres and instrument waveform data. These data are made freely available to the research community.
Additionally, feedback is sought on the effects of felt earthquakes through an online form, which adds to our data collections and contributes to a better understanding of these hazards.