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Safety and Emergencies for Expats in New Zealand

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: June 2017

Safety – Natural Hazards

Natural disasters do sometimes occur in New Zealand. First, as the country lies on the edge of the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, there is a significant amount of seismic activity. Minor tremors are a regular occurrence, with around 200 strong enough to be felt by residents a year.

Earthquakes can hit any part of the country. The most devastating quake in recent years was in 2011 near Christchurch on South Island. This killed 185 people and destroyed large parts of the city. Warning systems and evacuation procedures in New Zealand are advanced. Drills are well-established; everyone knows what to do when an earthquake strikes. It is just a question of making the necessary preparations and becoming acquainted with the drills. Looking at the Get Thru website should help you to achieve this.

There are also several volcanoes, and most of them are on North Island, the most populous island. Of course, it is only exceptionally that volcanoes cause any trouble to any one not in the immediate area.
New Zealand has a maritime temperate climate, which means that temperatures are mild throughout the year and there is not much to worry about weather-wise. The winters can get cold though and not all houses have central heating.

Safety – Human Hazards

Overall crime levels are in New Zealand are lower than the world average, and also lower than the average for Western nations. Nevertheless, it is important to remain vigilant at all times. Levels of crime vary across the country, there are generally high rates in the main cities, but these are also experienced in some rural regions.

New Zealand has very low rates of violent crime and walking the streets day and night is usually safe. Some of the violent crime that does occur is caused by aggressive drunkards, especially in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown. The best way to avoid this is to be aware of tensions rising and keep your distance. Bear in mind that the vast majority of the people you meet while drinking will be friendly and respectful.

There is a low level of rape and sexual assault in New Zealand. Nevertheless, it is always wise to take necessary precautions.

Petty crime is somewhat more of a problem in New Zealand, especially theft from cars. Stealing from hotel rooms, especially in tourist hotspots such as Queenstown, is also quite a common occurrence. To help prevent such crimes, be aware of what is going on around you and keep your belongings with you at all times. You can help reduce your chances of theft by keeping items such as mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible.


For all emergencies – police, ambulance and fire brigade – dial 111 from any phone.

Be aware that calling 111 is only for serious or life-threatening situations that need immediate attention. For a medical non-emergency, you should call Healthline on 0800 611 116 instead. To report a traffic accident, call *555.




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