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Volcano tsunami risk to be studied

Government funding will help scientists explore the potential impacts for the East Cape in the event of a volcanic eruption from Whakaari/White Island.

The latest round of Endeavour funding will provide GNS Science with $13.3 million to study, indepth, the hazards from New Zealand's near-shore volcanoes — Tuhua ( near Tauranga) and Whakaari (near Whakatane).

The programme was under development before the tragic eruption of Whakaari on December 9, 2019, which GNS scientist Dr Craig Miller said gave the research a new urgency and was a stark reminder of the volcanoes' potential to do serious harm.

Dr Miller, who will lead the research, said relatively little was known about the underwater extent and internal anatomy of the volcanoes and the threats these present to life and property.

“The risks come not only from eruptions — which have previously impacted as far as Auckland — but from under-sea flank collapse, which has the potential to send destructive tsunami onto nearby shores containing major ports, settlements and popular beaches.

“The programme will undertake detailed underwater geophysical exploration and conduct large scale experimental work and computer simulations to understand the potential for ash fall and tsunami,” Dr Miller said.

The programme integrates a range of stakeholders, including iwi and national agencies, who will guide the research to deliver outcomes relevant for the Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and East Cape communities.

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