Projects and proposals

On the main page we list some of the large-scale projects that have and are being run from the Institute of Geophysics. These include:

We have also spear-headed some major proposals and science initiatives. One of these is the Centre of Science Excellence (CoRE) proposal that was submitted in 2014 to the Royal Society. This proposal was for a New Zealand Centre of Earth Deformation, Resources and Geophysical Exploration (EDGE). About 40 earth scientists from throughout New Zealand and some overseas were signed up for the CoRE. The budget was for $24 mill to be distributed over 6 years. The project was nationally ranked 5 out of 13 proposals. Four of the new proposals were funded, so we just missed out. However, the proposal is well placed for the next round of CoRE proposals if this occurs. A link to the full proposal can be found here, and the abstract for the proposal is listed below:

7a. Research programme summary


For New Zealand to prosper, it must diversify economically, provide resource security and reliability of energy supplies, and be resilient to earthquakes and other geological hazards. We therefore identify earth deformation and geological resources as research targets that will make important contributions to the economic growth and social stability of New Zealand, and should be the basis for a CORE in Earth Sciences.

Knowledge of the subsurface underpins nearly all understanding of earthquakes, resource accumulation and other geological processes. Yet, much of New Zealand’s subsurface is unexplored, in particular in the recently gazetted Exclusive Economic Zone and Extended Continental Shelf (EEZ/ECS). About 96% of New Zealand territory lies offshore, and New Zealand now controls more continental crust per head of population than any other country on Earth. To explore and understand both our onshore areas and the EEZ, is an enormous and challenging task. We contend the most effective way to do this is to develop a new type of geophysical observatory - we use the word geophysical in the sense of encapsulating a broad range of earth science activities. This is a task that only a large consortium of leading earth scientists can do. Previous examples of other countries undertaking a similar process include the BIRPS programme in offshore UK, Lithoprobe in onshore Canada and the continent-wide Earthscope array in the USA. These projects have been successful in providing fundamental information on the geological framework of the countries involved, and making important contributions to our knowledge of earth structure and dynamics in general.

At the heart of the CoRE will be the building and running of a mobile observatory called Kiwi Array, comprising a closely-spaced network of state-of-the-art instruments. Over time it will move across New Zealand and into the offshore regions, making seismological, geodetic, electrical, gravity and magnetic measurements, and geological, geotechnical and geochemical observations. This array will image New Zealand’s subsurface in unprecedented detail, which is crucial to achieving the two key goals of the CoRE: new knowledge on earthquake processes and the natural resources within the New Zealand continent.

Allied to Kiwi Array will be laboratory measurements that will constrain microphysical and microchemical properties of key materials (fault zones, ore bodies, reservoirs) that can be combined with the large-scale geophysical data sets to generate testable quantitative physical-chemical models. Within the CoRE we propose to also support research on the economic factors surrounding both earthquake hazard and resource exploration in a New Zealand setting.

The existence of both the CoRE and Kiwi Array will attract international science funding to New Zealand. This, together with other international co-funding for geophysical projects is likely to outweigh CoRE investment, and we have existing proposals and track record on previous leveraged funding to support this claim.

Other key outcomes from the CoRE include: (1) tertiary training of new generation of NZ geoscientists, particularly in marine and energy sectors (2) wealth creation culture instilled in graduates moving into industry and research; (3) linkages between the university sector and minerals, petroleum, and geothermal industries; (4) and earthquake research to underpin downstream work by the National Hazards Platform.

Provocation and reaction:

A Study Into the Influence of Slow Slip Earthquakes and Tectonic Strain on Seismic and Volcanic Activity in the Southern Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand

Katrina Jacobs, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Project funded by EQC and supported by Vicotria University and GNS


Volcanic activity is difficult to predict and understanding the role of possible triggers is an important avenue for hazards research. In this project, we aim to characterise the interaction between large scale tectonic events such as slow slip events and volcanic activity around Lake Taupo and the southern Taupo Volcanic Zone. The project is supervised by Nico Fournier (GNS) and Martha Savage (VUW) with additional guidance from Charles Williams (GNS) and Colin Wilson (VUW). Volcanic and geothermal areas are more sensitive to local earthquake triggering from large far-field earthquakes than more purely tectonic regions. With this research we hope to address whether volcanic areas in New Zealand are similarly sensitive to large slow slip events. We are focusing around Lake Taupo and the southern TVZ quantifying observed strain and strain rate at the time of large slow slip events using the existing continuous GeoNet GPS network. These observations will be compared to models of strain produced using an existing dynamic numerical model to quantify strain changes in the southern end of the TVZ during slow slip events. We will then use a number of seismological methods to characterize the state of the volcanic areas at the time of slow slip events and any other observed changes in strain. This investigation of strain will address a time scale (days to months), which has not been examined despite observations on both shorter and longer time scales. Slow slip events occur regularly along the Hikurangi subduction zone and this study will assess whether these events have a direct impact on the state of the TVZ and volcanic hazards.