Northland has the lowest risk of earthquakes in the country, but the region still has five stations to monitor earthquakes and how New Zealand is slowly deforming as tectonic plates squeeze the country.

GeoNet, which monitors seismic activity in New Zealand, is celebrating its 15th birthday and has released information about earthquakes recorded around the country.

And it revealed that the strongest earthquake recorded in Northland was near Kaitaia in 1963 at magnitude 4.8 on the Richter scale, which is deemed 'strong' by GeoNet.

Caroline Little, GeoNet's public information specialist, said GeoNet has five stations in Northland. Three are earthquake monitoring stations while the other two are GPS stations that monitor how New Zealand is slowly deforming.


"Of your three earthquake stations, one is at Whangarei Boys High School, and this is designed to record any strong shaking. Our other two are very sensitive instruments designed to pick up very small earthquakes. One is in the Far North - west of the Omahuta Forest, near Mangamuka. The other is near Waipu Caves," Ms Little said. "Although Northland is New Zealand's seismically quietest region, there have been a few large enough for people to feel. In 1963-64 there were three quakes east of Kaitaia, the largest was magnitude 4.8."

That largest recorded quake, on December 23, 1963, was situated 20km east of Kaitaia at a depth of 12km and hit at 1:35:35am.

The front page of the Northern Advocate from December 23, 1963, that reported on a strong 4.8 magnitude earthquake near Kaitaia early that morning.
The front page of the Northern Advocate from December 23, 1963, that reported on a strong 4.8 magnitude earthquake near Kaitaia early that morning.

The quake was felt in four counties - Whangaroa, Mangonui, Hokianga and Bay of Islands - and caused chimneys to collapse and stock to fall off shop shelves in Kaeo.

Whangaroa county felt it the strongest and the shake - which lasted five to 10 seconds - dislodged tins of paint at Sterling Store, in Kaeo. Totara North was the most severely hit settlement, with chimneys collapsing and homes reporting damage from items being shaken off shelves.

Anna Hemana felt the quake in Kaikohe and described it as a "frightening bump" with the house shaking violently and "everything rattled".

The most recent earthquake that caused any significant damage in Northland was on December 19, 2003 centred about 65km south of Whangarei near Paparoa where it shook stock from the shelves at Paparoa Store. It measured 4.4 on the Richter scale, and was 12km deep.

Paparoa Store owner Robert Hinsch thought a truck had crashed through the store when the earthquake hit at about 4.15am. He and his wife Rachel live at the back of the shop and heard bottles smashing and shelved food items crashing to the floor.

For details of all earthquakes felt in Northland check out

- GeoNet is a partnership between the Earthquake Commission (EQC), GNS Science, and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). It comprises a network of geophysical instruments, automated software applications and skilled staff to detect, analyse and respond to earthquakes, volcanic activity, large landslides, tsunami and the slow deformation that precedes large earthquakes.