Events In History
22 February 2011Christchurch earthquake kills 185
At 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday 22 February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake caused severe damage in Christchurch and Lyttelton, killing 185 people and injuring several thousand. Read more...
19 November 2010Pike River mine explosion kills 29
The mine exploded at 3.45 p.m. on Friday 19 November 2010. Twenty-nine of the 31 men underground died immediately or shortly afterwards from the blast or because of the toxic atmosphere this generated. Read more...
4 September 20107.1 earthquake rocks Canterbury
The earthquake struck at 4.35 a.m. on Saturday 4 September and was felt by many people in the South Island and the southern North Island. There was considerable damage in central Canterbury, especially in Christchurch, but no loss of life. Read more...
4 September 2010Fox Glacier plane crash
On 4 September 2010 a plane crashed soon after taking off from Fox Glacier airstrip, killing all nine people on board. The Walter Fletcher FU-24 was piloted by 33-year-old Chaminda Senadhira and carried four skydiving instructors and four skydivers who had been touring the West Coast on a Kiwi Experience bus trip. Read more...
28 November 2008Air New Zealand A320 crashes in France
An Air NZ Airbus A320 crashed off the coast of France. All seven people on board, including five New Zealanders, were killed. It was 29 years to the day since Air NZ Flight TE901 had crashed in Antarctica, killing all 257 on board Read more...
15 April 2008Mangatepopo canyoning disaster
Six students and a teacher from Elim College died in a flash flood while canyoning in the Mangatepopo Stream, Tongariro National Park. Read more...
7 March 1988Cyclone Bola strikes
Cyclone Bola, one of the most damaging cyclones to hit New Zealand, struck Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne–East Cape in March 1988 Read more...
16 February 1986Sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov
At 5.37 p.m. on 16 February 1986 the Soviet cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov hit rocks off Cape Jackson in the Marlborough Sounds. Read more...
26 January 1984Floods devastate Southland
A record one-day total of up to 84.8 mm of rain caused extensive surface flooding in the streets of Invercargill, Riverton, Ōtautau, Tūātapere and Bluff. Read more...
28 November 1979257 killed in Mt Erebus disaster
On the morning of 28 November 1979, Air New Zealand Flight TE901 left Mangere airport, Auckland, for an 11-hour return sightseeing flight to Antarctica. At 12.49 p.m. (New Zealand Standard Time), the aircraft crashed into the lower slopes of Mt Erebus killing all 257 passengers and crew. It was the worst civil disaster in New Zealand’s history. Read more...
24 May 1968Three die in Īnangahua earthquake
A magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred near Īnangahua Junction, 40 km east of Westport, struck at 5.24 a.m., shaking many people from their beds. Read more...
10 April 1968Wahine wrecked in Wellington Harbour
The sinking of the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine is New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster. Fifty-one people lost their lives that day, another died several weeks later and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained in the wreck. Read more...
19 January 196719 killed in Strongman Mine explosion at Rūnanga
Nineteen men were killed when an explosion ripped through the Strongman coal mine at Rūnanga. An inquiry found that safety regulations had not been followed and a shot hole for a charge had been incorrectly fired. Read more...
3 July 1963DC-3 crashes in Kaimai Range
The 1963 crash of a National Airways Corporation DC3, with the loss of all 23 people on board, remains the worst air accident within New Zealand. Read more...
24 November 1959Fifteen die in mysterious shipwreck
All hands were lost when the modern coastal freighter Holmglen foundered off the South Canterbury coast. The cause of the tragedy was never established. Read more...
24 December 1953Tangiwai railway disaster
he worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the central North Island. Read more...
15 August 1951Troopship Wahine wrecked en route to Korea
After 38 years on the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry run, and service in two world wars, the New Zealand government chartered the TSS Wahine to transport Kayforce troops to the Korean War. Shortly after leaving Darwin, the Wahine ran aground on Masela Island in the Arafura Sea, east of Timor. There were no fatalities but the ship became a total loss. Read more...
23 January 1951Disastrous centennial yacht race begins
Twenty yachts left Wellington for Lyttelton in a race to celebrate Canterbury's centenary. The fleet ran into a severe southerly storm and only one yacht officially finished the race. Two others were lost, along with their 10 crew members. Read more...
23 October 1948Mt Ruapehu air crash kills 13
The Lockheed Electra airliner ZK-AGK Kaka went missing in poor weather on a flight from Palmerston North to Hamilton. Searchers did not reach the wreckage for a week. Read more...
25 August 1948Killer twister hits Frankton
Three people were killed, 80 injured and about 150 buildings destroyed or badly damaged by New Zealand’s deadliest recorded tornado. The damage was estimated at more than £1 million (equivalent to about $72 million today). Read more...
23 November 1947Civic funeral for 41 Ballantyne's fire victims
On 18 November 1947 Ballantyne's, a Christchurch department store that was a local institution, was razed by one of the worst fires in New Zealand's history. The bodies of the 41 victims were buried at Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Bromley, after a civic funeral. Read more...
18 November 194741 die in Ballantyne's fire
The fire in Christchurch’s prestigious department store was one of the worst in New Zealand’s history. Read more...
6 February 1947Liner Wanganella refloated in Wellington Harbour
The liner, carrying 400 passengers, struck Barrett Reef in Wellington Harbour on 19 January. Only an unusually long spell of fine weather - dubbed 'Wanganella weather' by locals - saved it from becoming a total wreck. Read more...
20 June 1943US Navy tragedy at Paekākāriki
Ten United States Navy personnel drowned off the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington, during a training exercise in bad weather. Read more...
4 June 1943Rail tragedy at Hyde
The Cromwell–Dunedin express, travelling at speed, derailed while rounding a curve near Hyde in Central Otago. Read more...
19 December 1941HMS Neptune lost in Mediterranean minefield
In New Zealand’s worst naval tragedy, the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Neptune struck enemy mines and sank off Libya. Of the 764 men who lost their lives, 150 were New Zealanders. Read more...
24 April 1941Sinking of the Hellas
Disaster struck during the hurried evacuation of Allied forces from Greece when a large number of civilians and Commonwealth troops, including New Zealanders, were killed while they were boarding the Greek yacht Hellas at the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Read more...
19 February 1938Kopuawhara flood kills 21
Twenty men and one woman drowned when a cloudburst sent a wall of water surging through a public works camp in the Kopuawhara Valley, near Māhia. Read more...
4 May 1937Avalanche kills two workers at the Homer tunnel
The engineer-in-charge and the overseer were killed when the second avalanche to hit the Homer tunnel project in less than 12 months struck without warning. Read more...
8 February 1931First fatal accident on a scheduled air service in New Zealand
All three people on board a Dominion Airlines Desoutter died when it crashed near Wairoa in northern Hawke’s Bay. Read more...
3 February 1931Hawke's Bay earthquake strikes
When the deadly earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, struck at 10.47 a.m., many buildings in central Napier and Hastings collapsed immediately. Read more...
6 July 1923Main Trunk Line express train disaster
The Auckland−Wellington express ploughed into a huge slip that had slumped across the tracks at Ōngarue, north of Taumarunui in the King Country. Read more...
24 September 1917Bere Ferrers rail accident
Ten New Zealand soldiers were killed when they were hit by a train at Bere Ferrers in southern England. The accident occurred as troops from the 28th Reinforcements for the NZ Expeditionary Force were being transported from Plymouth to Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain. Read more...
23 October 1915New Zealand nurses lost in Marquette sinking
The sinking of the transport ship Marquette in the Aegean Sea in late 1915 added to the grief of a nation still reeling from the heavy losses at Gallipoli. Read more...
12 September 1914Forty-three miners killed in explosion at Huntly
At 7.20 a.m. an explosion at Ralph's mine on Raynor Rd rocked Huntly. It was caused by a miner's naked acetylene cap-lamp igniting firedamp (methane gas given off by coal) Read more...
10 September 1914Eruption on White Island kills 10 people
On 10 September 1914, 10 miners working on White Island were killed when part of the crater wall collapsed, causing a landslide Read more...
16 April 1912News of Titanic sinking reaches NZ
Although no New Zealanders were aboard the world’s largest passenger ship when it sank in the chilly North Atlantic with appalling loss of life due to a lack of lifeboats, the country followed the news closely. Read more...
12 February 1909SS Penguin wrecked in Cook Strait
The Picton-Wellington ferry SS Penguin struck rocks in Cook Strait and sank in heavy seas off a rugged, isolated coast. Only 30 of the 102 people on board survived. Read more...
26 March 1896Brunner mine disaster kills 65
At 9.30 a.m. an explosion tore through the Brunner mine in Westland’s Grey Valley. Two men sent underground to investigate were later found unconscious from black damp, a suffocating mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Read more...
29 October 1894SS Wairarapa wrecked on Great Barrier Island
It remains the third deadliest shipwreck ever in New Zealand waters: 121 lives were lost when the steamer Wairarapa struck Miners Head, on the northern tip of Great Barrier Island, 90 km north-east of Auckland. Read more...
10 June 1886Eruption of Mt Tarawera
The eruption lasted six hours and caused massive destruction. It destroyed several villages, along with the famous silica hot springs known as the Pink and White Terraces. Approximately 120 people, nearly all Māori, lost their lives. Read more...
29 April 1881131 perish in worst civilian shipwreck in New Zealand waters
The steamer Tararua, en route from Port Chalmers to Melbourne, struck a reef at Waipapa Point, Southland. Of the 151 passengers and crew on board, 131 were lost, including 12 women and 14 children. Read more...
11 September 1880Rail tragedy on the Rimutaka Incline
Four children were killed and 13 adults injured when two rail carriages were blown off the tracks by severe winds on a notoriously exposed part of the Rimutaka Incline railway. This was the first major loss of life on New Zealand’s railways. Read more...
21 February 1879Kaitangata mining disaster
On the morning of 21 February 1879, an explosion rocked the coalmine at Kaitangata, South Otago. Read more...
30 September 1878Great Flood hits South Island
The ‘Great Flood’ of 1878 killed at least three people and thousands of animals as it swept across the southern South Island Read more...
18 November 1874Cospatrick fire kills 470
En route to Auckland laden with immigrants, the Cospatrick caught fire off the Cape of Good Hope. The tragedy has been described as New Zealand's worst civil disaster. Read more...
3 February 1868Killer storm sweeps the country
A cyclone swept south across the country from Saturday 1st. By the time it moved away on Tuesday 4th, more than 40 people had died. Read more...
14 May 1866Wreck of the General Grant
Sailing from Melbourne to London, the General Grant hit cliffs on the west coast of the main island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. Fifteen of the 83 people on board survived the sinking, but only 10 of them were ultimately rescued 18 months later. Read more...
20 May 1865Loss of the City of Dunedin with all hands
The paddle steamer City of Dunedin left Wellington at around 5 p.m. on Saturday 20 May. It was never heard from again and no trace was ever found of its 25 crew and at least 22 passengers. Read more...
26 July 1863Floods kill 25 miners in Central Otago
Approximately 25 gold miners died on the Arrow diggings, north-east of Queenstown, in a series of flash floods and slips caused by 24 hours of heavy rain. Read more...
7 February 1863New Zealand’s worst shipwreck
For the British it was the costliest day of the New Zealand Wars – but it occurred far from the battlefield. Bringing naval stores from Sydney, the modern 1706-ton steam corvette HMS Orpheus ran aground on the bar at the entrance to Auckland’s Manukau Harbour. Read more...
23 January 1855Massive earthquake hits southern North Island
The magnitude 8.2 earthquake had a profound impact on the development of Wellington city. Read more...
23 July 1851The Maria wrecked near Cape Terawhiti
Twenty-six lives were lost when the barque Maria was wrecked near Cape Terawhiti. This provided more ammunition for Wellington settlers who were trying to convince the government of the need for a lighthouse. Read more...
7 May 1846Devastating landslide at Lake Taupō
A devastating landslide obliterated the Ngāti Tūwharetoa village of Te Rapa on the south-west shore of Lake Taupō. Read more...
31 August 1841The wreck of the Sophia Pate
The fate of the brig Sophia Pate, wrecked on a sandbar at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour with the loss of 21 lives, highlighted the dangers faced by early migrants to New Zealand in poorly charted coastal waters. Read more...
How police responded to the disasters, particularly Tangiwai, Wahine and Erebus
- Page 1 - Police response to disasterHow police responded to the disasters, particularly Tangiwai, Wahine and Erebus
The disasters timeline and map give an overview of New Zealand's worst natural disasters, transport accidents, fires, mining accidents and other tragedies that have caused major loss of life.
Page 3 – Further information
Links Mining accidents Natural hazards and disasters Shipwrecks New Zealand disasters map and timeline
This April marks the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the ferry Wahine. With more than 50 lives lost, this was New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. The Wahine’s demise on 10 April 1968 also heralded a new era in local TV news as pictures of the disaster were beamed into Kiwi living rooms.
Page 2 – Timeline to tragedy
The events that led to the drowning of 51 people in the Wahine disaster of 10 April 1968
Page 3 – Co-ordinating the rescue
The police, emergency services and civilians rescued passengers and crew from the inter-island ferry Wahine in Wellington Harbour in April 1968.
Page 4 – Court of inquiry
The court of inquiry that met 10 weeks after the sinking pinpointed the build-up of water in the vehicle deck as the reason the ferry finally capsized.
Page 5 – Further information
This web feature was written by Steve Watters and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team.LinksList of those killed in the Wahine disaster (NZ Disasters)Shipwrecks (Te Ara)The
On 28 November 1979, 237 passengers and 20 crew were killed when Air New Zealand Flight TE901 crashed into the side of Mt Erebus, Antarctica. The tragedy was followed by a demanding recovery operation and a raging debate over who or what was to blame
Page 2 – Tourist flights to Antarctica
Air New Zealand and Qantas began offering sightseeing flight over the Antarctic in February 1977.
Page 3 – Timeline to disaster
The Erebus disaster was mainly caused by an unfortunate, late change in flight path and the white-out conditions in Antarctica.
Page 5 – Operation Overdue
A team of New Zealand Police officers and a Mountain Face Rescue Team were immediately dispatched to the scene of the Erebus disaster.
Page 6 – Finding the cause
With the death of so many people, it is not surprising that the investigations into the tragedy became a source of great debate and controversy.
Page 8 – Further information
This web feature was written by Imelda Bargas and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team. It builds on an earlier feature written by Steve Watters. Links
New Zealand's worst railway disaster occurred 60 years ago on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington–Auckland night express plunged into the swollen Whangaehu River near Tangiwai. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed. The tragedy stunned the world and left a nation in mourning.
Page 2 – Wrong place at the wrong time
The unfortunate sequence of events that led to the Tangiwai disaster
Page 3 – Search and rescue
How locals and police responded to New Zealand's worst railway disaster
Page 4 – Dealing with the dead
Identifying victims is a major task following any mass tragedy. A number of circumstances made this process particularly difficult at Tangiwai.
Page 5 – Death at Tangiwai: a class affair
Survival at Tangiwai depended on which class of carriage you were travelling in.
At 4.35 a.m. on 4 September 2010, the Canterbury region was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. It shook Cantabrians, their properties, their land and their lives.
Page 2 – Timeline: 4-16 September 2010
Detailed timeline of events relating to the Canterbury earthquake on and after 4 September 2010
On the afternoon of 19 November 2010, an explosion ripped through the remote Pike River mine on the West Coast of the South Island, killing 29 men.
- Page 1 - Pike River mine disasterOn the afternoon of 19 November 2010, an explosion ripped through the remote Pike River mine on the West Coast of the South Island, killing 29 men.
A broad range of ideas and activities for teaching social studies students of all levels about New Zealand disasters.
- Page 4 - Determining the causeSocial studies ideas and activities exploring the causes of NZ
NZ and Antarctica share a long and rich history. From Tuati in 1839 to Edmund Hillary in the 1950s and more recent scientists, Kiwis have explored, examined and endured the frozen continent.
- Page 3 - Triumph and tragedyThere is a New Zealand connection to a number of triumphs and tragedies that have occurred in Antarctica.
Parliament buildings have been modified, destroyed by fire, half-built and restored; the parliamentary places and spaces have formed an important part of New Zealand's history.
- Page 8 - DisastersFires and earthquakes have been major threats to New Zealand's Parliament
At 12.51 p.m. on 22 February 2011, the Canterbury region was struck by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. It caused massive devastation in most parts of the region and 185 lives were lost.
- Page 1 - February 2011 Christchurch earthquakeAt 12.51 p.m. on 22 February 2011, the Canterbury region was struck by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. It caused massive devastation in most parts of the region and 185 lives were
Five decades ago most Kiwis enjoyed a standard of living that was the envy of other nations. During the 1960s the arrival of TV and jet airliners shrank our world, and New Zealanders began to express themselves on a range of international issues, including opposition to the Vietnam War.
Page 10 – 1967 - key events
A selection of the key events in New Zealand history from 1967
Page 11 – 1968 - key events
A selection of the key events in New Zealand history from 1968
Forty-five years ago, on 19 June 1971, the first all-container ship to visit New Zealand arrived in Wellington. Columbus New Zealand was part of a worldwide revolution in shipping. These simple steel boxes would change our transport industry, our ports and how we work and shop.
- Page 7 - The wreck of the Rena On 5 October 2011 the MSC-chartered, Liberian-flagged container ship Rena astonished local mariners by grounding on the clearly marked Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga. Three months
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