Understanding the impact of natural hazards

When you’ve found the property you want to buy, it’s important to find out as much as possible about potential hazards before you make an offer.

Summary of important things to know
  • Before you buy, find out if any natural events are relevant to the property and how you may be able to reduce the risk of damage.

  • If you’re interested in a property in an area impacted by earthquakes, you should get it inspected by an appropriately qualified professional.

  • If the property has been the subject of an EQC claim, check the EQC scope of work to see what was done and seek legal advice before you sign a sale and purchase agreement.

  • This information on natural hazards may not cover everything that is relevant to you or the property. You should always get advice from your own lawyer or conveyancer and other registered professionals.

  • Rising sea levels

    According to the environment report above, the sea level is likely to rise by between 50 centimetres and 1.0 metre by the end of the century. A report commissioned by the Deep South National Science Challenge(external link)  states that nearly 44,000 homes in New Zealand are less than 1.5 metres above the current average high tide mark.

    If you’re looking for a property near the sea, it’s a good idea to ask what if any precautions have been made to the property to protect against the threat of rising water levels.

  • Flood zones and storm impacts

    The frequency and severity of storms and cyclones bringing heavy rainfall, damaging winds, waves and storm surge to New Zealand has increased.

    Coastal flooding typically occurs when a major storm, king tide, or tsunami causes the sea to surge inland. Flooding is usually caused by:

    • heavy or excessive rainfall
    • landslides — triggered by heavy rainfall or earthquakes
    • rapid ice melt in the mountains
    • a ruptured dam or levee
    • high sea levels at river mouths.


    The property title and LIM report may include a history of flooding as well as potential flooding hazards. Some councils may provide flood maps which show the area's risk of flooding.

    If you’re considering living in a coastal area, find out about road access during storm conditions and consider the cost of vehicle maintenance if the road is often inundated by salt water.

  • Coastal erosion

    Coastal erosion is a natural process which happens when wind, waves and water currents wear away the shoreline.

    Properties located on low-lying sand or cliff tops are more at risk of erosion.

    For more information on coastal erosion visit Te Ara(external link) - The encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

  • Can you get insurance on the property?

    If you’re looking at buying a coastal or clifftop property, you’ll need to find out if the property can be insured and at what cost.

    As the risk of environmental damage increases along coastlines, insurance companies are reassessing how they cover this type of damage. Be aware that the cost of premiums may increase, exclusions may be added, or insurance cover may be withdrawn for some properties  as the risk changes.

    The Earthquake Commission (EQC) doesn’t cover damage to land from coastal erosion (although it does cover storm and flood damage to land) and it doesn’t cover damage to residential structures or contents from storms, floods or coastal erosion.

    Seek legal advice and clarification from an insurance provider before signing a sale and purchase agreement.

  • Maintenance and upkeep of coastal property

    Property maintenance costs may be higher for coastal properties because salt water can damage building materials and exposed electrical components. There may also be additional upkeep, for example, cleaning salt from windows and removing debris.

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