Napier's Michael and Sally Adye are lucky to be alive. They outran the heaving Pacific Ocean on September 29, 2009, when it flooded Samoa killing more than 140 people, causing widespread destruction.
The couple spoke about their experience on Thursday at the launch of East Coast Lab, Life at the Boundary, at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, in Napier.
Mrs Adye said there was a reef they could see off Lalomanu beach where they were staying.
"Mike actually saw the waves that stopped breaking on the other side of the reef at which point he said run and we ran for the hills."
"It's like all these things, you don't think they're going to happen to you. It's like on the movies, but it's real," Mr Adye said.
As soon as the 8.3 magnitude earthquake hit at about 7am, during the Adye's 10-day relaxing holiday, Mrs Adye's first thoughts were of a tsunami.
Just ten minutes later they were scrambling up a hill, away from just that. There was no official warning.
East Coast Lab brings together a diverse team who will research the Hikurangi Trough, just off New Zealand's east coast and thought to be one of the least understood subduction zones in the country.
The boundary is between the Australian plate and the Pacific plate. The Hikurangi tectonic plate boundary is a convergent boundary which means the two plates are pushing against each other.
The Pacific plate is an oceanic plate and the Australian plate a continental plate. When these two meet the denser oceanic plate moves under the continental plate, creating a deep oceanic trench.
The Hikurangi plate boundary is potentially New Zealand's largest source of geohazard.
"Like other subduction zones in the world, such as those in Japan and off-shore Indonesia, this subduction zone has potential to produce really large damaging earthquakes and tsunamis," GNS geophysicist Laura Wallace said.
Current lack of knowledge around the Hikurangi Trough makes forecasting potential hazards unreliable.
The government has invested $6.5 million into scientific research to learn more about the Hikurangi Trough.
On Sunday, Napier residents will hear an emergency siren as Napier City Council emergency management officer Marcus Hayes-Jones conducts a siren test.
The public alerting system will sound for five minutes at 11.50am. In the event of a real emergency the siren would indicate for people to listen to a radio, or head to the internet for more information.
But, in the event of a tsunami Mr Hayes-Jones said people shouldn't listen for a siren, "they should be actually paying attention to the earthquake and if the earthquake is longer than a minute or very difficult to stand up in then they should evacuate immediately away from the coast or up a hill".
Napier City Council is also asking public to complete a survey telling them where the sirens worked so they can identify any "black spots". Surveys can be found online from midday following the siren, a paper version will be included in community newspapers. An online version can be found at www.napier.govt.nz.
Made with funding from NZ on Air.