Man-Made Hazards

Aircraft Crashes

No large-scale aircraft accidents requiring a response from Civil Defence and Emergency Management have ever occurred in Auckland. Such an event could occur, as the region has the largest and busiest international airport in New Zealand.

The long-term accident rate (accidents versus hours flown) is decreasing - except for helicopters. Accidents usually occur just before, during or just after landing and take-off.


Aircraft accident causes

Causes of aircraft accidents can include:

  • pilot error (either weather, mechanical or health related)
  • other human error (such as air traffic controllers, miscommunications)
  • weather
  • mechanical failure
  • sabotage.


Aircraft incidents

Over the three years between 1996 and 1999 there were about 40 aircraft accidents in Auckland, which equated to 13 per cent of all aircraft accidents in New Zealand. Most accidents involved small aircraft, less than 2,721kg in weight. A series of accidents in moderate sized aircraft (less than 13,608kg in weight) occurred in Auckland during the 1990’s including four in 1990, two in 1991, one in 1993 and one in 1997.

Auckland City mid-air collision: 1993
In November 1993, a small helicopter and light aircraft crashed killing all four occupants and injuring one motorist on the ground. The collision occurred at less than 500 metres above Queen Street and Karangahape Road. The left wing of the aircraft separated and landed on a church roof. The plane landed on the central motorway junction. The helicopter crashed onto the Northwestern Motorway where a severe fire broke out. Helicopter debris caused injuries to one driver and the accident caused major disruption to the Auckland motorway network.

Auckland waterfront helicopter crash: 2011
In November 2011, a helicopter pilot was installing a large fiber optic Christmas tree in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin when his chopper plunged to the ground. The pilot, contractors and onlookers escaped serious injury.


More information

Visit the Civil Aviation Authority website


Agricultural / Horticultural

There is a large range of biological hazards that if not controlled, avoided or managed could significantly affect human health or affect New Zealand’s economy. Industry sectors such as agriculture and fisheries can be adversely affected, as well as human and animal health and infrastructure such as water supply and treatment networks.



Potential threats

Plagues and epidemic can cause widespread loss of life.

  • Foot and mouth disease could seriously affect the agriculture industry.
  • Algal blooms can affect water supply.
  • The swift growing Kudzu vine, and the fruit fly can affect agricultural and horticultural industries.
  • The painted apple moth could threaten the forestry sector.

Due to New Zealand’s economic dependence on the horticultural, agricultural and forestry industries, and limited historical exposure to such hazards, Auckland is very susceptible.



Consequences of biological hazards

The actual consequences affecting Auckland depend on the nature of each hazard and our ability to respond.

Some of the consequences may include:

Animal epidemic e.g mad cow disease

  • Destruction of and economic losses to Auckland’s dairy and cattle industries.
  • Loss of exports from these markets.
  • Reduction in or cessation of some imports.
  • Loss of employment and some businesses.
  • Competition and habitat reduction for some native animal species and potential loss of these species from Auckland.
  • Spread of disease to other animals.
  • Serious human health risks.

Other animal epidemic or disease

  • Destruction of and economic losses to Auckland’s forestry, fruit and produce, wine or fisheries industries.
  • Loss of exports from these markets.
  • Loss of employment and businesses.
  • Habitat reduction and loss of some species from Auckland.

Human epidemic

  • Loss of life.
  • Stretched medical services and facilities.
  • Widespread social and psychological disruption and isolation.
  • Absence of staff could lead to the loss of production and economic losses.
  • Loss of international reputation and tourism, with residual effect for some years following recovery.
  • Restricted access to some international destinations for people and exports.



Biological hazards in New Zealand

There have been threats of biological hazards or actual hazards in New Zealand in the past.

Some of these include:

Foot and mouth disease
There has never been a case of foot and mouth disease in New Zealand, in people nor animals. Hand foot and mouth disease is an unrelated disease of humans.

Classical swine fever
Classical swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs that can cause high mortalities. Two cases have been reported.

Painted apple moth
The leaf-eating caterpillar of the painted apple moth poses a significant risk to our forests and horticultural industries. It was found living in parts of west Auckland in May 1999 and was eliminated by spraying done by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Ross River virus
The southern saltmarsh mosquito known to carry the virus that causes Ross River disease, Aedes camptorhyncus, was found in New Zealand for the first time in December 1998, in the Hawkes Bay. Since then, it has also been found in parts of Tairawhiti, in the Kaipara and in some parts of east Auckland.



More information

Visit the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry of Health websites.

Dam Failure

The Auckland region has a large number of dams for water supply, irrigation, farm waste treatment, stormwater treatment, sediment control, storing contaminated sediments and sewage treatment.

About 50 dams in the Auckland region are large enough to cause significant damage if they fail.



Dam failures

Dam failure can result from:

  • natural factors such as earthquake and volcanism
  • age (wear and construction techniques at the time of development)
  • poor design, construction and operation.

Most dam failures occur within the first few years of construction. Most of Auckland’s large dams are more than 10 years old. Poor foundation materials, poor dam drainage, and weak construction materials are three primary factors associated with dam failure in New Zealand. The vulnerability of downstream features is considered prior to dam construction.

Dams that adhere to the Dam Safety Guidelines are constructed to a standard that will survive up to a one in a 200 year natural hazards event, such as an earthquake. Some dams are designed to provide protection from events with even lower return periods.



Impacts of dam failure

If one of the 50 large dams in Auckland were to fail, the flood wave would be characterised by high velocity, large water depth and flow close to the dam, reducing downstream.

Possible consequences of this are:

  • flooding of land and communities located downstream of the dam with a consequent risk of loss of human life, and damage to structures, economic losses to businesses, farms and horticultural industries
  • erosion and deposition of sediment over an area up to perhaps a kilometre long and several hundred metres wide
  • failure of utility services, including roads, bridges and pipework located in the path of the flood
  • reduced water supply to Auckland region if dam is a water supply dam.



More information

Visit the Watercare website


Hazardous Substances

Many kinds of hazardous substances are transported, stored and used in Auckland and many industrial areas are near residential and environmentally sensitive areas.  Hazardous substance spills or accidents can affect a large area through explosions, chemical reactions or toxic gas plumes.

Our pollution response team and hazardous substance officers are on call throughout Auckland seven days a week, 24 hours a day to help deal with spillages and illegal dumping of hazardous substances.


Identifying hazardous substances

A hazardous substance is anything that may be:

  • explosive
  • flammable
  • able to oxidise
  • corrosive
  • toxic or eco-toxic.

This could include:

  • fireworks
  • gases like LPG
  • fuels like diesel or petrol
  • acids and alkalis
  • industrial solvents
  • animal remedies
  • cleaning fluids
  • the ingredients in a cosmetic
  • chemicals used in manufacturing.


Hazardous substances can:

  • harm people’s health
  • harm animals, habitats or ecosystems
  • contaminate land and water resources.

Hazardous substances can react with each other to cause an even bigger problem that can affect a large area.

Major hazardous substance releases


Parnell Fumes Incident: 1973

Residents of the suburb of Parnell, woke on 27 February 1973 with stinging eyes and sore throats, and emergency services were alerted.

The source of the problem was a number of leaking steel drums containing Merphon organophosphate cotton defoliant, which had been dumped on a section in Parnell after being offloaded from a freighter bound from Mexico to Australia.

Over the next four days, 6000 people were evacuated from their homes, and 643 were treated in hospital, including 41 firefighters who either inhaled fumes or were burned by the caustic soda used to neutralise the defoliant.

The emergency forced a review of procedures for dealing with the growing problem of chemical fires and spills. The inquiry also underlined the need for coordination between emergency services.


ICI Warehouse Fire: 1984

In December 1984, a serious chemical fire at the ICI warehouse in Mount Wellington resulted in one death and 26 people being injured. 

The fire led to an investigation of how we control and manage pollution and hazardous substances. It concluded that our rules and regulations had many gaps, overlaps and areas of poor performance, and said law changes were needed. 

As a result, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) came into force in 1996. The act requires the safe use and disposal of hazardous substances.


More information

Visit the Environmental Protection Authority website or the Ministry for the Environment website.



Lifeline Utility Failure

Auckland has suffered several infrastructure failures in the past including loss of power, a water crisis and gas supply disruption. The source of failure can be local or may originate from outside of the region and can be a result of natural or technological hazards, human error, equipment failure, or poor maintenance. 
The risk of infrastructure failure can be significant. It’s managed by each individual utility undertaking comprehensive asset management planning to reduce the possibility of failure and ensure that services are re-established as soon as possible if failure does occur. Most of these companies have representatives on the Auckland Engineering Lifelines Group (AELG) which investigates and manages the risk of infrastructure failure.




Auckland has had several large power cuts.

The 1998 Mercury power crisis involved four power cables failing. Power supplies were cut to downtown Auckland for six weeks. 

Impacts included:

  • severe disruption to services and businesses - 400 businesses were directly affected
  • economic loss to those firms affected especially retail, hospitality and industrial sectors
  • an estimated long-term economic impact equivalent to 0.1 to 0.3 per cent of New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product.
  • 54 per cent of businesses in the area being forced to vacate, affecting 70,000 workers and 7500 residents.

On 12 June 2006, a failure at the Otahuhu substation caused a large six hour blackout affecting 230,000 customers. This outage caused disruption to rail and traffic services, radio transmission, phone services and caused partial hospital closures.

In 2009, electricity was cut to about 280,000 people in Northland and parts of Auckland. New Zealand’s only oil refinery at Marsden Point had to be temporarily shut down. A forklift hitting one of two circuits while the other was out for maintenance caused the outage.

A fault in 2011 occurred just outside the Huntly Power Station between generators and the connection to the national power grid. The fault caused various parts of the North Island to lose power for several hours. 



Water supply

Around 80 per cent of Auckland’s water supply originates from reservoirs in the Hunua and Waitakere Ranges and is managed, treated and distributed by Watercare Services Limited. 

In the summer of 1994-1995 Auckland suffered a drought caused by well below average rainfall. As a result, water restrictions were put in place and subsequent measures implemented to upgrade the capacity of the city’s supplies. At the time, there was a 1 in 25 chance of a drought that severe occurring again. Since then improvements to the water supply system mean that a drought that severe would be expected to occur on average once every 200 years. 

Visit the Watercare website for more information.




Wastewater services

Each day around 350 million litres of wastewater is collected in Auckland and treated by 20 wastewater plants. Most of Auckland’s water is dependent on two plants - the Mangere or Rosedale treatment works.

Wastewater system failure within the Auckland region could result in:

  • evacuation and closure of some organisations or businesses within affected areas depending on the nature of failure
  • sanitation and biological hazards including the outbreak of sewage-borne diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and cholera
  • overloading of operational parts of system, resulting in overflows, possible coastal pollution and human and animal health problems requiring medical attention or hospitalisation
  • a costly cleanup caused by any contamination.

Watercare also manages Auckland’s wastewater system.



Natural gas

High-pressure pipelines from offshore gas fields near Taranaki transport most of Auckland’s domestic and commercial gas supplies. In October 2011, the largest of these pipelines ruptured causing a significant reduction to gas supplies to much of the North Island.

In Auckland, the widespread effects included:

  • disruption and temporary closures of restaurants, fast food chains and similar small businesses
  • disruption and temporary closure of facilities at hotels, swimming pools and gyms
  • disruption to Council facilities such as crematoriums, library and art galleries
  • temporary closures or a reduction in production at large commercial properties and industries reliant on gas.

A large network of pipes distributes gas across the Auckland region. Damage to this network can occur from natural events, poor maintenance or human error, such as excavations.

Damage may result in:

  • possible evacuations of the affected area
  • fire as a result of explosions
  • inconvenience to businesses or residential properties reliant on gas for cooking and heating
  • gas inhalation impacting health
  • spread of gas through underground networks requiring closure and potential evacuation of large areas.





Most of Auckland’s fuel comes from the Refining NZ Marsden Point refinery and is transferred via the Wiri Pipeline to a depot in south Auckland. From there, aviation fuel is distributed directly to Auckland Airport and commercial fuel is distributed across the region by tanker. Disruption to the refinery, pipeline or fuel distribution network would have significant impacts including:

  • panic buying and congestion at fuel stations which would quickly deplete available fuel stocks
  • social disorder due to loss of petroleum-run transport
  • economic loss to the petroleum industry and associated industries due to loss of supply
  • pipeline failure resulting in fire and then costs associated with clean-up
  • adverse environmental effects if fuel is spilt, particularly in or around marine areas.

Although most fuel supply disruptions can and will be managed by the fuel and oil industry stakeholders, an Auckland Fuel Contingency Plan has been developed in case of a major or prolonged fuel supply shortage.




The telecommunications sector is one of the most complex of the lifeline utility sectors. This is due to the rapid change of technology, providers and customer preferences. Another factor is the level of inter-connectedness between the various providers which share parts of the network and exchange messages between networks. 

Failure of telecommunication systems could result in:

  • user overload especially during large emergencies
  • emergency services losing communication
  • short-term economic loss to businesses and industries
  • negative impacts on banks and financial systems.

Several situations involving telecommunication failure have occurred in Auckland, including:

  • 2005 - Two separate cable faults paralysed Telecom’s broadband and mobile networks in the North Island. This led to overloaded landlines and crashed the New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX).
  • 2010 - Parts of Telecom’s new XT network failed. Calls in and out of the mobile network failed in different areas of New Zealand throughout the year as did the broadband service. The national 111 service was affected.
  • 2011 - A fiber optic cable failure led to a number of police stations without certain services. Police headquarters, 130 police stations and three communications centres had to use manual processing for some procedures with efficiency loss.






The Auckland Airport is the gateway for around three quarters of New Zealand’s overseas visitors. In the 12 months to July 2010, 13.5 million passengers and 200,000 tonnes of freight passed through the airport. Smaller airports that operate in Auckland include Hobsonville, Whenuapai, Ardmore, Dairy Flat and some on the Gulf Islands.

Shutdown or disruption of airport operations may result in:

  • disruption of travel plans to tens of thousands of passengers each day resulting in stretched accommodation facilities for prolonged periods of shut-down
  • loss of income and opportunities for businesses and industries dependant on airport facilities
  • long-term economic losses to the tourism, export and import industries.


Business that depend on Ports of Auckland operations account for about one third of Auckland’s economic activity. Billions of dollars of exports and imports pass through each year, mostly the port in the Central Business District (CBD) but also through a smaller port that operates at Onehunga. Both of these ports are built on reclaimed land, which means they are likely to be damaged during a large earthquake. 

The ports could cease to operate for a number of reasons such as, ship strike of a major berth, vessels sinking in or around shipping lanes, union strikes or other natural/technological hazards. 

Any of these events could result in:

  • disruption to transport industries if cargo could no longer be received or dispatched
  • short-term economic loss to businesses and industries associated with port operations
  • long-term economic loss, particularly for prolonged events or major disruption
  • structural damage and large clean-up costs.


Auckland’s rail network is a single north-south trunk line with minor branches connecting to the CBD, the Port of Onehunga and Manukau. In many instances, the line consists of two or three tracks, meaning that if one is damaged by a hazard the others are likely to be also. Around 35,000 passengers commute and large amounts of freight are transported each day. 

Disruption to the rail network can include:

  • disruption and economic loss related to stranded workers and customers
  • traffic congestion as rail users seek alternative forms of transport
  • large structural repair and clean-up costs.

The system also relies on a signal system run by KiwiRail in Wellington. In April 2012, an outage occurred at Wellington’s National Train Control about 4pm after backup systems failed. This disrupted Auckland’s afternoon and evening peak-time trains for some hours. If an earthquake occurs in Wellington causing a similar failure, Auckland’s train service could be severely affected until power could be restored.


Auckland’s strategic arterial roads include all motorways and state highways. Geographical restrictions of the Auckland isthmus cause a bottleneck effect and the road network can be susceptible to congestion, particularly during peak commuting times. Failure to one or more of the arterial routes may result from a variety of sources such as a major accident or structural damage from a natural hazard.

Impacts may include:

  • fatalities or injury to drivers, passengers, other road users and pedestrians
  • traffic congestion causing disruption to airports, industrial areas and tourist centres
  • drivers seeking alternative routes causing traffic congestion along adjacent arterial roads
  • panic buying and supply issues because of disruption to goods delivery
  • stretched emergency services potentially leading to social disorder
  • economic loss to businesses isolated by road network failure
  • disruption and economic loss related to stranded workers and customers
  • large structural repair and clean-up costs
  • if a bridge collapses, telecommunication lines could be severed and the cost of repair or reconstruction could be significant.

Public Health Crisis

An example of a Public Health Crisis is a Pandemic. Pandemic is an epidemic (a sudden outbreak) that becomes very widespread and affects a whole region, a continent or the world. Influenza is a major threat to public health worldwide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations. Influenza pandemics are characterised by the global spread of a virus, and can cause unusually high morbidity and mortality for an extended period.

A pandemic can overwhelm the resources of a society due to the exceptional number of those affected. Three major influenza pandemics occurred in the 20th century, reaching New Zealand in 1918, 1957 and 1968. The Ministry of Health is working with the health sector and other Government agencies to ensure New Zealand is as prepared as possible for a potential pandemic.

A pandemic can also be caused by natural biological hazards. 

Shipping Accidents

There is a risk of a major shipping accident in our coastal region although none has occurred. 


Ship collisions

A worst-case scenario would involve a major ship collision with a structure that carries a large number of people such as the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

This could result in:

  • those on board or on the structure drowning
  • emergency resources including police, rescue services and hospitals being stretched
  • damage of infrastructure causing the port to be disabled such as the Auckland Harbour Bridge access being lost, with consequent traffic congestion in the CBD, North Shore and Upper Harbour Drive areas
  • long-term economic costs due to offshore clean-up and repair or reconstruction works onshore
  • possible long-term environmental consequences, depending upon ship cargo and nature of the incident.



More information

Visit the Maritime New Zealand website or Auckland Council Harbourmaster.

Vandalism and Terrorism

The risk associated with large-scale vandalism or terrorism varies. It depends upon the nature and scale of the incident.


Potential terrorism

If terrorism in Auckland was targeted at significant infrastructure providers or heavily relied upon systems, terrorism could have significant consequences as described under infrastructure failure.

Other potential consequences include:

  • social and psychological injury
  • sickness or illness depending on the nature of the attack
  • short-term economic losses to industries and businesses attacked.


More information

Visit the New Zealand Police website for more information. 


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